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Friday, May 9, 2014

He Turned It On!!

This journey I have been taking with my father has been a circle from strange to bewildering to humorous  and right back to strange again. One minute he's fast asleep, the next he's having a conversation with the dog. He wears his winter gloves in the house when it is seventy degrees. He forgets he asked a question two minutes ago and asks again, but remembers that his car HAS to go to a dealership 80 miles away, to get the oil changed. He worries if the dog is outside to long in sixty degree weather, "he's probably cold."
I'm not going to lie, life has been very interesting this past year. I've watched as dad regressed, slowly, deeper and deeper into his dementia. There were increasingly more bathroom accidents. Increasingly more repetitive questions. I had said that I could tell if it was going to be a good day if Dad remembered to turn on his electric toothbrush in the morning. Soon, he wasn't turning it on at all. 

I had read several different articles about how coconut oil was good for you. It can be good for your heart and even help lose weight. While Dad doesn't need to lose weight, I sure do. Since dad moved in, I have gained twenty five pounds. I really don't like that at all. Not so much because of the way I look, but because I know it is so bad for me. I caught a virus about ten years ago that weakened my heart, so extra weight is just not a good thing at all, and I was too heavy before the twenty five pounds. So, I thought, might as well try the coconut oil. 

I started mixing the oil in different things. I put it in our morning oatmeal. I used it in baking, I put it on our toast. Dad and I were eating lots of coconut oil. Did it help me lose weight? No, no it did not. I kept up with it anyway. Dad's cholesterol was not just good, it was phenomenal. His good cholesterol was really high and his bad was 70! I mean seriously! I wish mine was that good! 

So, I kept up on the coconut oil. Something happened that I was happy about. Dad stopped having so many bathroom accidents. For a while, Dad was having one every time he went into the bathroom. He wouldn't wear depends so I was doing a ton of laundry. Going to Des Moines for his doctor appointments had become an experiment in terror. I would have to help him change his pants in tiny men's public bathrooms. Men's bathrooms are gross by the way. It got to the point where I didn't want to take him anywhere unless I had to. The worst was when Dad had a huge bowel accident all over a gas station bathroom that took me a half hour to clean up. I think the only thing that kept me from crying all the way home after that was that I was driving in the middle of a freak blizzard that the weather service had no idea was coming. 

After that, I convinced dad it was time to try Depends. He wore them on the next trip we had to take to Des Moines. I thought they would make life a little easier. They did not. He still wanted to use the toilet, which I was very glad to accommodate. I want him to be able keep as many little pieces of independence as he can for as long as he can. The Depends just got in the way, and I ended up changing his pants anyway. I was ready to give up. 

Then, out of no where,  the accidents slowed down. Suddenly, he was making it through the day with just one or two accidents. I was so thankful. Every trip to the bathroom he would get through without having to change his pants was like a vacation. Then he was making it all day. It confused me, but I was grateful. 

It was time for another dreaded trip to Des Moines. I packed up Dad's backpack. Three pairs of jeans, three pairs of underwear, three plastic bags for wet pants and off we went. It was a long day. He had a couple of appointments, and they took forever. Yet somehow, when we got home, there were no wet pants to wash! I thought it was a fluke. A fluke I was very happy about, but never expected to be repeated. 

A few days ago we had another long day in Des Moines. A very long day! We left the house at 7:00 am and didn't get home until 5:30 pm. Again, his back pack had all dry clothes in it when we got home. I was giddy. It was a very good day. When I asked if he needed the bathroom, he went. He got home in the same pants he left in. It was such a relief! 

I had never put it together. The coconut oil and the decrease in bathroom accidents. The other day I was researching online about dementia, and looking for things like support groups. While I was doing that, I stumbled upon an article with a video. It was about a doctor who's husband has Alzheimer's. She had been giving him coconut oil. Apparently, she had found research that the keytones in coconut oil can help in dementia patients. Our brains do their work by using the energy we get from glucose, or sugar. In dementia patients the blood vessels of the brain change and glucose can no longer pass through to energize the brain. They are too large to pass through the changing membranes of the blood brain barrier. The keytones found in coconut oil apparently are small enough that they can. The brain then uses the keytones as energy. When the brain has an energy source it works better. One test they do for dementia is to have the patient draw a clock. Before the doctor started giving her husband the coconut oil, his clock was not even recognizable as a clock. After weeks of giving her husband the oil, he drew it again and it actually looked like a clock. 

Now does this mean that my dad's change in bathroom habits can be attributed to the coconut oil? I can't say for sure. Does it mean I should expect more "improvements" as I keep giving it to him? I have no idea. Will the food in our house keep tasting like coconut, you bet it will! Do I think it will keep improving my dad's memory or change the eventual outcome of his dementia? No, I don't, but if I can get a few more weeks of him not having bathroom accidents, I'll make all of our food taste like coconut! 

Oh, and today, for the first time in months, Dad turned on his electric toothbrush!

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