Nothing Prepares You For Alzheimer’s

Recently, a lot has been happening in my life. Big things are happening: some for the better, some for the worse. Although it is difficult, I am focusing on the positive things in my life and being grateful for all the love and support I have been blessed with.

A few months ago, my mother was diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease. I have been very private about this, and with the exception of my immediate family, I have only shared and discussed this news with a handful of people: my best friend, my boyfriend, his family, and a teacher I have stayed close with from high school. My mother’s diagnosis is a topic that is still too painful for me to bring up in person, and so I am choosing to share this with family members, friends, and readers on the blog today.

IMG_1291My mama is the kindest and sweetest person I know. She has always been thoughtful, caring, and genuine. She always thinks the best of people, and has very few bad thoughts about the people she meets and the world around her. I am so grateful to have had her as a mother, because she always made time to take care of my sisters and I. Beginning in the first grade, she volunteered as a chaperone on all my field trips throughout primary school. By the time I entered middle school, everyone in my grade knew how much of a hands-on mother my mom was, and how nice she was to everyone. My mom, who is so beautiful inside and out, garnered a reputation for her beauty and kindness among my peers.

My mom never stopped believing in my ability to flourish. She always encouraged me to try my best and was there to support me through everything. Math struggles, girl drama, my first crush… She was always there. When I left home for boarding school in tenth grade, I called her every single night and we would talk for an hour. When it was time to hang up, I would think of ways to extend the conversation, only because I missed her so much and couldn’t bear the thought of returning to my boring homework. Whenever I was home, we had a tradition of sharing an orange before going to bed. Shewould always peel the orange, while listening to me share stories from boarding or updates about my love life. My mom was my best friend, and what we had was a connection I haven’t shared with anyone else. We talked about everything and we could be doing anything, and it would be fun simply because I was with my mom.

Three years ago, my mom’s memory began to falter. None of us thought too much of it, until her short-term memory and cognitive ability began to rapidly deteriorate two years ago. Although the symptoms began to slowly appear three years ago, it was only recently that my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I never imagined one of my parents would have Alzheimer’s, especially at such a young age. My mom stopped driving, and even though she had been actively attending yoga and pilates class, she began to stop going to classes. She stopped socializing with her friends, and as time progressed, she became increasingly distant and unable to complete everyday activities.

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Alzheimer’s is an unforgiving disease: it damages and eventually destroys brain cells, affecting vital brain functions. Its progressive nature means that the disease only worsens overtime. As the author of this article notes, “Alzheimer’s disease is not forgetting where you left your keys, but actually forgetting what the keys are. There is a distinct difference between those two statements. Everyone forgets things now and then, but we do not forget that deodorant is not face cream, body lotion does not go in your hair and that you drink soda, not pour it over your pasta because you are not sure what to do with the can and it seems to make sense at the time. As the disease progresses, there is nothing you can do but watch your loved one slip further and further away into a world that no longer makes sense to you and I.”

“Ultimately,” the Alzheimer’s Association warns, Alzheimer’s is fatal, and currently, there is no cure.” Alzheimer’s early stages begin with mild memory loss, “but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. Those with Alzheimer’s live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, but survival can range from four to twenty years, depending on age and other health conditions.”

The most painful part of my mom’s diagnosis is knowing that there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. There is still so much research that needs to be done to find out how we can delay, if not prevent, the disease, and how we can better treat it in patients. Alzheimer’s patients are extremely dependent on caregivers, and caring for Alzheimer’s patients is a time-consuming process that is extremely emotionally difficult. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be so distressing that up to 47% of family caregivers experience depression. Caregivers “become overwhelmed by the strain… and experience stress, illness, sleep deprivation, premature aging, and depression.” Even more astounding is a study revealing “that elderly spousal caregivers who experienced caregiver strain had a mortality risk that was 63 percent higher than that of control subjects.”

It has also been very difficult for me to see people laugh at my mom. Memory loss and Alzheimer’s are no small or humorous matters, and I am disappointed by the immaturity and ignorance some have shown in response to my mother’s condition. Worldwide, many who suffer from Alzheimer’s are unable to receive proper treatment due to the stigma that surrounds the disease. I am sharing this today not only to share the news of my mother’s diagnosis, but also to raise awareness and share information that may help to dispel misconceptions about the disease. According to a study undertaken on stigma and Alzheimer’s detailed within the 2012 World Alzheimer Report, “older adults and those who were less educated had more stigmatic beliefs than younger, better educated adults. Those who thought dementia was treatable had fewer stigmatic beliefs.” The authors of this study furthermore pointed out that dementia (to clarify, Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia) “is considered to be a family disgrace (stigma by association).”  The study, however, found that there was a reduction in stigma when individuals were exposed to information about the disease and its symptoms. This study was undertaken in Hong Kong, where my parents live.

Nothing prepares you for Alzheimer’s. It is a physically and emotionally exhausting experience for both the patient and caregivers. In the past two years, I have lost not only a parent, but also a role model and my best friend. My mom’s condition has been hard on my entire family, and there are many moments when I struggle to accept the diagnosis. I get angry about why, of all people, fate chose to bestow Alzheimer’s on my mom, the kindest, loveliest, and strongest person I know. I regret every time I might have hurt my mom’s feelings growing up. I cry when I realize that she might not be here to see me get married, have children, or my two sisters complete high school and graduate from university. My mom would have been a fabulous grandparent, and my children would have been the luckiest kids on the planet to have had her as a grandma. I know how excited she was to be a grandmother and for me to eventually have my own children. While my mother’s diagnosis is hard for me, I can’t help but think about how hard it must be for her. I can’t imagine how frustrating and confusing it must be to not know your surroundings or to forget how you got somewhere.

My mom has good days and bad days. She is currently in the moderate stages of Alzheimer’s, and she often experiences anxiety and anger. She is upset easily, and small details in her life are often forgotten. She knows me, but struggles to understand where we met or who I am in her life. When we travel, she doesn’t remember what country we are in. She always wants to “go home”. When I have a sad or angry moment, I try to remind myself how lucky I am to have even had her as a mother in the first place. For now, my mom’s kindness and spirit are still present. Although she might not understand why I am sad, she still has the ability to recognize when I am upset, and to console me in what ways she can manage. She will still offer me a hug, and I find joy in being able to bring a smile to her face by cooking for her or something as simple as making her a cup of tea. I love that I can still hear her laughter, and I love seeing her dance to Shake It Off by Taylor Swift via Facetime or Snapchat. I love that she still thinks the world of her children, and that she believes we are all smart, beautiful, and capable human beings.

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My mom will always be the woman I aspire to be and become as I grow older, and I will always show her just how much I love and appreciate her. Please cherish and appreciate your parents and loved ones. Tell them you love them, hug them, and spend as much time as you can with them. It’s never too late to start. Don’t take anything and anyone for granted, because you never know what might happen.

Please spread awareness about what Alzheimer’s is, and if you know someone who has Alzheimer’s, be patient and understanding. Offer support to those you think might need it. If you are financially able, please consider donating to Alzheimer’s research or support for patients and their caregivers.

Thank you for reading. If you have had a similar experience, I would love to hear from you and would greatly appreciate any advice or tips you might have.

In gratitude,
Gen.

For more information on Alzheimer’s, you can visit the following resources.
Answers About Alzheimer’s, Part 1 – New York Times
Answers About Alzheimer’s, Part 2 – New York Times
World Alzheimer Report 2012: Overcoming The Stigma of Dementia – Alzheimer’s Disease International
Overcoming Stigma – Alzheimer’s Association
A Loved One Has Been Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s Disease: Now What? – Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation
Alzheimer’s Society: Leading The Fight Against Dementia
Alzheimer’s Disease – NHS

You can donate to research and funding for Alzheimer’s at the following websites:
Alzheimer’s Association (US based)
Alzheimer’s Society (UK based)
Alzheimer society Canada (Canada based)

You can donate to support for individuals with Alzheimer’s and related diseases, as well as their caregivers, at the following websites:
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (US based)
Alzheimer Society Canada (Canada based)
Hong Kong Alzheimer’s Disease Association (HK based)

Turmeric Spiced Crispy Chickpeas


This month’s theme for The Recipe Redux is:
Spooky Spices: You know they are lurking there, way in the back of your spice drawer. There lie the herbs, spices, or rubs that are getting dusty because you’re afraid to use them… you simply don’t know what to do with them! Well, pull them out and show us a recipe you created to deliciously conquer that fearful spice. (Or maybe the recipe was a flop- and the spice still gives you nightmares?!)

On Monday evening, I felt a familiar twinge at the back of my throat, the kind of feeling you get right before you are about to get sick. I spent all Monday and Tuesday running errands and working in the kitchen, and all this activity was beginning to make me feel under the weather. Rather than eat nourishing meals throughout the day, I was scarfing down chocolate muffins before leaving the house, eating brownie scraps with tidbits of fruit, and not drinking enough water. In an attempt to scare away whatever bug is trying to get me down, I made a jar of these turmeric spiced crispy chickpeas. (I do have to admit that while there are spices I have yet to conquer, turmeric is not one of them. Oops! ; ) )

turmeric spiced crispy chickpeas // gratitude and greens

Why eat chickpeas?

  • Chickpeas are filled with fiber and protein, both of which are ideal for powering through a long day. One cup of chickpeas alone provides you with 15 grams of protein and 12.5 grams of fiber. The fibrous content of chickpeas helps to lower LDL cholesterol and maintain blood sugar levels, as fiber slows down the speed at which you absorb the sugars from your food.
  • Chickpeas are also filled with manganese (1.7mg, which is 94% of the daily recommended intake!), which supports bone structure and development and wound healing. Manganese supplements are often given to those who have osteoporosis and anemia.
  • The presence of folic acid, on the other hand, helps to promote cell growth and may prevent birth defects, certain heart defects, and limb malformations when consumed by pregnant women. Eating foods with folic acid may also help to prevent genetic mutations linked with cancer development.
  • It is important to note that chickpeas aren’t a complete protein, and are best paired with other complete proteins: quinoa, hemp seeds, chia seeds, rice, and/or whole grains.

turmeric spiced crispy chickpeas // gratitude and greens

These chickpeas are super easy to make at home, and are a great homemade alternative to store-bought snacks. Since chickpeas don’t have a very strong flavor, they serve as a perfect vehicle for spices and herbs. Although you can season these chickpeas with whatever spice you like, I paired these chickpeas with turmeric, a spice that is well known for its healing powers. As I wrote in another post:

  • Turmeric root has no cholesterol and is an excellent source of iron, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B6.
  • Thanks to its main component curcumin, turmeric has great healing properties, and studies have shown that turmeric not only boosts immunity, but also prevents certain cancers and liver diseases, the development of type two diabetes, prevents and slows down Alzheimer’s in the brain, and can help with arthritis.
  • Turmeric also helps soothe menstrual pain.
  • Turmeric is most commonly used in Indian curries, and can also be used to make tea.
  • Its anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties means that you can also make a turmeric and oil paste for wounds to speed up the healing process.

If you need anymore convincing, check out Mind Body Green’s piece “25 Reasons Why Turmeric Can Heal You.”

turmeric spiced crispy chickpeas // gratitude and greens

Turmeric Spiced Crispy Chickpeas
yields six cups

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 cups chickpeas, cooked. If you are using dried chickpeas, make sure you soak them overnight or for at least twelve hours.
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • black pepper, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF.
  2. Drain the chickpeas and blot with a paper towel to dry them.
  3. Pour the chickpeas into a large bowl and mix with the rest of the ingredients. You can also shake the chickpeas with the spices and seasoning in a ziploc bag, although I haven’t tried this method myself.
  4. Transfer the chickpeas onto two large baking trays lined with baking paper. Spread the chickpeas evenly across both trays.
  5. Place the chickpeas in the oven and roast for 35-45 minutes.
  6. Remove the chickpeas from the oven. They should have a nice golden colour and be crispy on the outside. Although they might be a bit soft on the inside, they crisp up significantly once they are out of the oven and have some time to cool.
  7. Allow the chickpeas to cool before serving. Store in an airtight container if you want to preserve the freshness and crispiness of the chickpeas.

Enjoy : )

What are other spices you’d like to pair these chickpeas with? What are some of your favourite homemade snacks? Let me know in the comments below! 

Wishing you much love and happy kitchen adventures,
Gen.

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more chickpea recipes:
yotam ottolenghi & sami tamimi’s basic hummus by kristen miglore on food52
cilantro lime chickpea salad by heather’s dish
spicy chickpea burgers by amy bites

sources: [1] [2] [3]

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The 411: Coffee


I had my first sip of coffee when I was a little girl. My dad was (and still is) a coffee fanatic, and every time he ordered a cup of coffee, I asked if I could stir the coffee and sugar in for him. One day when my dad was at work, I saw my mom’s cup of coffee sitting on the dining table at breakfast. Gripped by my curiosity as to what that mysterious cup of dark liquid was, I took a little sip. I was absolutely repulsed. On that day, I swore that I would never enjoy coffee, much less drink it, even as an adult. My parents laughed at my childish oath, both insisting that my university experience and entering the workforce would not be complete without coffee, and would even necessitate it. And they were right. I first ventured into “coffee” in my second year of university with Starbuck’s caramel macchiato. It was pretty sweet and I couldn’t taste the coffee at all, a perfect (or not so perfect?) place to begin. I am proud to say that I have now moved onto drinking better coffee, and, as you can tell by my recent blog post on real deal pumpkin lattes, I am no longer a Starbucks drinker. To follow up that post, I decided to write another post exclusively on coffee’s potential health benefits and to debunk some myths surrounding the much-loved coffee bean.health benefits of coffee // gratitude and greens

When I hear people talking about their coffee consumption, I often hear people say they drink too much coffee and are trying to cut back. Although coffee is perceived as an unhealthy habit by many, a recent study undertaken by Harvard University shows that drinking up to six cups of coffee a day is not associated with increased mortality from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other causes. Unless you suffer from tremors, sleep deprivation, or are feeling stressed all the time, there is no real reason to cut back on your coffee consumption. The summary of Harvard’s research on coffee suggests that while there may be potential health benefits to drinking coffee, more research still needs to be done.

health benefits of coffee // gratitude and greens

So, are there any health benefits to drinking coffee? Well, yes…

  • Coffee is filled with anti-oxidants and flavonoids.
  • Coffee drinkers have a reduced risk for diabetes. A study found that, compared to non-coffee drinkers, coffee drinkers experienced reduced levels of interleukin and isoprostane, two inflammatory markers related to diabetes. If you’re not a fan of caffeine, there is also evidence that suggests decaf coffee may have the same effect as regular coffee.
    • Those who drink more than 6 or 7 cups are 35% less likely to have and develop type 2 diabetes, while those who drink 4-6 cups are 28% less likely to.
  • According to the American Academy of Neurology, caffeine (not coffee itself) helps alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. In a study conducted on patients of Pakinson’s Disease, those who consumed caffeine showed improvement in stiffness experienced and the speed of movement compared to those who did not consume caffeine.
  • Another Harvard study found that adults who drink 2-4 cups of caffeinated coffee a day were less likely to be depressed and at risk of suicide: “Caffeine not only stimulates the central nervous system but may act as a mild antidepressant by boosting production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline.” The study warns, however, that depressed adults should not increase their caffeine intake, as this could result in side effects.
  • 112,897 men and women who drank coffee were observed over a 20 year period. What researchers discovered was that women who drank three or more cups a day were less at risk of developing skin cancer.
  • Contrary to the popular belief that coffee dehydrates, scientists at the University of Birmingham found that “coffee, when consumed in moderation by caffeine habituated males provides similar hydrating qualities to water.” (Sidenote: I find myself feeling thirsty and dehydrated if my cup of coffee isn’t followed by a glass of water, so just listen to your body! Know when to stop with the caffeine and make sure you are hydrated regardless of whether you are drinking coffee.)

And no…

With the above in mind, it seems that coffee does appear to be beneficial to our health. It is important, however, to remember that one cup of coffee is an 8 ounce serving with 100mg of caffeine. The addition of milk, sugar, cream, and other artificial additives and flavourings not only strip much of coffee’s health benefits, but also have further implications for your health. And, as with everything we eat and drink, moderation is key.

So, what do you think? Are you a coffee addict? How does coffee make you feel? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy coffee drinking,
Gen.

Sources: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

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