Back in the day before we the public were made more aware of all of the different forms of dementias (dementia is the general term for a variety of diseases that effect cognitive ability, ie. Alzheimers, Dementia with Lewy Bodies, Vascular dementia, etc.) when an older person began to loose their memories it was passed off as just old age or being senile.
Mom began to become a bit “odd” after her one and only son – my big brother – died suddenly after a brief illness; he was only 48. Mom didn’t attend his funeral because it hurt her too much and she had this serious phobia about funerals, she didn’t even attend her own mother’s funeral when I was a little girl it was that bad. I attributed the change in her to depression and while that was in there, that other monster slipped in there with it.
When Alzheimer’s was slowly sneaking its way over my mother, the symptoms manifested themselves at first as minor forgetfulness. She would forget where she put something (don’t we all) she would forget how to call someone on the phone without the name being in her big black phone book, and the biggie that drives every family member and caregiver up the wall – she would repeat herself.
She used to drive me up a wall calling me on the phone to look up a phone number for her. I tried to tell her to just use the Yellow Pages (yes, I’m really talking back in the day aren’t I) to find said number which would get me either her laughing it off with some excuse like “My glasses need to be fixed” or “I don’t have a new phone book” or she would just give me heck for not helping my mother. She was good at laying the guilt down.
Now mind you we can all do that repeat thing. How many times have you started a story and the other person cuts you off by saying “You told me that already…” we’ve all done it at least once. But mom was beginning to do it a lot. I was uncomfortable with it and knew something wasn’t right but I didn’t know what it was and had no idea of where to turn for help.
I told my siblings about mom’s behavior and they just laughed it off declaring that she was old it’s what’s to be expected. Really? Now that thought just irks me to no end but back then in the late 80’s early 1990’s it was somewhat accepted. So I kept feeling something was wrong and folks kept telling me it was just her getting older.
PLEASE!!! If you have a loved one that is starting to forget more than you think they should or you have any other suspicions, try and talk it over with someone who will listen to you. I wish to heck I had done that back then. But be warned, you may face walls that will get in your way. Walls like your loved one being in denial (and understandably afraid), other family members being in denial, the spouse of your loved one being protective…and in denial. Oh heck, denial with a side of being afraid will get in the way!
When in doubt call your local Alzheimer’s Association and they will talk you through your worries and send you information if you request it. You might also be able to ask your own doctor some questions if they are amenable to it. But I didn’t know any of that until it was too late and then all hell broke loose.