What It’s Like
Your husband went out to run some routine errands and said he would be back in an hour. Four hours later he calls from a clerk’s phone at a convenience store across town. He doesn’t know where he’s been or where he is. This is not the first time, and it will surely not be the last.
What I Learned
If we suspect something is wrong with a loved one’s memory, we need to arrange a medical evaluation right away. They will be reluctant to go, but early intervention can make a significant difference in how things progress from then on.
We are our brother’s keeper, and this statement is never truer than when someone we love has Alzheimer’s. We are their advocate, guardian, caregiver, and friend, and successfully filling these roles is vitally important–from the first suspicions of the disease.
At first we know something is wrong, but we don’t know exactly what it is. Our mother seems more distracted, forgetful, agitated, and confused. She is short-tempered and argumentative. She may even be sexually inappropriate. Basically, she just doesn’t act like the person we knew. We wonder if it is normal aging or an indication that something has changed in our relationship or in her health. Our worst fear is that it has something to do with her loss of memory or, even worse, an early sign of Alzheimer’s.
The suspicion of any memory disease is terrifying. So many parts of our relationship are threatened. Not only is the present day in jeopardy, but our entire future with them is too. Where do we even start to find answers? Whom do we turn to for help?
We begin by considering the type and extent of symptoms we are noticing. Some physical illnesses can manifest changes in personality as much as mental illnesses do. When we do not feel well it takes a toll on our emotional and mental well-being too. Initially, it may be difficult to discern if this is merely a temporary condition or something more ominous.
We also need to analyze the extent of the memory issues. It’s normal to occasionally forget a name, miss an appointment misplace a cell phone, or forget to pay a bill. We all do these things, especially if we are busy, distracted, or constantly multi-tasking.
If these episodes are happening often, however, check with a physician. Our loved ones aren’t likely to recognize the state of their current condition or openly admit to any deficit. They may minimize their problems out of fear and an understandable lack of objectivity. A good physical exam by an observant physician–especially one skilled in dealing with the elderly–can rule out common causes for temporary dementia, such as thyroid imbalance, alcohol abuse, or conflict with a medication.
The last of the fall colors is upon us: “Nature Escape” on Midwest Mary.