Tag Archive | profiles in dementia

Profiles in Dementia: Barbara Foraker (1944 – 2017)

Barbara Foraker, and her husband, Larry, were good friends of my parents.

Barbara Louise Foraker, 73, passed away during the early morning hours of 21 October 2017. Natural causes, stemming from her ongoing battle with Lewy Body Dementia, contributed to her death. She endured a rapid and unexpected decline in her health over the past month, after experiencing a fall. Continue reading

Profiles in Dementia: Helen French Garrison (1930 – 2017)


Helen Garrison as a young womanOne of my best and closest friends, who is a sister to me and I to her, lost her mom, Helen French Garrison, to dementia on Sunday, January, 29, 2017.

While my friend shares many traits and characteristics with her dad, she shares just as many with her mom, including, to name a few, her mom’s Southern charm, her grace, her kindness, and her generosity.

Helen Garrison was a beautiful lady inside and out. I’m thankful that both Mama and I had the honor of calling her both family and friend.

In tribute to Helen, and with the family’s permission, this profile in dementia is written by my friend about her mom and her dad, who faithfully and lovingly kept his in-sickness-and-in-health promise as Helen’s primary caregiver during her long journey through dementia, and their lives together as husband and wife.

Lloyd Helen Garrison wedding day“I’ve always been so thankful for the blessing of my devoted, loving, godly parents. And this week I’m thankful to have been with them for the final days of my mother’s life. In the past few days my dad has been recalling and sharing so many stories and memories of their life together. They were a very special couple who worked together to keep their promise of for better or worse, til death. Together they brought up two children and are the grandparents of six and great grandparents of nine. Now my dad is trying to figure out where to go from here. After 64 ½ years of marriage, he has to change his mindset from “we” to “I” – quite a challenge for him at age 87.

My mother was born February 20, 1930 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. At the age of twelve, she moved with her parents and sister Blondie to Sheffield, Alabama where she finished her schooling. In 1952 she graduated with every honor from Florence State Teachers College, now the University of North Alabama, with a teaching degree.

Three months later she married Lloyd Garrison, and they moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming where he was stationed at the Air Force Base. When he was discharged, they returned home to Alabama where my brother and I grew up.

Mother taught elementary school for decades and was much loved by her students and their parents. After retiring from teaching, she ran the office for the very busy Garrison Electric Company which my dad started. She was energetic and full of life, love, and joy which she radiated to her family, students and friends. Also, she was an amazing hostess and cook, and she thrived on having groups of friends and family over for meals and fun. She hosted many family Thanksgiving, Mother’s and Father’s Day and anniversary events! For our pre-wedding dinner for family and wedding party members, she killed, skinned, and cooked a dozen chickens in addition to all the side dishes and dessert!

Interestingly, my mother’s many strengths and talents were my dad’s growth or challenge areas, and conversely, my dad’s many outstanding talents were my mother’s growth areas. They relied on each other, and together they made the complete package!

Lloyd and Helen Garrison in their golden yearsOf course this is a bittersweet time for our family — the bitterness of the loss and void, and the sweetness that finally Mother is at peace, no longer struggling and suffering. We are focusing on the many cherished memories of life with such an outstanding loving and beautiful lady. And we rely on our faith in the promises of God that we will see her again.

Helen French Garrison died on January 29, 2017.”

Profiles in Dementia: Harper Lee (1926 – 2016)

To Kill A Mockingbird was Alabama author Harper Lee's only published novelNelle Harper Lee wrote a seminal work of fiction in the 20th century: To Kill A Mockingbird. It would be the only published work the Alabama author would give to the world, but it was more than enough.

The book was ground-breaking in so many ways. Published at a time (1960) when the eyes of America, and indeed the world, were focused on civil rights in the South, where the shameful ugliness of racism was brought front and center into the living rooms of millions of people and its dastardly proponents – Strom Thurmond, George Wallace, and the Ku Klux Klan, to name just a few – spewed their vitriol in thick-tongued, ignorant voices that I sincerely hope (a lot of this happened, including this book, before I was born) embarrassed and discomfited most Southerners, To Kill A Mockingbird showed a decent South, a fair South, a kind South, and a principled South in stark contrast to what was played out as the South in the rest of the media. Continue reading

Profiles in Dementia: Woodrow Wilson (1856 – 1924)

President Wilson had suffered from arteriosclerosis since 1906 and was showing signs of vascular dementia by 1917.I have been, over the last couple of months, reading a lot of books about the history of World War I – before, during, and after – and the last book I’ve read in this series so far gave intimate and detailed portraits of the four world leaders who were ultimately responsible for the Treaty of Versailles, which may have been the most-poorly and ignorantly (in some cases, deliberately) constructed end-of-war agreement ever made. Continue reading

Profiles in Dementia: Norman Rockwell (1894 – 1978)

1945 Photo of Norman RockwellNormal Rockwell’s artistic creations are an entrenched part of Americana. He captured everyday life with a unique emotional component that seemed and seems to touch the American soul deeply.

Rockwell is best known for the 47 years that his iconic cover illustrations graced The Saturday Evening Post, but his body of work also included other magazines, several books, and prints for both the common man and collectors.

Norman Rockwell: Artist and Illustrator BookGrowing up, I remember frequently picking up the oversized, hardcover edition of Norman Rockwell: Artist and Illustrator that my parents had purchased and immersing myself in a thoughtful journey through the large body of his work. There were some that stand out in my mind still. A sampling of those include:

But the four-part Freedoms From… illustrations that Rockwell did in 1943 (during World War II to shore up and promote American involvement in the war) are probably the ones that tug, even today, at American heartstrings.

In part, I believe, the Norman Rockwell - Freedom from Want (1943)reason is they represent an ideal that we all wish existed, but which, in fact, never did and never will in our lifetimes.

They invoke a nostalgia for our imagined past as a nation, as families, as people. And I suppose that we want to be those people is a good thing, but the reality that we’re not is, for me, quite disheartening.

But I still love the pictures even in my discouragement at how far we all fall short of the ideals they portray. My hope lies in a better fulfillment in another life, while my despair comes from knowing it won’t be this one.

Rockwell struggled with severe depressive episodes, as it seems most creative people do, throughout his life, but it rarely, if at all, is seen in his art, which is, frankly, amazing and admirable.

In the last decade of his life, Rockwell developed dementia and for the last six years of his life lost the ability completely to do any artwork or illustrations at all.

Rockwell died in 1978 at the age of 84 from emphysema. 

Profiles In Dementia: Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

Winston Churchill Vascular DementiaWinston Churchill had a health profile most of his adult life that pointed to the inevitability of cognitive impairment in his later years.

Churchill was an alcoholic (during War War I and II, when the British needed strategic decisions to be made in the middle of the night, an inebriated Churchill was in the thick of things because even drunk he apparently was a better strategist than most of his sober peers).

Churchill also had chronic and worsening hypertension, in part from stress and in part from an unrestrained diet of much rich and artery-clogging food.

As early as 1947, Churchill’s physician, who was complicit in the lies about Churchill’s health all the years he held public office and who propped him up with amphetamines and calmed him down with depressants, noted in his diary that “[Churchill] is no longer fertile in ideas…his once-teeming mind has run dry.”

Beginning in 1948, Churchill began to regularly experience TIA’s in different parts of his brain. Accompanying the mini-strokes, at times, was temporary numbness on one or the other sides of his body, which resolved in a few hours or a few days.

Churchill would also experience the temporary dysphasia in the 30 minutes to an hour afterward that is characteristic of TIA’s, but the language center of his brain was spared permanent damage until his last major stroke in 1953.

With amphetamines and carefully scripted speeches, therefore, Churchill was able, at least from a verbal aspect, to hide the neurological damage and the cognitive decline that those closest to him were aware was progressing rapidly.

But the signs were everywhere in retrospect. Churchill’s speeches and governing were rooted in the first and second world wars. He was glaringly oblivious to post World-War-II politics, issues, and legislation.

He was literally in the-all-too-common vascular dementia time warp of the past and increasingly unaware of the present and had no concept of the future.

With his doctors and his staff carefully concealing his progressing dementia from the public, Churchill managed to limp along in office through continuous TIA’s and three major strokes, until 1955, when he finally resigned because his cognitive impairment and the physical effects of the strokes and dementia were impossible to conceal anymore.

Churchill lived for 10 more years, but vascular dementia was his constant companion and as it progressed, he retreated and regressed until he remembered no one and nothing and it was impossible to see the man he’d been at the zenith of his life.

 

 

Profiles in Dementia: Zelda Fitzgerald (1900-1948)

Profiles in Dementia Zelda Fitzgerald Going Gentle Into That Good NightI recently finished reading Sometimes Madness is Wisdom: Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald – A Marriage. I highly recommend it, although it’s a harrowing book in so many ways.

Two of those harrowing aspects are Scott’s alcoholism and how he deliberately and consciously broke Zelda, who had her own demons and a genetic predisposition toward mental illness, for good.

A third harrowing aspect of this book is the barbaric state of psychiatry – diagnosis and treatment – in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Zelda, who was diagnosed in 1930 with schizophrenia (most likely an inaccurate diagnosis, since it’s highly unusual for schizophrenic’s first symptoms to not appear during adolescence), was repeatedly subjected to three types of treatment routinely used for schizophrenia.

Not only did they, in many ways, exacerbate Zelda’s mental illness as well as qualify for legalized torture, but two of them eventually caused irreversible neurological damage, including cognitive impairment and memory loss consistent with all forms of dementia.

The first of these that Zelda endured over the course of 18 years was insulin coma therapy. Begun accidentally by Viennese physician Manfred Sakel, it involved giving large doses of insulin hourly daily for several weeks to keep the patients in a comatose state. It was believed that this gave the brain a chance to rest and heal itself.

Of course, other than the obvious risks of not being able to bring patients out of the comas (happened regularly) or death (also happened regularly), the high doses of insulin produced a prolonged state of hypoglycemia, resulting in permanent neurological damage.

The second treatment that Zelda was routinely given was chemically induced seizures. This treatment, based on very iffy logic at best, was pioneered by Hungarian pathologist Ladislas Joseph von Meduna.

Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald 16 Years Old Going Gentle Into That Good Nightvon Meduna made the unscientific leap with his observation that because people diagnosed with epilepsy rarely were diagnosed with schizophrenia. Therefore, he concluded that the epileptic seizures – and their aftereffects, which to von Meduna’s mind seemed to indicate blissful happiness – must be the reason for rare schizophrenic diagnoses. von Meduna then concluded that the seizures could cure schizophrenia.

By the time Zelda was subjected to chemically induced seizures, the original substances used to induce seizures – strychnine, absinthe, caffeine, and camphor – had been abandoned in favor of the drug Metrazol.

Given to schizophrenics in a regimen of 30-40 injections, with the injection rate of two to three times a week, the first injection produced such a powerful seizure within a minute of injection that torn muscles and fractured bones were not uncommon.

Beyond the high physical risks of violent injury, Metrazol also caused permanent memory loss.

Zelda died in a tragic fire at Highland Hospital, a psychiatric hospital, in Asheville, North Carolina in March of 1948, during the latest of on-and-off commitments to the facility she had from 1936 onward.

Zelda Fitzgerald Self-Portrait 1940's Going Gentle Into That Good NightHowever, in many ways, Zelda was gone years before the fire took her physical life. Zelda spent the last several years of her life devoid of memory, devoid of personality, and devoid of any sort of intellectual spark. 

Zelda’s physical appearance was so drastically changed that friends and acquaintances had a hard time recognizing her. 

Even in her hometown of Montgomery, Alabama, where she lived with her mother when she wasn’t at Highland Hospital, Zelda was unrecognizable to people who’d know her and her family all their lives. 

Zelda spent the majority of the daylight hours in Montgomery restlessly and aimlessly wandering around town in old, ragged, dirty clothes with no evidence of any care for personal grooming until her mother would find her and get her home before darkness fell.

It was a sad end of days for Zelda Fitzgerald.