For Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, I would like to share how Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s have given a daughter and a father a special bond. My dad has Alzheimer’s and I have young-onset Parkinson’s. My mom, or as I call her, Wonder Woman, calls me “the dad whisperer.”
But I see us as Batman and Robin!
Meet the sticky, bad-guy proteins: alpha-synuclein, beta-amyloid, and tau
Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, the two most common neurodegenerative diseases, are both diseases of “protein misfolding.” Sticky, bad-guy proteins become misfolded and produce more bad guys — Lewy bodies, tangles, and plaque — that may bring another bad guy, dementia.
Let the battle begin! Superheroes unite! We fight these invisible invaders every day. Exercise, mindfulness, and medications are all part of our arsenal to defend our brains. But we need reinforcements.
Bring in the researchers! They have found a mix of these bad guys in patients, and sometimes it appears the proteins overlap.
The Sandwich Generation
While not everyone with Parkinson’s develops dementia, it’s hard not to see my future self in my “Brain Buddy Batman,” my dad. However, at the same time, I see how our family has faced our diagnoses together. Our entire family is incredible, but my mom is Wonder Woman. She and Batman have been together for over 60 years and make a fine team. I am Dad’s sidekick, Robin.
As Robin, I am part of the “Sandwich Generation,” a concept introduced to me in a column by Sherri Woodbridge. I am helping my children navigate into adulthood while helping my parents with their challenges. I am sandwiched in the middle, with the added bonus of managing my own symptoms.
However, looking at my life, my sandwich is not a traditional one. My children are grown, so I am an open-faced sandwich, with extra lettuce and tomato – Parkinson’s. But how do I adjust to the fact that I am not a fan of lettuce and tomato?
Perhaps I need to look at things differently. Rather than losing the top and getting smaller, the events and circumstances of my life, both good and bad, add to the sandwich. My husband would say the good things are the bacon and the mayonnaise, while I would say the lettuce and the tomato are the bad things. As life marches on, the sandwich grows. Eventually, it becomes a club sandwich, complete with a toothpick to keep it all together.
So, while the lettuce and tomato are not my favorites, they made me the “dad whisperer.” On some level, my dad knows I get it. I treat him with empathy but not sympathy. That is the difference. I will allow him to rest, but never quit. Together, we will go on fighting another day.
The future is full of uncertainties except for one: Wonder Woman. As our sandwich evolves, she is the toothpick that holds us all together.
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.
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