Is It Alzheimer’s? Is Your Spouse (or Parent) Starting to Forget Things?

July 24, 2009 at 1:14 am Leave a comment

Older people forget things, right? They sure do. So do middle-age people, young people, and everyone else. Alzheimer’s is more than simply forgetting what you had for breakfast.

Stress is a big mind-drainer that causes people to forget. Alzheimer’s isn’t just about forgetting where you keys are, and it may eventually lead to forgetting what a key is for–or even the word, “key.” Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurological disease. That sounds ominous, like the music to Law & Order. For most families, Alzheimer’s occurs over a period of years and while it can feel devastating, it also can hold moments of profound tenderness.

I made every excuse for my mom. Older people forget. It’s okay, I told myself. When the incessant questions started, I just chalked it up to her wanting to keep me talking. I was a sandwich generation mom myself–and my husband traveled for work a lot. I wanted–and needed my mom to still be my mom. My mother insisted she was fine. She wanted to live independently after my dad died, and I did everything I could to make sure she was safe. Eventually, it wasn’t enough.

I started having these nagging concerns. I couldn’t quite define what was bothering me. I had managed to wrangle my mother’s car keys from her a few years prior, and even though I was going to her house every few days, having neighbors, church friends and extended family members check on her and help with the myriad of little needs, I knew that thing weren’t quite right. She started to lose weight. She started talking about her mother in the present tense. She would forget I was grown and married. She couldn’t recall what to call a purse or where she went to church. By the time I started to admit that it might be something more, I had found the ten warning signs of Alzheimer’s–and I knew. (If you want to know more about the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, visit the Alzheimer’s Association site).

I made all the arrangements and moved my mother in with my family and me and soon after, I ask my mother’s neurologist (she already had Parkinson’s)  a few questions. I had a pretty good idea that she had some form of dementia. Even when he was hesitant, I knew. I had done my homework and knew what questions to ask. Early detection means you have more treatment options. Early detection means you have more time to enjoy your relationship, more time to make those necessary plans. There’s also quite a lot you can do to preserve the cognitive abilities your loved one has. You know that old saying, “use it or lose it,” applies to more than just the obvious…. Brain fitness is like body fitness–it’s never too late to start.

Your life doesn’t change the day you come home from the doctor with a diagnosis.

At first, most people don’t talk about it. It’s difficult to take in. There’s so many emotions. Life kicks in and you make dinner, plan for the next holiday, birthday, and you go grocery shopping and get gas. Alzheimer’s like anything else, folds into your life and permeates your every thought and action. Your husband is still your husband. Your mom is still your mom. You love them. They irratate you, and even when the changes happen, you grieve, you adjust and you keep going because you have to. You pray for time.

Your spouse or your mom may already be starting to forget things, but you won’t forget. You will become a living repository–of your family, of all the times you shared, of who they were–and are. It’s difficult to face, but pluck up all your nerve and strength. The sooner you start asking questions, the sooner you can get the help you need.

Entry filed under: brain fitness, caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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This Blog

Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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