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Some background:

My mother suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease (see an update), first noticed in 1998, and for many years lived in a memory/assisted living center. I’ve studied the disease, interviewed professionals, and blog about her on occasion, in hopes of helping myself, and others, learn about this horrible “long good-bye” disease. From the heartbreak of losing Mom, to the heartbreak and frustration of watching my dad cope with her decline, to participating in the Alzheimer’s Foundation fundraising walks, my sisters and I so often felt helpless.

In February 2006, in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, the lead character’s mother “woke up” from her Alzheimer’s Disease. I blogged about it at the time.

In my post, I stated that I could find no other reference anywhere online that cited an Alzheimer’s patient experiencing hours of lucidity.

Then, a few days ago, I heard from Loretta. I was stunned at her email. (Shared below.)

It seems, in fact, that this awakening, this seemingly unbelievable “coming to,” may not be unheard of after all. Is it possible that it happens more frequently than we think?  If there is nothing in the literature, can it be possible that researchers or scientists don’t know anything about it?

This possibility raises dozens of questions…. some of which we may explore on this page. I offer it as a resource for those of us who want to ask these questions, and perhaps find some answers, and to create a central location where we can begin learning more.

oldermanPlease contact me, or comment below, if you’d like to join this discussion. I believe there may be others out there who have had this experience with their loved ones, but have somehow been told it wasn’t important, or it didn’t really happen — anything — to discount it.

I believe we can learn from them, although I’m not sure how. Maybe YOUR responses will give us some clues.

If you have had such an experience please write to me at blog(at)EPadvocate.com

So we’ll begin here, with Loretta’s story:
(September 2007)

I was doing some research on the Internet re: the possibility of a temporary “awakening” of an Alzheimer’s patient and came upon your blog. (Typed in “Grey’s Anatomy Alzheimer’s”). In your blog for Feb. 6, 2007 you stated that: “Nowhere in my research could I find anything that says an Alzheimer’s patient can redevelop the clarity that Ellis Grey did on the TV show.”

You are correct in stating that there is nothing in the medical literature that we can find online that documents this phenomenon, but I am here to tell you that this DID happen to my Mom for about 10 hours on July 21, 2007. We actually videotaped her, and it truly was a mind-boggling event for all of us.

Just wanted you to know for the record that our entire family lived through this incredible experience and we have the tapes to prove it….  read more from Loretta

Then we heard from Francesco in Italy about his mother, too:
(November 2007)

Last week on an Italian TV Network they broadcasted the episode “Wishin’ and Hopin’ ” from the serial Grey’s Anatomy. I watched it and I was deeply moved from what happened to Ellis Grey, the mother of the main character.  Afterwards I surfed the Net for answers or comments and the only serious notes I could find about this issue was on your blog.

The fact is that ten years ago my mother was diagnosed with Senile Dementia after two episodes of Ischemia and then she kept on getting worse over the years and now she can barely walk (with help), she can’t take care of herself, she doesn’t speak and she even doesn’t recognise me or my brother and sister at times. Two years ago she was taken to the hospital due to a Renal Colic and there, because she was not able to eat or drink and her pressure was collapsing, they put her on a drip filled with Saline solution and Amino acids. After the second bottle of the phleboclysis she started to speak as she used to do when she wasn’t ill and she remembered every detail of her life before getting the disease. She started to complain about my clothes (I always ride my bicycle to move in town so I can’t wear a suit…) and about my sister’s hair like she always used to do in the past!… read more from Francesco….

Now we have a third documentation from Suzanne:
(October 2009)

My mom was diagnosed three years ago and for the past 8 months has been non communicative.  Her conversation was limited to nods, yes, no or same. Her Neuropsychologist indicated that the disease was progressing quickly.  All of the medications were not slowing the progression as anticipated.  It was difficult to see her at almost a vegetative state.

It was 9/28 and my mom and I were invited to eat at my daughters.  While sitting in her dining room, my mom commented on how pretty the room was. Surprised but shrugging it off, we went home.  Then it began and my husband and I could not ignore how my mom actually started a conversation, joking, laughing and asked to stay home the next day.  Stated that she was perfectly capable of taking care of herself etc.  The conversation continued and I hated to go to bed.  We finally did and I woke expecting her to have reverted back but NO, she was alert and lucid.  It was like a miracle…. read more from Suzanne


Readers? Comments? Let’s get this conversation started!
Please write to me at blog(at)epadvocate.com

7 Responses to “Alzheimer’s”

  1. 1Trisha Torrey

    This reply came from Sharon Musgrave’s husband:

    I have seen it too. I dont have any family member with ALZ but my ex wife worked at a retirement home in Akron, Ohio. She reported to me and has shown me a few cases where these people “wake up” from this terrible darkness in their mind and for short bursts of time they know who they are and converse perfectly normal.

  2. 2Jacqueline L. Jones

    My mom, who also has Alzheimer’s, periodically has moments when she remembers better than my father and I do and can understand the line of thought in a normal conversation. Those moments are getting fewer and farther between as her illness progresses.

  3. 3Fran

    From correspondence with many people taking statin (cholesterol lowering) drugs, there are numerous reports of short term & long term memory loss and TGA (transient global amnesia). Statins use the same mevalonate pathway as CoQ10, an essential enzyme required by every cell in our body, especially the brain and heart. Most doctors deny the statin/cognitive connection exists, but in 1989 and 1990 Merck actually patented the use of CoQ10 in combination with statin drugs (according to Dr Julian Whitaker) because they knew in clinical trials that statins caused CoQ10 depletion. Canada and other countries have a ‘black box’ warning in their DPI’s (drug package inserts) to supplement with CoQ10, but the FDA refuses to add this warning to statins distributed in the USA.
    My husband was misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s type dementia following 8 years on statins. His memory improved considerably once statins were stopped and high doses of CoQ10 taken, but his cognitive abilities never returned to pre-statin days. Both brain MRI and PET scans were completely normal (no amyloid plaques); only Neuro-psychological testing was the ‘reason’ for AD diagnosis.
    I encourage anyone that is taking a statin drug and experiencing any cognitive decline to do their research. Dr Duane Graveline, who experienced TGA from Lipitor, penned two books; Lipitor – Thief of Memory and Statin Drugs – Side Effects and the Misguided War on Cholesterol. My website contains three years of my research to date on statins and their adverse effects.

  4. 4Loretta

    This post makes me want to cry. I PRAYED for this to happen to my mom. Unfortunately, it never did. I found myself thinking more and more as the disease progressed…..”If I could just have a few hours of “normalcy” then, I would be okay.” I’ll definitely keep my ear to the ground on this one.

  5. 5donna

    I tell you, when you are dealing with the care of an elderly parent who is sick and then has dementia or alzheimers on top of the sickness, it is horrific. My Mom was diagnosed about one year ago and the disease becomes worse every day. Not only does she have congestive heart failure and is 88, but she now suffers with alzheimers. She still knows who she is most of the time and who I am. But, everything else seems to be a problem for her. The patience that it takes for someone to care for a patient is unbelievable. I believe that you would have to be a saint not to lose it every now and then. But, the times when we lose it, we have to immediately turn around and pray for guidance and patience. As heartbreaking as this disease is on the family, just imagine the heartbreak your loved one must feel at times. My Mom is in and out of reality and I am not sure which is worse. I think for her, she knows enough while she is in reality to know that things are very wrong. Just pray. Just pray.

  6. 6Carol Wright

    My mom has been dx’d with Alzheimer’s for about four years. She had hear surgery in 1998, back surgery the next year, a personal abuse trauma about perhaps 8 years ago…she took a nose dive after these episodes. I arrived to care for her 24/7 6.5 years ago. After 1.5 years, I got her on Zoloft, then my full time efforts started to pay off.

    Anyway the Alz dx was based on scans that eliminated the vascular causes and an hour long memory test, which I have to admit she flunked. So she was stamed Alzheimer’s which doomed her future.
    When she suffered a hip fracture and had to spend time in the nursing home, she went looney tunes cause of the painkillers. The doc said he’d also take her off Oxybutynin/Ditropan as that could also cause confusion. That stayed in my mind.
    As the symptoms for mom didn’t fit the bladder probls Mom was having, I sug to the dr if we could stop Oxybutynin for awhile to see if it helped memory. I noticed some improvements in about 3 weeks, which continued. I then got the courage to ask Mom if she noticed any improvement in her memory recently. And MOM popped out like a Jack in the Box. “Why Yes,” she said…”About a week ago, I noticed…” and proceeded to have a conversation, the first in ten years maybe. I almost fainted. After a few minutes, I got the camcorder and recorded it for history. There is so far another video of her reunion with her old friend Howard. More to come. You’ll find these “after” videos and many “before” videos on my CarolJWright YouTube channel. Also other Before videos on my AlzheimersCaregiver channel.
    When I wrote the doctor about this, she brushed me off with a “Glad your mother is feeling perkier. Have a nice summer.”

    After two weeks, mom’s “regular person” demeanor has maintained, and she’s learning words again slowly…learning to tell time, can count by fives, gets jokes, is more self sufficient, etc. I do not know full extent of permanent dementia, or if she can learn her way out of it totally.

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