It is heartbreaking to hear stories about elderly folks with dementia and memory loss. A friend’s mother no longer knows her own daughter when she visits the assisted care residence facility. The last question anyone wants to hear from a parent is, “Who are you?”
At age 82, Sylvia Hatzer had a case of Alzheimer’s Disease that was so advanced she had to be hospitalized for her own safety. Her son Mark had noted his mother’s growing forgetfulness a little over four years ago: she had trouble remembering birthdays and plans made with her friends.
These mental problems became more frequent. In December 2016, Sylvia was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
The afflicted mum’s physical condition went downhill quickly. In March 2017, Sylvia – then 82 years old – had an epileptic seizure (a common side effect of Alzheimer’s) and fell. She was transported to North Manchester General Hospital where she could no longer identify her child.
Mark was a stranger and, in her confused state of mind, she contacted the police, saying that the nurses looking after her were holding her against her will:
“When my mum was in the hospital she thought it was a hotel – but the worst one she had ever been in. She didn’t recognize me and phoned the police as she thought she’d been kidnapped.”
Thankfully, all that is behind the British family who lives in Prestwich. A special brain-boosting diet formulated by the mother-son team helped Sylvia regain her memory. that the Alzheimer’s Society has published the restorative recipes.
Mark had already lost his brother Brent in 1977. Their father had succumbed to a heart attack ten years later, in 1987. Consequently, the remaining son had grown quite close to his surviving parent:
“Since my dad and brother died we have always been a very close little family unit, just me and my mum, so for her to not know who I was was devastating. We were a double act that went everywhere together. I despaired and never felt so alone as I had no other family to turn to.”
Mark, an attorney, described the sudden change he experienced after his mother’s diagnosis and epileptic episode:
“Overnight we went from a happy family to one in crisis.”
Two months later, Sylvia checked out of the hospital and returned home. She began to eat walnuts and blueberries – a lot of walnuts and blueberries. Today, the happy mother’s memory is restored: she remembers important dates, goes out socially, and takes care of most of her daily needs without assistance.
The inspiration for the Hatzers’ special dementia-relieving regime came from the Mediterranean region, an area known for low rates of senile dementia. According to Mark:
“When she left the hospital, I thought instead of prescribed medication we thought we’d perhaps try alternative treatment. In certain countries, Alzheimer’s is virtually unheard of because of their diet.”
What exactly do people who live near the Mediterranean Sea eat?
“Everyone knows about fish but there are also blueberries, strawberries, Brazil nuts, and walnuts – these are apparently shaped like a brain to give us a sign that they are good for the brain,” explained Mark.
Sylvia also ramped up her consumption of broccoli, kale, spinach, sunflower seeds, green tea, oats, and sweet potatoes. She treated herself to dark chocolate with a high cocoa content.
In addition to dietary changes, mother and son worked jigsaw and crossword puzzles to exercise Sylvia’s mental powers. They met people at social groups and the mater exercised physically with a chair-mounted pedaling device.
Mark observed that his mother’s improvement was slow and steady:
“It wasn’t an overnight miracle but after a couple of months she began remembering things like birthdays and was becoming her old self again, more alert, more engaged.”
According to her son, Sylvia is doing very well for an 83-year-old and she looks 10 years younger than her actual age. Mark confided that you wouldn’t know from looking at her the ordeal his mother had endured:
“She had to have help with all sorts of things, now she is turning it around.”
As for the relationship between what we eat and our physical condition, Mark was decidedly opinionated:
“We are living to an older age in this country – but we are not necessarily living healthier.”
The Hatzers’ cure for Sylvia’s deteriorating mental state has been endorsed not only by the Alzheimer’s Society but by Mark’s employer, the law firm of Slater and Gordon, which now features the couple’s menus in its Manchester office’s employee cafeteria.
But even more exciting was being invited to the Queen’s Garden Party in the summer of 2018 where Sylvia was lauded for her success and the hope it brings to thousands of others who suffer from mental decline produced by natural aging. Mark revealed the two-fold benefit of discovering that diet does impact mental health in elderly people:
“For my mum, knowing that she has helped other people, has really helped her. I did this for my mum – she has got the condition and she has done all the hard work – but if what we’ve achieved can benefit other people as well then that’s great.”
In England, said Mark, Alzheimer’s and other degenerative mental conditions are a big problem that is, by and large, overlooked by mainstream society:
“People don’t realize but dementia is the number one killer in this country ahead of heart disease or cancer, but it doesn’t get the same funding, it is a crisis.”