When Alzheimer's Steals Your Appetite, Remember To Laugh : Shots - Health News Fresh grilled swordfish now tastes like rolled newspapers to Greg O'Brien, an unexpected effect of his Alzheimer's. And shopping without a grocery list is futile. But summer barbecues are still sweet.
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When Alzheimer's Steals Your Appetite, Remember To Laugh

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When Alzheimer's Steals Your Appetite, Remember To Laugh

When Alzheimer's Steals Your Appetite, Remember To Laugh

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/425721231/426255457" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Greg O'Brien was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's in 2009. As he's lost his memory, he's also lost his appetite, which complicates pretty much everything about putting food on the table. Greg took an audio recorder on a recent trip to the grocery store, when things didn't quite go as planned.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREG O'BRIEN: In Alzheimer's now, I'm losing my sense of smell and my sense of taste. And I used to relish fresh fish and, you know, summertime on Cape Cod, right off the dock, the swordfish. But now it all tastes the same. It kind of tastes like rolled-up newspaper to me. I'm in the car now, a little reluctant to go inside this big supermarket because last time I saw a good friend of mine in there, and I had something hidden behind my back in a bag. It was a case of Depends because at times, I lose my continence. And good buddy, he saw it. He was trying to laugh it through and said, Greg, you've got a problem? I said, eh, depends. It's OK to laugh. You've got to have a sense of humor in Alzheimer's. It's OK to laugh.

All right, first thing, over to the salad place because I don't taste anything. I used to love tomatoes - tastes like toilet paper sometimes. All right, what next? You know, none of it looks good - not disparaging the supermarket, just my brain - threw a few cookies in when no one's looking. Now, I get Diet Coke or Diet Sprite. I usually have a few swigs during the six or seven times I'm up at night. One thing I can kind of taste, only 'cause it's cold, are these fruit bars. And I really can't taste them, but they feel cold, and that's good. I think I'm done, I think.

(SOUNDBITE OF PHONE RINGING)

G. O'BRIEN: Hey, Conor.

CONOR O'BRIEN: Did you get my text?

G. O'BRIEN: No. What was your text?

C. O'BRIEN: Get some chicken breasts. Get some Advil PM. Get some good salsa and good chips and that's it and then a little thing of ketchup.

G. O'BRIEN: Ketchup, condiments, OK - all right - love you. OK, bye. (Laughter) Oh [expletive] I just forgot what he told me. All I remember now is the ketchup. Maybe I'll get two bottles. You know, that's the nice thing about Cape Cod. Everybody knows everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Thanks, Greg.

G. O'BRIEN: OK, take care. How you doing? Good to see you.

Sometimes it kind of sucks 'cause everyone knows everybody else's business. And everybody knows I'm slowly losing my marbles, but they care.

How you doing, Conor? I kind of forgot a little bit of what you told me. But I got stuff, so - I got the ketchup. All right, where'd I put the spatula? All right, let's see what we've got here.

We're done. The grill is a - somewhat of a success.

(SOUNDBITE OF FIRE ALARM)

G. O'BRIEN: There goes the fire alarm.

(SOUNDBITE OF FIRE ALARM)

G. O'BRIEN: I think we - nice way to end the night, with a good Cape Cod summer rain to put the fire out in the house that I almost started trying to cook the buns, sitting on the back deck a little late - 9:30. Nobody else is here. Conor's watching the Red Sox. My wife and daughter are on their way back from Baltimore. And I'm kind of in my element, which actually makes me feel pretty good.

RATH: That's Greg O'Brien. He was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease in 2009. You can hear previous stories from the series Inside Alzheimer's at our website, npr.org.

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