It’s a rare marriage that lasts for decades without some tumultuous times and Pat Moffett’s marriage to his wife Carmen was no exception. However, despite a legal separation along the way, they eventually endured. As their children began their adult lives away from the family home, the Moffetts looked forward to retirement and more quality time together.
That dream evaporated the day Carmen flew into an uncontrollable rage during a normal conversation with their visiting daughter. Out of nowhere, Carmen started screaming at Pat, poised to attack him. Their daughter tried to restrain Carmen and succeeded to some degree though Carmen did manage to throw her wine in her husband’s face. The most baffling part of the scene was that once Carmen calmed down, she had no memory of the incident. Many violent episodes later, 53-year-old Carmen would be diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Pat tells their story in his memoir “Ice Cream in the Cupboard.”
The title for Pat Moffett’s memoir is taken from another episode before Carmen’s diagnosis. Carmen and Pat had been grocery shopping. Since Carmen liked to put away the groceries herself, Pat left to run some other errands. Later, when he came home, he suggested they start supper. After saying he’d like some canned potatoes to go with their barbecue, he opened the cupboard door to retrieve the potatoes and found the ice cream that they’d just purchased, now melted and cascading down the cupboard shelves.
Pat quickly grasped that this was another significant episode, but tried to approach it gently.
“Hey, Hon…You must have been putting the groceries away at lightning speed.”
“Yeah…Why do you say that?”
“Well, because you put the ice cream in the cupboard instead of the freezer…See? Take a look.”
At this Carmen flew into a rage. “I didn’t do that!...That’s the problem with you. You blame everything on me!”
Pat went on to calmly explain that no one else could have done it. He then felt bad and apologized, but by then Carmen was out of control.
“You bastard!” she yelled. “Why don’t you ever blame those kids upstairs!”
Here Pat picks up his narrative with the fact that there were no longer any children living in the home. There was no one around but the two of them. He knew his wife desperately needed help but she refused to go to the doctor.
Finally, because of substantial errors in her work, her supervisors succeeded in forcing Carmen to go to a doctor for testing. Not wanting to alarm Pat, Carmen’s daughter accompanied her. Once the test results came back positive, she had no choice but to tell Pat that she had “a touch of Alzheimer’s.”
A diagnosis, but no cure
Carmen began her treatment with the standard drugs typically used to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, her dementia had a particularly violent streak that eventually took them on a journey that frustrated experts who were trying every combination of drugs available to them. This sad story has only one predictable outcome since there is no cure for the disease. Carmen would not get well.
If “Ice Cream in the Cupboard” were a movie, the beginning would fit in with romantic comedies, complete with a smart mouthed woman and bumbling man stricken with love at first sight. Because of the ending, however, the story would need to be shelved with dramas – subsection, tragedies. Sadly, today millions of other couples are now living the same nightmare as the Moffetts. The diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s is on the rise.
“Ice Cream in the Cupboard” includes an appendix discussing the future of Alzheimer’s disease which is written by Dr. Gisele Wolf-Klein, M.D., Chief, Division of Geriatric Medicine, Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
Dr. Wolf-Klein and the others at the center gave Carmen the best care possible and helped Pat cope. Unfortunately, in the end, there is still little that can be done about this disease. Since Carmen’s diagnosis, the family has learned that three of Carmen’s siblings have also been diagnosed with the disease.
Researchers are finding that early onset Alzheimer’s seems to have a stronger genetic link than the type of Alzheimer’s disease that develops in older people.
“Ice Cream in the Cupboard,” published by Garrison-Savanna Publishing, LLC, is a gripping love story as well as a commentary on where we are, medically, in coping with Alzheimer’s disease. The book is available on line in both hard copy and digital formats.