With November being designated as National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, Dr. Shelly Kruse wants to raise awareness about the devastating disease that affects millions of people in the United States.
Alzheimer’s disease — the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. — is a subject that Kruse knows like the back of her hand. For five years, she witnessed the pain and burden of Alzheimer’s disease through the eyes of her mother.
In 2006, Martha Jo Hughes was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at age 80. But as Kruse recalls, symptoms appeared decades before her diagnosis.
The 60-year-old doctor rewinds her memory to high school. She remembers her mother having outbursts and becoming unexpectedly upset, but then flipping a switch — forgetting and denying that she was mad to begin with.
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“She had symptoms of losing her temper for decades,” Kruse recalled.
It was only the beginning of her journey with Alzheimer’s disease, Kruse said.
Ultimately, her mother died from complications of a stroke nearly five years ago. But through the heartache, there was victory.
In April, Kruse published “Walking with Alzheimer’s” — a memoir designed for people affected by Alzheimer’s disease. It serves as a guide — discussing financial and legal issues, diagnostic procedures and clinical trials. In a sense, Kruse said her book is as though “I’m walking with my mother.”
Kruse will discuss an overview of her book next weekend at Clovis Regional Library. She has presented her book at local library branches — including Betty Rodriguez Regional Library, Gillis Branch Library and Fig Garden Regional Library — since May, and will continue into 2017.
Her knowledge also stems from being a doctor of internal medicine for 25 years. She graduated with her B.A. in psychology at Ponoma College, her M.A. in psychology at San Francisco State University and her M.D. at Oral Roberts University.
Next, she completed her residency in internal medicine at Huntington Memorial Hospital.
Putting her education to practice, Kruse worked at LQMG Medical Group for nearly 10 years before working at the Central California Women’s Facility — the largest female correctional facility in the United States.
Her book starts after she decided to take a break from her career to care for her parents. At the time, her father also became ill after breaking his hip and contracting pneumonia.
Chapter 1, “Walking the Golf Course,” is set on a golf course in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“My mother loved to play golf,” Kruse said.
She goes into a discussion about the early signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, such as depression after age 50. In relation to her mother, Kruse said, “she would cry for hours, but she didn’t know what she was sad about.”
Alzheimer’s disease — the most common type of dementia — progresses in three stages: mild, moderate and severe.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, symptoms of the moderate stage include “an increased risk of wandering and becoming lost” and “personality and behavioral changes, including suspiciousness and delusions.”
Kruse remembers her mother rummaging through drawers and wandering around their house saying, “we’re her enemies, we’re so cruel.”
In the following chapter, “Walking into the Doctor’s Office,” Kruse relives the day of her mother’s diagnosis — confirmed by a series of tests including the Mini Mental State Examination.
In Chapter 4, “Walking into the Courthouse,” Kruse brings to light the financial and legal issues that follow diagnosis. She discusses the qualifications for Medicaid and defines elder abuse.
Chapter 5, “Walking into the Health Food Store” is Kruse’s favorite chapter because she addresses questions that she gets asked frequently. She talks about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, omega-3 fatty acids, coconut oil and vitamin D.
“Vitamin D is very essential for the proper functioning of nerve cells,” Kruse said.
The decision to move her mother into an assisted-living community wasn’t easy, but needed after she developed a blood clot from refusing to leave her bed for 18-plus hours.
Fast forward to Chapter 8, “Walking into Hospice,” Kruse answers difficult questions like “when to consider hospice?” In 2011, her mother passed away at age 85. Her father died two years later at age 93.
The title of Chapter 9, “Walking into the Future,” is fitting for Kruse as she takes a step into 2017 with promise.
In addition to Clovis Regional Library, she will present her book at Mendota Branch Library on Saturday, Jan. 21 and Woodward Park Regional Library on Saturday, Jan. 28.
Kruse also hopes to publish a book about her experiences working at the CCWF.
Meet Dr. Shelly Kruse
2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19
Clovis Regional Library, Teen Area, 1155 Fifth St., Clovis
“Walking with Alzheimer’s” can be purchased online at Amazon.com