Helping Mom Deal With Early Stage Alzheimers

I guess it's stereotypical (rightfully so) for people to imagine anyone dealing with Alzheimers disease as being completely confused, disoriented, or down right forgetful. Well in most cases this sadly eventually becomes true, but I'd like to share my recent and ongoing experience regarding the beginning stages of this disease. I think if I had known more about early signs I probably could've helped my Mom acknowledge and deal with this much sooner.

It was confirmed today as I accompanied my Mom to her Neurology consult that she is in fact dealing with very early stages of Alzheimers. It all began (for me anyway) 4 months ago. My Mom had asked me, "Oh yeah, I think I told you already but I came back from vacation and...I got back to work and couldn't remember how to type. Can you come with me to my doctor's appointment?" I replied that I would, of course. "But what do you mean, you can't type?" I asked. Figuring she was just slowing down, or forgetting a letter or two. "I don't know, I sat at my desk and looked at the keyboard, and had no idea where all the keys were." she expained very noncholantly.

It was the same look and smile I'd seen on her face many times before with a kind of half shrug as she replied to me. But something didn't quite fit. I had to dig in a little deeper, otherwise that was the best detailed description of her "forgetting how to type" would've been described. So I asked, "Okay so if I sat you in front of the keyboard and asked you to type your name, how would you do?" My mom pursed her lips sideways, eyebrows raised and with shoulders shrugged once again replied, "I couldn't. I'd have to look at the keyboard." At this moment, I realized something was wrong. Nobody just forgets how to type out of the blue. Especially if like my mom, you've been typing like a hundred words a minute very accurately since you were sixteen. A million questions flew into my mind as this conversation continued.

She went on to explain, after I'd asked her how she is possibly getting by at work everyday not being able to type. She pretty much types all day long in her office with plenty of deadlines to meet. Apparently she had friends at work that were helping her. As for the vacation she went on, guessing the time frame I had assumed that her "forgetting how to type incident" happened either after Thanksgiving or Christmas vacation. Mind you, the initial appointment I went to with her regarding this was in March, which was 4 months ago. To make matters worse, my mom (who has always been praised for her work ethic and ability always receiving raises and bonuses) had been recently evaluated by her supervisor resulting in her being poorly reviewed. I found out through comparing stories with her boyfriend, that she had actually mentioned trouble with typing last year in May! He hadn't taken it seriously himself due to her brief vague explanation. She had forgotten that she even mentioned it to him last year, thinking that this is a very recent matter.

I knew that my Mom really needed my help, so I stepped up immediately. First thing I made sure of was to get her off of work. My concern was her losing her job based off of performance that was obviously affected by her memory loss. Though she explained this to her boss, the bottom line is (in my eyes) though you have some problem going on, as long as you continue to show up at work, your performance is still going to be evaluated compared to anything prior. So with the help of her doctor, the first action made was to put her on disability until we could find out what was going on.

I thought of all the harmless forgetful incidents that I could recall of my Mom. You know, things like forgetting where she put her keys or purse, forgetting certain things to pick up at the store, or forgetting to call back a friend. Oh and let's not forget to mention the more humorous moments like asking the grandkids where her glasses are when they're sitting on top of her head. These are all things that some of us deal with every now and then sometimes, but I realized that I seemed to notice them more often with my mom as far as a few years back. So it became almost like our little joke (my Mom's included of course) that she would always forget. We'd all laugh and make a funny remark and she'd chime in and laugh it off as well. I didn't realize at the time that it was turning into something more serious.

I live across town from my Mom and see her quite often. At least once a week she'd either come over or we'd go by if not meet up to go shopping or eat out. She spent a lot of time with my kids, so she's around often but I didn't see her everyday. I think it was about a year or two ago that my brother (who lives with her) started to mention of her forgetfulness. But it was never anything that called to my attention so much until this typing incident.

So since that first appointment regarding this, I've offered my Mom to stay with us in my home while we figure out what is going on. I don't have to work everyday and am home full time for my family, so it made sense to me since she was going to be off of work that she would be here at my home instead of at her house by herself most of the time. I saw it as an opportunity to be able to closely evaluate what goes on everyday with her. It's been since then that my eyes have really opened up to how much her memory has been affected.

Things I'm noticing most being affected by her memory loss seem to be mainly her cognitive skills. I took on keeping track of her appointments and handling any of her disability paperwork. Things that unfortunately I know would not have been handled in a timely matter or just completely forgotten if taken care of by her. Within these 4 months we have discovered that signing her signature is very difficult for her to do. I noticed that she could write normally, but her signature was something that took much concentration for her. Things like using her credit card, checking the voicemail on her cell phone, using the remote control for the t.v., using the microwave, were all actions that needed repetative explanations. Thankfully, she's able to read without any problems. She loves to read! Unfortunately though, she's unable to enjoy doing any sudoku games or word search/crossword puzzles. We've noticed the increased difficulty in attempting to execute those. Those games and puzzles were things she used to do ALL the time. I'm noticing more and more now that certain points have to be repeated in a 5 minute conversation sometimes 2-3 times with her. She was instructed by the doctor today that she should no longer be driving. This was actually discussed by my Mom and I a month or so ago, so today's apppointment confirmed our thoughts.

My Mom is only 57 years old. If you were to speak with her right now, she is definitely not what you'd think of when the word Alzheimers comes to mind. In fact, most people probably wouldn't even consider that with her if only dealing with her for short periods of time. It wasn't until she'd been living with me these past 4 months that these symptoms have become more and more apparent to me.

There is so much information about my journey with her and beginning stages of Alzheimers that we're dealing with, it's hard to share every little bit. But I do know, that it's been put in my heart to share what I can. Dealing with early stages of Alzheimers is very frustrating for my Mom, for anyone having to deal with it. Imagine the frustration of not only having difficulty with certain areas in your life that once were second nature, and at the same time knowing that they are slowly slipping away for good.

Different stages of Alzheimers disease

As for the clinical side of this, there are medications for memory loss geared towards Alzheimers symptoms. These will not cease the memory loss, but will be effective in slowing down the progression of it. My Mom is taking two different kinds. According to the Neurologist, my Mom showed no signs of any stroke or brain tumor after reviewing her brain CT scans. Based off of Psychology testing regarding memory skills, as well as her primary care doctor, and his own physical and memory testing, we've resulted in being given a diagnosis of early stage Alzheimers.

This is just the beginning for us all in dealing with this disease. I've learned that Alzheimers disease is not a natural part of the aging process. It's a progressive, irreversible, brain disorder with no known cause or cure. Symptoms of the disease include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, personality changes, disorientation, and loss of language skills. Early detection is very important for more effective treatment regarding this disease and other forms of cognitive impairment. Here are some things to look out for:

Warning Signs of Alzheimer's Disease

  • Trouble with new memories
  • Relying on memory helpers
  • Difficulty finding words
  • Struggling to complete familiar tasks
  • Confusion about time, place or people
  • Misplacing familiar objects
  • Onset of new depression or irritability
  • Making bad decisions
  • Personality changes
  • Loss of interest in important responsibilities
  • Seeing or hearing things
  • Expressing false beliefs

Alzheimers is an inherited type of dementia that can strike people as young as 30 years old. Though there's no cure for early-onset Alzheimers, finding it early makes it possible to control the early and middle stages of the disease and give the best possible quality of life. So what do you do when you suspect signs of Alzheimers?



 

Step 1- Research your family medical history, whether or not you parents had this disease. Parents have a 50 percent chance of passing on the gene that causes early-onset Alzheimer's. Having the gene doesn't necessarily mean Alzheimer's will develop, but there is an increased risk.


Step 2- Watch for early symptoms especially if a parent has had the disease. People with early symptoms of Alzheimer's often repeat themselves while speaking, lose things and seem generally forgetful. They can get lost going to familiar places and may have increased difficulty performing everyday tasks.

Step 3- Talk to your doctor if you suspect early-onset Alzheimer's. Sometimes, memory loss and confusion can be caused by other treatable illnesses, so the doctor will do a full physical exam, neurological tests and a mental status exam.

Step 4- Have a brain scan (CT or MRI) done if your medical history and symptoms have patterns that indicate Alzheimer's. Often, brain scans are normal in the early stages of Alzheimer's, but there are brain changes characteristic of dementia that might show up.

Step 5- Follow your doctor's recommendations on managing the illness if you or a loved one are diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Medication can slow the progression of the disease, and counseling can help with the psychological effects and help you learn ways to live with the disease. Your doctor might also recommend some lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise or social activities.



It's been difficult and frustrating at times for my Mom so far. I've learned that it's important to help encourage her during those times and keep her engaged in everyday living. It helps so much that she's been handling this all so very well. So we'll continue to follow up with her doctor, and take things as they come. I'm just thankful that I'm able to be home and be here for her along with my husband, kids, and rest of our family and friends who are willing to help in any way that they can. I know that we all, with patience and understanding will be here for my Mom in every step through this journey. We continue to eat healthy, exercise our bodies and our brains with her to do whatever we can to slow this thing down! It's all a learning process that we will all participate in. One thing's for sure, she's not in this alone.

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Comments 21 comments

singlmomat52 profile image

singlmomat52 6 years ago

I am so sorry about your Mom. I am sure that she will get the best care that she could have being there with you. The Hub is a wealth of information that I am sure many will read and may help someone else that this disease has touched. I know this was a tough hub to write but know that many are praying for your Mom and you. God bless.


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

Thank you singlmomat52, I really appreciate hearing that from you. I'm learning so much, hopefully I'm able to help someone else in the same shoes as mine to know a little bit more through my experience so far.


sheila b. profile image

sheila b. 6 years ago

What more can a mother ask for than having a daughter like you?


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

That's sweet sheila, thank you.


mikielikie profile image

mikielikie 6 years ago from Texas

What a wonderful daughter you must be. It's so hard to deal with an illness in the family. You are a strong women and I'm sure that your mother is also. Good luck with all you and your family will have to go through durring this time. you guys will be in my prayers.


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

Thanks Mikie. My Mom is handling this all very well. So far we're learning to take things one day at a time! I think this situation just opens up my eyes to really take the time to enjoy life with her and not ever take one day for granted. We all have a positive attitude and I think that matters greatly. I appreciate your words and prayers! =)


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK

First of all Young Cheryl, for some reason I no longer get notification of new hubs by you and a few other whom I follow, so I have missed a few.

Second, this is an incredibly informative piece about a subject that seems to influence directly or inidrectly, one way or another, everyone I speak to. Two aunts of mine (out of 7 sixters!) have recently passed away with this deadful desease, so I feel for you.

Third, it is so fortunate that, with the knowledge you have acquired on the subject, you will be able to spend some time with the mom you have known all your life, before she slips away. It will obviously be a painful process, but at least you will spend some real time with your mom before she begins to seriously slip away.

My heart goes out to you and I can only wish you courage and love.


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

Hello De Greek, it's always good to hear from you. My eyes have been opened to how much Alzheimer's truly affects people. I'm sorry to hear about your two aunts. I do feel very fortunate to be able to be here for her the way that I'm able to. You're right, I do intend to make the most of everyday spending the real time that I do have with her. Thank you so much for your thoughts and love. =)


Michelle N. 6 years ago

:(

Its so hard to see our parents getting old. Call me if you want to talk.


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

Michelle, it sure is. It helps to have such supportive friends and family. I've definitely got your number! Thanks. =)


leni sands profile image

leni sands 6 years ago from UK

Sorry to hear about your Mum Cheryl, this is a dreadful disease. It's so sad when once really intelligent and capable people are struct down with such a disease. Reading through your incredibly informative article I am drawn to the early stages and development and thinking about my partners father. He's 89 years of age and I recognise some of those traits. We have always known that he was slipping into dementia and his wife has been coping admirably, she's 90. We see them most days and make sure everythings OK and my partners mum is always pleased to see us and tell us what's been happening. I really feel for you, Cheryl.


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

Wow, how awesome to have parents around at that age. It is a bit sad to think about how this disese progresses, but I choose to focus on now and take advantage of the time we do have together as a family. I can only be grateful to be in a position where I'm able to really help her. My thoughts are with you as well for your partners father and mother...for you and your partner too because it affects everyone in a persons life who deals with Alzheimers. Life is so precious, and we take for granted sometimes our mental health. It's up to us though the attitude we choose to have in dealing with life's issues such as these, and I will definitely be positive overall! I have an unbelievably great and supportive family who makes this all a bit easier to cope with. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts leni sands, really appreciate it!


Dr Ken Romeo profile image

Dr Ken Romeo 6 years ago

One of the most "turn-key" and complete articles on The Hub dealing with the beginnings of Alzheimer's disease.

Great job!


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California Author

Thanks Dr Ken Romeo. I definitely wanted to share my experience in dealing with early stage Alzheimers with my mom. It's a subject I thought I knew all about, but realized after my mom was diagnosed that there is much more to learn. I appreciate your comment.


Scarface1300 profile image

Scarface1300 5 years ago

A very interesting an informative presentation.. So much i didn't know.... I will pray for your Mother and you....Good luck with everything


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 5 years ago from California Author

Your thoughts and prayer are much appreciated Scarface1300. I thought I'd do my best to share what I'm learning about this disease. Alzheimers sounds familiar and most people generalize what they know about it. I was surprised with what I've come to learn about the details of this disease. Thanks for reading.


Ddraigcoch profile image

Ddraigcoch 5 years ago from UK

Sorry that your mum and you have to live with Alzheimers.I have been a care assistant for people who suffer from it, and the early stages are almost harder to bare.

Well, the early stages from a care home, well into the disease by the time they reach us.

The residents that had only just moved in with us would come in and out of it, and when they were upset and coherent and the others that were worse were scaring them, it was upsetting for me.

Some that were further gone were happy. Yes, it is disturbing to see a grown adult think that the corridor is a shopping mall, but it is real for them, so enjoy it I say.

Thank you for sharing such a special part of your life with us.


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 5 years ago from California Author

Ddraigcoch, I appreciate reading your response. It's kind of a roller coaster, Alzheimer's. Well especially the early stages I guess. I can't help but to compare even this early the differences especially in confidence that Mom has now compared to 5 years ago. I choose to appreciate every day as it is given to us, and make the most of every moment that she is still here with us, mentally especially. I'm just so grateful to be able to be home everyday with my family. Thanks for sharing your experiences too.


Millie 3 years ago

god knows I love my mom to dead, she was my everything. But I got married 4 years ago and I have a 2 years kid. Unfortunatly I live now with my little family in Germany and i am so far away from mom now. I wanna go to see her but how I can help her when my kid needs me too?, cause I am not that close to her I try to find in Internet something that help me to know better this terrible disease :C. Thanks for evething you posted, that was 2 years ago?. Hows your mom know?. I am so scared everytime I talk to my mom, sometimes she does not remember me and that hurts, but lately she just dont even wanna talk, yesterday i send whole nite crying, I feel so impotent I can not help her. God bless our mothers!


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 3 years ago from California Author

Hi Millie, thank you for sharing your story too. It's tough I'm sure when your mom sometimes doesn't remember you. Especially hard as well that you're so far away from her. Have faith and don't be discouraged. Focus on her needs and let go of what cannot be controlled. I've seen a difference in my mom in the past two years. She's still in the early stages, but since she's living with us now I've realized that she is more dependent on me with many things. Mainly she struggles with getting confused more easily than before. A lot of times she'll start to respond in a conversation like normal and I know that she has in mind her response but will be cut short as if she just can't get the words out of her mouth, or can't figure which words to say. It's very frustrating for her, rightfully so. It's really sad to see. Be strong for you mom, and keep her in your prayers. She may not always remember you, but that doesn't take away all the memories you have of her. In a sense, it feels like she's not who she was anymore and hurts to watch her slowly slipping away, but just take advantage of the time you do have with her and be there for her as much as you possibly can. Much love and blessings to you and your mom.


Sandy Slaven profile image

Sandy Slaven 2 years ago

Michelle, I am so sorry and send my utmost prayers. I lost my mom to Alzheimer's and am creating a film to hopefully help others. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/losing-breen-mi...

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