Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Tale of Two Parents

Let me tell you about my parents: same age, same socioeconomic background, same race, and up until a few years ago, same diet.

From there, they're quite different. My father worked construction, enjoyed hunting and fishing in his younger days, is emotionally self-controlled, and bears up well against suffering. He developed mild diabetes a few years ago, but has been lean and fit most of his life.

My mother had several surgeries, a bad back, torn rotator cuffs, was obese for many years, developed diabetes and suffered from uncontrolled blood sugars for 20 years, but started a low-carb diet four years ago. She hasn't been very active for much of her life. Emotionally, she could use more resilience.

A few months ago, they went to the hospital about the same time--my father for a bad cut on his arm and bump on his head after a fall; my mother, because her kidneys were shutting down.

One of my parents made a remarkable recovery and stayed with their mate Monday night at their deathbed. That parent is my mother--the same one who worried that she wouldn't live to see me graduate from high school. (I'm 45 now.) She took care of my father, the metabolically gifted one, who nevertheless suffered from dementia. Due to that and his active nature, kept getting up, falling down and hurting himself. She also took care of herself starting four years ago--she mostly stuck to a low-carb diet because she felt so much better when her blood sugar was under control. Even though she was far more sensitive to carbohydrate than my father, she kept her diabetes under better control than he did.

How could did diet have affected their outcomes? Dad died of an infection. Infections are less likely to happen with normal blood sugars--and unfortunately, the rehab center where both Mom and Dad were makes no effort to help patients control their blood sugar with diet. Alzheimer's disease (a form of dementia) is now known as type 3 diabetes. If Dad's dementia was due in part to hyperglycemia, a low-carb diet might have given him the presence of mind to avoid getting up, falling and hurting himself. He likely wouldn't have gotten an infection of clostridium difficile if he hadn't been at a rehab center.

In fairness, though, Mom had a few trumps. She'd never had a stroke; Dad had had a few and they ran in his family. She was also from long-lived stock: one of her uncles danced at his hundredth birthday party and most of her ancestors lived into their eighties.

* * *

Dad insisted on having his funeral service in the town where he grew up: Thermopolis, Wyoming, hundreds of miles from his friends and immediate family.* Fortunately, we've talked Mom out of having a destination funeral. A lot of people (who aren't me) find Thermopolis wonderful; my only objection is that a day's worth of oil wells, antelope and windy prairie lay between there and my nice, comfortable home (and the nice, comfortable homes our family and friends don't have to pay to sleep in or gas up their cars or take off days of work to get to). And nothing against people from Wyoming, but I just don't like the place. As my best friend put it, it's Destination Desolation.

A funeral service doesn't have to be an expensive packaged affair. It can be whatever you want it to be. Say a few kind words, tell some amusing stories about the deceased, scatter some ashes, and have lunch. If you want to avoid Alzheimer's and diabetes, make it a lunch that keeps your blood sugar under control.

*Correction: Dad didn't want a service at all, but wanted his ashes to be taken to the cemetary in Thermopolis.


tess said...

i'm so sorry for your loss, Lori! are you and your mother holding up all right?

Galina L. said...

Please, accept my condolences, Lori. I know from experience that not unexpected death of an old person often brings more memories to celebrate his/her life than unbearable grief, but I am sure you feel grief as well.

I noticed many times that naturally healthy and vital people have problems to follow a regiment necessary to manage unavoidable age-related issues. Their life-long experience taught them to ignore mild health hiccups because healthy body clears many things on its own. It doesn't work at an old age, maybe even more so for a demented brain which recollects better things from many years ago. The people who are not naturally healthy got used to adhering to a management of their usually multiple issues since young age, so it becames a second nature.

Lori Miller said...

Thanks, Tess and Galina. It's going to be a big life change for Mom after 67 years of marriage, and even though she misses Dad, there will be some positive changes, too.

Galina, I think you're right. Dad never had a cold, never took a nap, and probably could have lived outdoors. But he did have all his teeth pulled around age 50--a sign something wasn't right. Given how healthy he was otherwise, though, I don't think he ever learned to take care of himself.

Lowcarb team member said...

Sincere condolences Lori.

My mother had dementia, as did her mother - a terrible illness. That is why I am living the LCHF lifestyle, I'm trying to do my best to keep fit and healthy.

Thinking of you and thanks for sharing this story.

All the best Jan

Lori Miller said...

Thanks, Jan. May you have many years of good health.

horfilmania said...

My condolences Lori as I've gone through this and share your pain.

Lori Miller said...

Thanks, Horf.

Larcana said...

Sorry for your loss, I just went through this May of this year.
My mom is on her own as well still in her house with four cats. She works full time as well. We tried to get her to move to an easier place but no.
I still miss my Dad's dry wit.

Lori Miller said...

Sorry for your loss as well, Larcana.

Gwen said...

oh Lori, I am so very sorry for your loss. :(

Lori Miller said...

Thank you, Gwen.

Val said...

Belated sympathy, Lori... I know your folks have been in declining health (so are mine**) but this seemed rather sudden... C dificile is a bitch.
**actually you could line up our parents' similarities fairly closely - my mom's fought weight gain all her life but not diabetic. Dad is in slow decline from dementia but we'll only pry his carbs (bread & cereal grains, mostly) from his cold dead fingers

Lori Miller said...

Thanks, Val. My father declined rapidly this year; my mother's kidney problems may have been from an antibiotic she took. One of her uncles lived to be over 100, and her sister is 80 and doing she might have a lot of life left.