Jim Fielder of Tyler, Texas, has been a bass guitar player in a number of bands, including Buffalo Springfield, Blood Sweat & Tears, and with Neil Sedaka. His work with Blood Sweat & Tears included the hit singles, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” “Spinning Wheel,” and ‘And When I Die.’
Now his 79-year-old mother has been going through late-stage Alzheimer’s disease. The National Institute on Aging website estimates that 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, a ‘brain disorder seriously affecting a person’s ability to carry out daily activities.’ Starting with mild memory problems, it evolves into severe brain damage. Scientists today don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s and no cure exists.
‘The first sign in my mother was her inability to remember where she’d left her wallet and keys,’ said 59-year-old Fielder in a telephone interview, talking about five years ago. ‘In one instance, she went out for the evening and couldn’t remember what she’d done with her wallet. So we called the credit card companies to cancel her accounts. Days later we found the wallet at home in a dresser drawer. After more incidents like that, we realized something bigger was going on.’
Fielder’s mother and stepfather eventually moved from their home into a condo because of her slipping mental faculties and his slowing physical abilities. She quit driving because of her risk of driving off and forgetting the way home.
Said Fielder, ‘The change of environment (of moving to the condo) confused my mom. She had been losing mental grasp of day-to-day things anyway and suddenly was in a brand new home. They tried making the condo familiar to her by using her old furniture and hanging familiar pictures on the walls. Still, she began going downhill from there.’
Less than a year ago, the couple decided to move to Salt Lake City to be near other relatives, and where she could live in a special Alzheimer’s unit and he in a nearby assistance-by-request apartment. ‘Now she needs assistance for virtually everything,’ Fielder said. ‘The disease has progressed aggressively the last two years.’
As for his personal feelings, Fielder said, ‘I knew it would be like this going in. You have this checklist of what is going to happen and then you see it happen. I believe many people dealing with [Alzheimer’s in the family] are in denial.’