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Recognizing The Subtle Warning Signs of Alzheimers

Updated on May 31, 2013

The Beginning Signs of Alzheimer's

It started when my son was six years old. It was the last day of school and Grandaddy always picked him up every day after school. When I picked my son up from Grandaddy's that evening, I asked him how the last day of school was.

He looked upset and said, "I missed the party." I was confused. "You were at school today...how could you have missed the party ?" He said, "Grandaddy signed me out of school early." I was confused. Why in the world on the last day of school would Daddy have gotten him out of school early? I asked my dad and, looking sheepish, he said, "I got a little confused on the time."

Losing Control

This was the beginning. This is how it started, how a capable, wonderful, vibrant, loving man was stolen forever from our family. Looking back, it's the small things that are the most painful to remember. He was visiting at my house one Sunday afternoon for dinner. When he left to head for home, I walked him out to his car as I always did. I told him "I love you" and he told me, "I love you, too." He got in his car and to my horror, instead of backing out of the driveway, he drove head-on into my garage door. I ran to his car door and threw it open, yelling, "Daddy! Daddy! Are you alright? What are you doing"? The look on his face was utter confusion and embarrassment rolled into one. He said, "I'm sorry, baby. I'll pay for it." I wanted to cry, I knew at that moment something was terribly, terribly wrong.

My father was one of the strongest people I knew. At 6 feet tall and 195 pounds, he was a big muscular man who could fix anything that was broken, cook dinner, tend to all four of us children. and love my mother with one hand tied behind his back. But now Mama was gone and it was a good thing, because she could not have borne watching what Alzheimer's did to the man who took care of her since she was 17 years old. And neither could I.

"I Messed Up"

Small, but alarming things followed. He backed over my mailbox...twice. My sister and I debated about telling him he shouldn't drive anymore. He got lost leaving my house one day and miraculously ended up at the police department where they called us to come get him. He "missed his turn," he said. My sister and I debated some more. How could we tell a proud, formerly capable man that he was no longer independent, that he couldn't drive his car anymore?

The decision was finally taken from us. He was pulled over one fateful day downtown driving the wrong way on a very busy one way street. It was a wonder he wasn't killed. The police impounded his car and took him to the hospital. His confusion was so great, all he could tell us was that he was headed to the credit union. He had no idea why. All he could say was, "I messed up." My sister tearfully told me that she was taking him to live with her.

Extreme Changes In Behavior

Heartbreaking is not the word for what happened to my father after that. It hurt his pride to lose his car, but to be told he couldn't return to his home, the home he built with the love of his life where he raised four children, where he planted daffodils, azaleas, and amaryllis that bloomed in a blaze of color every spring, was too much. His rage was enormous. He threatened on a daily basis to walk home, he called my sister terrible names. This was a man who never uttered a curse word before Alzheimer's changed all of our lives.

When all that didn't work, he fell silent. He resorted to doing childish little things to annoy her. And he began eating non-stop without gaining a pound. To the contrary, the big healthy man who had held me in his arms in the water every year when we went to the ocean. so we could "jump the waves", had shrunk to less than 5'9" and 158 pounds.

I could hardly bear it. My grief was enormous. How could God do that to someone like my dad who never drank nor smoked and had led such an honorable and decent life? My questions still to this day have no answers.

We lost my father January 7, 2009. It was mercifully short in the world of Alzheimer's which sometimes drags on torturing its' victims and their families for years. But the devastation it wrought in that short period of time defies description. I try to block out my memories of him during those final days, choosing to remember the strong man with the big laugh who danced my mother around the kitchen till she yelled at him to stop, who called me his "little buddy."

I always felt safe in my daddy's arms.

Warning Signs of Alzheimer's

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    • profile image

      Johnf733 

      4 years ago

      Very informative blog post.Really thank you! Keep writing. addecbgcaaed

    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR

      DIYweddingplanner 

      6 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Jackie, We actually did put my father in a nursing home for a short period after he broke his hip with disastrous consequences. That's a whole other story, but I was glad we were able to bring him home at the end.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      6 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I lost my mom who lived with me her last years until she was put into a nursing home. Just be thankful your dad did not have to live that nightmare. Mom was my whole world. Thank you for sharing.

    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR

      DIYweddingplanner 

      7 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Hi WOL. I almost hate for anyone to read this knowing that I'm going to once again go back and re-read it and relive the terrible memories I have of losing my dad. I know I'll never forget the cruel way he was taken from us. With Alzheimers, there is no dignity in death...only a torturous length of time before the inevitable conclusion to a horrible story. I catch myself sometimes forgetting little things and feel panicked...could it be happpening to me, too? I pray not, because it's not an ending you would wish on anyone, as you said. Thanks for stopping by, WOL, having you read it means alot.

    • profile image

      writeronline 

      7 years ago

      Hi DIY, can't believe it took me so long to find this. I should have picked up the cue when you mentioned you'd lost your Dad, in your comment after reading my hub about mine.

      Alzheimers is the kind of living death that none of us wants for anyone we love; (and as you say, that has to include ourselves. But, no-one really knows whether it's genetic do they?)

      As I read, I found myself feeling grateful that my Dad was spared this particular illness; sad that yours suffered it; and moved by your loving tribute.

      Your Dad would have been proud to read it, I'm sure.

    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR

      DIYweddingplanner 

      7 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Marisa and SW, thanks for stopping by and reading the hub that of all I've written, probably means the very most to me. I think many families walk the path that my family did. I just wish there was more that could be done to prevent it.

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 

      7 years ago from Isle of Man

      this is a very sad story but you are lucky to have had such a great man to look after you and make you feel safe when you were growing up. It sounds like your mother and father were close so maybe being without her was more than he could bear. Thank you for sharing this personal story.

    • Marisa Wright profile image

      Kate Swanson 

      7 years ago from Sydney

      I lost my parents several years ago, but sometimes I'm glad my mother passed away when she did. She was beginning to get confused and I was dreading watching her get worse. It must be so bewildering for the sufferer.

    • Ask_DJ_Lyons profile image

      Ask_DJ_Lyons 

      7 years ago from Mosheim, Tennessee

      THanks so much! Yes, it is rather scary. I am sorry for your loss as well. Have a wonderful day!

    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR

      DIYweddingplanner 

      7 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      DJ, I know what you mean. Every time I'm writing and I type the wrong word, I kind of stop and say, "Whoa, is it happening to me?" Horrible disease. So sorry for your family's loss.

    • Ask_DJ_Lyons profile image

      Ask_DJ_Lyons 

      7 years ago from Mosheim, Tennessee

      I was very touched by this hub. My maternal grandfather died of that disease several years back. It was very sad. It also scared his two children as they feared suffering from the same fate. Now, my mother is having memory challenges. It is scary! Thanks for sharing!

    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR

      DIYweddingplanner 

      7 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Thank you, Sarah, for your very kind comments. Yes, it's difficult watching loved ones turn into strangers. The best advice I can give people who are going through it is to remember not to take it personally and to rememmber that your loved one is still there underneath it all somewhere.

    • smackins1974 profile image

      smackins1974 

      7 years ago from UK

      I remember similar things happening with my nan, it is so hard both physically and emotionally to watch the ones you love spiral downhill especially after such independant lives. Thanks for sharing this it is beautiful.

      Sarah

    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR

      DIYweddingplanner 

      7 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      So sorry for your family's loss, Fiddleman. We were able to move our father back into his home during the final two months of his life with my sister and I caring for him. I like to think he knew where he was and he was happy to be in familiar surroundings when he was taken from us.

    • profile image

      Fiddleman 

      7 years ago

      We buried our wife's mom in January last year. she had Dememtia and had lived with us the final 5 years of her life. This was a family of 14 children and devastating for them to watch her slowly deteriorate to not recognizing or being able to call their names. The memories of a loving mother are precious and we do not have any regrets for being her caregivers. Thanks for sharing your experience and like you we pray for a cure.

    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR

      DIYweddingplanner 

      7 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Northwind, it's good to talk to others who have gone through what our family went though and know we're not alone. I hope one day there will be a cure for this terrible disease.

    • North Wind profile image

      North Wind 

      7 years ago from The World (for now)

      Taking the keys away from them is one of the worst experiences anyone who has dealt with an Alzheimer patient can have. Ah, yes they do become so different from what you knew. Your heart sinks when they call you another name and when they say scream and hurl things at you. It is a difficult thing to deal with seeing the all knowing, make it better person in your life, get the expression of child-like innocence once more in their eyes. It is a hard thing to deal with indeed and I do pray for those who face their loved ones and help them carry on with it, I pray that they will be given strength.

      Thank you for sharing about your Daddy, DIYweddingplanner, in the end I am sure, he felt safe in your and your sister's arms.

    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR

      DIYweddingplanner 

      7 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      OK, not fair! You made me cry, too! My prayers are with you and your family. It's torturous to watch someone you love not only not recognize you anymore, but become totally unrecognizable from the person you used to know in the process.

    • K. Burns Darling profile image

      Kristen Burns-Darling 

      7 years ago from Orange County, California

      Oh how I cried when I read your hub! My heart goes out to you and to your family. You see, I too am that daughter, the one who had to tell her daddy that he couldn't drive his car anymore, and the one who watches as she loses a piece of the stong, independent, capable father a bit at a time. Like you, my parents married when my mom was 17, and she isn't here either, and for the first time since her death, I thank God that she isn't here to see this. My dad raised my sister and I on his own from the time that we were 11 and 9, and now it is my job to care for him, to keep him safe the way he always kept us safe....Thank you so much for sharing your story! You have no idea... or perhaps you do, what it means to others like you and like me, who sometimes feel so alone! Beautifully written, I hope to read more hubs by you! God Bless.

    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR

      DIYweddingplanner 

      7 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Thanks, Sue. January is a tough month for me, but I have great memories of him that help me put the bad ones out of my mind.

    • sueroy333 profile image

      Susan Mills 

      7 years ago from Indiana

      what a nice tribute to the memory of your wonderful dad!

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