Recognizing The Subtle Warning Signs of Alzheimers
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."
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
- Alzheimer\'s Association
Alzheimer's Association - Alzheimer's Association