My mother’s #Alzheimers

Back in February 2015, a friend of mine in NY inspired me to blog about my experience with my mother’s Alzheimer’s Disease. So far, I had only blogged once about her condition since her diagnosis in 2001, three years ago, and tweeted about it here and there, during particularly difficult times.

My mother has Alzheimer’s Disease
She was “diagnosed” in 2011. Back in 2011, she was 81. Now she is 85, and you can guess: things haven’t gotten better.

She used to be a very go-getter type person, very independent. One day I dropped her off in church (she used to drive back then, but she wanted me to drive her). I told her I’d wait for her outside in one hour. An hour went by, and she wouldn’t come out… nearly 20 minutes after the hour, she called me from her apartment.

She had gotten a ride home with a fellow parishioner… she had all forgotten that I was going to pick her up. This event, combined with a couple of instances of her getting lost in the Berkeley traffic (those of you who’ve lived here know this to be a joke!) raised a red flag.

We brought her to a geriatric specialist who confirmed the “diagnosis”. I use double-quotes because, unlike things like diabetes, where you can test your fasting blood sugar and establishing nearly without doubt if someone has the condition or not, with Alzheimer’s, it is trickier. As the Alzheimer’s Association would say:

There is no single test that can show whether a person has Alzheimer’s.

Of the 10 early signs of Alzheimer’s, back in 2011 my mom had 6. She now has 7.

In the coming months and years (however long she has left with us), I will share bits and pieces of my mom’s Alzheimer’s story, using the alzheimers tag in this blog.

For now, I leave you with a photo of her and her grandson (my son) that I took today.

Mama_mar_26_2015

2 thoughts on “My mother’s #Alzheimers

  1. As I mentioned (briefly, too) when I caught up with you in NYC last month, this is a situation I am hearing more and more people dealing with now. Some of its because I’m middle-aged and more of my friends and colleagues have older parents whose health consumes larger share of their time.

    Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are sometimes mistakenly used interchangeably as people believe these are the same ailment, which is not correct. Unlike some forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s is not a reversible disease (kind of like some type 2 vs. type 1 diabetes, I guess). Alzheimer’s is degenerative and incurable at this time. By comparison, certain forms of dementia (not all), such as a drug interaction or a vitamin deficiency, are actually reversible or temporary. Dementia is a brain disorder that affects communication and performance of daily activities whereas Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that specifically affects parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language.

    Even though these are clearly not the same ailment, in many cases, the impact on caregivers is remarkably similar. Both often involve caregivers seeing the memories of their loved ones decline rapidly, in some cases to the point where the patient no longer even recognizes their caregiver (frequently their own children). The impact on patients is not well understood, although we are seeing increased investment from the NIH as well as various drug companies (nothing happens overnight, unfortunately). However, the impact on caregivers is, in some ways, a much bigger deal. While families can support one another, in cases where there is someone caring for their spouse and there are no children or extended family, the impact can wear them down, mentally, physically and financially.

    I cannot offer any words of wisdom in dealing with this since I haven’t experienced it myself. However, my parents are aging and while their health is good today, in 5 or 10 years, who knows? But I think many of us will be watching how you are managing this – and hopefully, we can learn from your own experience. Thanks for sharing (and great picture, by the way!).

    • Thanks for the inspiration, Scott! Hope my (limited) experience thus far can he helpful to others.

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