So this week before writing, I looked back at what I wrote this time last year. Sadly, a great deal of it was connected with the death of my own father-in-law and it is not an easy readback. However, in some ways, it seems like far longer than a year ago. My mother- and brother-in-law have not coped well with the loss. Well, he was not coping before that really and if you looked at previous posts, you will know of the alcoholism which has consumed him.
We have lurched from crisis to crisis in the last twelve months. Culminating in my mother-in-law being hospital herself on the anniversary this week. She broke her arm in a fall. The fall was caused by a diabetic low. The diabetic low, the doctors now think, was caused by early dementia. She is not remembering what she has eaten/taken or when (it was even discovered last month that she had, for reasons best known to herself, thrown away the emergency injections from the fridge). Quite a chain of events but one which it has taken many near misses to diagnose. Falls without actually breaking anything. Being found unconscious due to the diabetes but being brought round just in time. Many incidents of slightly odd behaviour that we hoped were just age rather than the degenerative dementia. So we start the second year with a whole new scenario but one with which, due to her location in western Ireland, we are struggling to assist.
Actually, both diabetes and dementia run in her family. (Although for years, when my husband mentioned diabetes being passed down, she denied this!) So what did the generations before do? Close ranks and keep the person at home if it was dementia? Just find a person unconscious on the floor when it came to diabetes? My mother-in-law was born in 1933. It was only around ten years prior to that when the first clinical diabetes treatment was made, although apparently there has been an awareness of diabetes symptoms since the times of ancient Greece. (see Wikipedia for more information). Dementia, of course, still has no effective treatment.
This is what the World Health Organisation website says:
Noncommunicable [by which they mean non-infectious] diseases were responsible for 68% of all deaths globally in 2012, up from 60% in 2000. The 4 main NCDs are cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic lung diseases. Communicable, maternal, neonatal and nutrition conditions collectively were responsible for 23% of global deaths, and injuries caused 9% of all deaths...
...In high-income countries, 7 in every 10 deaths are among people aged 70 years and older. People predominantly die of chronic diseases: cardiovascular diseases, cancers, dementia, chronic obstructive lung disease or diabetes. Lower respiratory infections remain the only leading infectious cause of death. Only 1 in every 100 deaths is among children under 15 years.
I don't think it is unreasonable to assume that at least one of my mother-in-law's grandparents had diabetes. Her mother was born at the turn of the century and developed the disease. A number of her siblings - of which there were around a dozen - have succumbed to it. Or to dementia. (Or both).
So in that family alone, there is over 120 years of diabetic history. And they may be classed as having lived in a high income country but their own family background was, quite frankly, very poor. Subsistence farming. Plain food. Few treats. It is genetic.
More should be done to research these 'non-communicable diseases'. The sad deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman in recent days have once again shone a light on the lack of treatments for some cancers. President Obama has promised a push to 'beat cancer'. But it is not just cancer that needs to be tackled. We are encouraging developing countries to catch the high income countries up. So it follows that we are storing up a future of increases in these causes of death. Only recently, I heard a piece about how breast cancer research funding will only really take off when the world's biggest population - China - begins to see the effects of its modernisation on its people's health. No-one wishes for another human to be ill. We should not be waiting for these shifts to happen. These diseases should not need to be trailing through centuries of family health.