A family shares Alzheimer’s on social media


Since they met in 5th grade, Bob Pettit said his wife has always been the focus of parties, a sociable person and a caring mother.

Now that doctors say it’s the end of Alzheimer’s, Betty Pettit has found new ways to share the love on TikTok.

It all started with a video their son Joshua Pettit posted on Thanksgiving last year. Betty was talking to her reflection in a full-length mirror, asking the woman’s name. When Josh tells her the woman’s name is Betty, she smiles and says they share the same name.

“Okay, we’re done,” Betty said to her reflection, placing a gentle hand on the mirror. “Now, I’ll have a good, good night’s sleep.”

Josh posted the video on social media and by the next afternoon, the views had reached millions.

The Pettits have captured the attention of audiences around the world, many of whom have sent encouraging messages, cards and even gifts to their families, which they say reveal a lot. about a disease that is often misunderstood and isolated — and how love and lightness can still happen. exist within it.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition involving the parts of the brain that control thinking, memory and language, as reported by the World Health Organization. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disorder can start with mild memory loss and eventually lead to problems carrying on conversations and reacting to the environment, the CDC says.

Josh Pettit said: “It was a pure, beautiful moment. “Everybody involved. They have a grandma, a parent, you know, someone they know who’s been struggling with this disease. … My mother reminded them a lot of the people they loved or lost.”

This year, an estimated 6.5 million people age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States, according to the report. Alzheimer’s Association. Despite its popularity, Josh Pettit says the comments on his video suggest that many people may not have an accurate idea of ​​what Alzheimer’s disease is like.

He said: “We were silly at the start, but I didn’t realize that we were illuminating a condition many people probably don’t know much about.

Josh said Betty Pettit has been living with the disease for about nine years.

It starts with smaller things like moving things around and repeating itself, says Josh Pettit. But years and many surgeries later, the disease had progressed to the point where Betty needed help with basic things like eating, drinking, and bathing.

Josh and Bob Pettit have learned to position her arms and legs in certain ways so that it’s easier for her to remember than sitting in a chair or in a restaurant booth, Josh said.

“Honestly, we don’t necessarily know if we’re doing well,” he says, “because you have days where you struggle, you know, you try to be patient but you don’t. You are patient all the time and things don’t go as planned. no OK.

Josh added: “She really cares about people. “People commented on how well we took care of her. But she always spent many, many years taking care of us.”

Bob and Betty moved in with Josh in North Carolina when her health began to decline. Her husband and son hope to have her in the house with them for as long as possible. And even though Bob resists, sometimes they find someone to help them take care of Betty.

What have they learned about caregiving? “I guess you just have to interact with that person, be there, try to live in their moment and just go with it and, you know, enjoy those moments,” Josh said.

For families with a loved one with the disease, Beth Kallmyer, vice president of care and support at the Alzheimer’s Association, recommends seeking support, education, and connecting with other families going through the same thing. on one’s own. That could include “watching a TikTok video or joining a support group or an educational program,” she says.

Kallmyer said Alzheimer’s disease can be particularly complicated because people can live with it for up to 20 years and the level of care increases over time. She said: “It can be difficult to understand the difference between normal aging and something caused by a disease like Alzheimer’s.

Memory differences are often the first thing that pops into people’s minds when they think about the disease, she said. But it affects perception in every way, which is why the association has a list of family signs to look out for.

“If you see something different that has changed in their behavior, their memory, how they can manage day-to-day things – then it’s time to talk to a doctor,” says Kallmyer.

But a loved one may or may not be aware that something is wrong with their cognitive abilities, so recommending a trip to the doctor can be a conversation that requires thinking ahead, she speaks.

For those diagnosed, Kallmyer says it’s important to stay engaged.

“One of the things that we know is that the more people get together, the better they tend to do better,” she said. “If you have someone sitting there watching TV all day, they get mad.”

That could mean taking time to do your daily caregiving tasks, like feeding and bathing, as an opportunity to talk and interact with each other, or it could be things they love to do and incorporate these activities in the way they can. participation.

Maybe the family’s culinary genius can’t cook for herself anymore, she said, but can they help? Can they sit with you while you cook?

And finally, Kallmyer suggests carers get support for themselves early on, as feelings of being overwhelmed can intensify. Caregivers can call the Alzheimer’s Association helpline at 800-272-3900 to ask specific questions or if they just need someone to listen, she said.

“Just knowing that you are not alone is really important and meaningful for caregivers,” says Kallmyer. “They can be quite isolating.”


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