Life with Mom
—-This is a story of a shared life with Mom after her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease.—
When I tell people about my family’s history of Alzheimer’s – my grandmother, my father, and now my mother – a hint of something crosses their face, or their body language suggests a level of discomfort. I know what they’re thinking. They’re thinking that I don’t have a chance. They’re thinking that my fate is sealed. That I will succumb to the same disease.
I think that may not be necessarily true. Yes, I have issues with memory. But who doesn’t? I always have so many things going on. Juggling daily chores, working, stopping to have a little fun every now and then. I think I remember the things I have to remember.
My last “Life with Mom” post about her last visit to the Neurology Clinic prompted a question from my friend and fellow Hubbard Hall Blogger, Kim Gifford (Pugs and Pics). Kim teaches memoir writing, and is savvy about knowing when a story should be more developed or continue on. She asked me if I worry about my fate. If I knew of any tests or preventative measures out there that would be valuable to me or to people in similar situations. Her questions to me were timely, because I had just read about a series of seminars that our town library is hosting for the Alzheimer’s Association.
Mom and I attended the first one this week entitled: “Know the 10 Signs: Early Detection Matters”
The following are the highlights from the seminar:
-Dementia is a general term that just means that there’s a mental process disorder.
-There are over 80 diseases that cause dementia, and Alzheimer’s is just one of them.
-Many of the diseases that cause dementia are treatable, like:
**Urinary Tract Infections
**Increased Blood Pressure
**Medications Side Effects or Reactions
-Early diagnosis for any kind of dementia is key. Whatever is causing the symptoms may be treatable and reversible.
It used to be that 1 out of 8 people would get Alzheimer’s. This increased to 1 out of 6. Now it’s 1 out of 3 for people over the age of 65. 1 out of 2 for people 85 and older. It’s thought that these alarming statistics have something to do with the fact that people are living longer, increasing their chances for getting Alzheimer’s. Age is the number one risk factor.
Erika, the young presenter of the seminar emphasized the importance of breaking the silence. She focused on the benefit of talking about the fact that something isn’t quite right sooner than later. She kept reiterating how important early detection is no matter the cause, even if it turns out to be Alzheimer’s. There are treatments and simple things people can do to slow the progression. Her presentation was outlined by terms like “The more you know…” and “Knowledge is power.”
All of this makes sense, but it’s still not easy to begin the conversation. I recognized that something was not quite right with Mom a few years before we started talking about it. I would think that she was just tired or not feeling up to par, which was causing little changes in her thinking processes. It happens to all of us from time to time. As time went on though, I came to the conclusion that this wasn’t from fatigue. I passively monitored her from afar, and told my husband, Brian of my concerns. Mom and I only started talking about it recently when she told me she was having trouble at work.
I’m not upset that we didn’t start talking sooner. I try to live by the philosophy of “never looking back.” I consider that a colossal waste of time. I feel lucky, though. Because once we started talking about it, she was open to the discussions and to professional help. I’m completely sure that being under the care of a physician will assist us into the future. I’m also quite sure that her willingness to be open, get treatment, and take this diagnosis in stride has, and will make both of our lives easier. We get to deal with reality every day and not pretend that nothing’s wrong.
I did learn that having an immediate family member increases your chances of getting Alzheimer’s just slightly. I also know that there are many more factors that play into creating the perfect storm for this kind of diagnosis, many of which we have control over. Living a healthy life style is something we have control over, and can go a long way in warding off or reducing the risks for many diseases, including Alzheimer’s.
So for now, I won’t spend much precious time worrying about something that hasn’t happened to me.
Has it crossed my mind? Yes, it has. But as Erika said…”The more you know….”
The Ten Signs
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
2. Challenges in planning or problem solving
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
4. Confusion with time or place
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relations
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
8. Decreased or poor judgement
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
10. Changes in mood and personality