Talking about the devastating effects of a disease is not typically something anyone enjoys doing, especially when that disease affects someone you care about.
Eight years ago, in my first year of pharmacy school I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful woman. No, it wasn’t my future wife. As part of one of our classes, we visited patients at a long term care facility (LTCF) for an entire semester. For legal reasons, I can’t tell you her real name, but let’s just call her Bonnie for the purposes of this story. Bonnie was a gentle, charismatic lady with a passion for art and teaching. She was in a LTCF because she was beginning to forget things. Important things. When her family deemed she could no longer safely live on her own, they admitted her. It was a nice place that met all basic needs and then some, but it is nowhere anyone would CHOOSE to live.
Bonnie was an amazing artist. She would show me shelves of art books and loads of pencils and paints. She showed off her works from her early 20’s. Amazing watercolor paintings that looked like photographs caught my attention. I was blown away. She was also an art teacher. One day, during one of our visits, she offered to teach me how to draw. A simple task that artists use to improve their drawing skills is to try and draw an outline of an object without looking away from it. So, if there was a parrot on a perch, I would keep my eyes on the parrot, and without ever looking at my paper, draw the outline of the parrot. As a moderately proficient artist now, I can tell you that although this is no easy feat at first, a seasoned artist can make quick work of such a simple exercise. And even though Bonnie was a better artist in her 20’s than I am even now, when she tried to demonstrate this exercise all she could muster was an exaggeratedly misshapen outline. It wasn’t just a bad day. She simply couldn’t unlock those skills anymore. Or worse yet, they were lost forever. It’s not clear exactly how memory loss in Alzheimer’s occurs, but it is known that a decline in acetylcholine, acetylcholine-producing neurons, as well as acetylcholine-RECEIVING neurons are impacted. Acetylcholine is the chemical that sends signals from brain cell to brain cell when we form and retrieve memories. Without it, we couldn’t remember people’s names or where we put our keys. For Bonnie, it would take her several minutes to remember my name the first half of the semester. By the end of the semester, she would vaguely remember me and still politely smile, but I knew she couldn’t remember my name for more than a few minutes at a time. And I was alright with that. I enjoyed simply being in the moment with Bonnie, because that is all she could do. I often look back at this time in my life when I lose myself in future worries or past failures. She reminds me to stop looking forward or backward, and to just appreciate the present.
Bonnie taught me more than that though. Learning more about how memory works during school led me to realize the importance of healthy acetylcholine levels in the brain. When we are young, we don’t notice many problems, but many of you in just your LATE TWENTIES already know the struggles of a memory that seems to worsen year after year. The brain can’t make enough acetylcholine if it doesn’t have the building blocks to make it. In this case, the major building block is choline. Finding a good supplement for this isn’t hard, but be aware that products containing citicoline are especially good at crossing into the brain, so you know that what you are taking is actually making it to where it needs to go. Cognizin™ is a great brand of citicoline, and is one of the ingredients in my flagship memory and attention supplement, Lumaxon™. I’m not saying I created Lumaxon™ because of Bonnie, although I would not have hesitated to have her take it if I had it back then. I created it because even now, in my late twenties, I feel the effects of chronically working hard. I work constantly and need something for my mental energy, focus, and memory. The ingredients in Lumaxon™ are all the perfect amounts to combat fatigue and occasional memory loss. If you want to learn more, visit www.farmacisthealing.com.
Going to visit Bonnie was more and more rewarding each time, but it also grew more difficult. Towards the end, she declined faster and starting becoming more anxious. Again, I wish I could have given her Lumaxon™ back then, as L-theanine and taurine are also core ingredients, both of which help ease anxiety. However, I had nothing to offer her except my company and reassurance that it didn’t matter if she knew the names of her children, because she at least still remembered that she loved them.
At the end of the semester, I told myself that I would continue seeing Bonnie throughout the next four years of my pharmacy school career, even though it wasn’t required. I never made it to a single extra visit. Granted, I was always swamped with school work and studying, but I’m not 100% sure I would have gone even if I had the chance. The pain of seeing someone decline like that, all the way to the end… It’s not that I didn’t care, I just didn’t have the fortitude at the time. After all, she was not just a patient to me. At that point, she was a person. She was a friend. She was my art teacher.