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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Storm Warning: Is it Alzheimer's? (Precious Memories 4)

In my very first Precious Memories post, I talked about the storm warning that became a natural disaster.

June is Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness month, so I decided to share some posts about our journey this month.     

It's my way of going purple.

The journey of Alzheimer's was a very stormy and rocky road. My first challenge was trying to figure out if there really was something going on with my mom, or was it just me.

Was I imagining things?  Dreaming?   Maybe I was tired, or overworked.  I was in a very stressful phase of life.   

Little did I know what was coming.

The little "signs" I was seeing, were so out of character for her.  She still lived on her own, drove, managed her bills, took care of a home for the most part.  She compensated very well.  I felt like it was insulting to her, to even begin to think she might have dementia.

She was high functioning at the beginning stages, so much so, that it took us longer than normal to catch on.   She actually participated in us trying to figure out what was going on.  She would laugh and say, "Oh I can't find my words today", or "I talk too fast, I need to slow down", when she would mix up her words, or say strange things.

Many times I would walk away from conversations, thinking I was losing it.  I was the one confused, disoriented, and trying to figure out what we had just talked about.  It was like we would begin in the middle of a conversation and I had no idea what she was telling me.

Later, when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and Primary Progressive Aphasia, it made more sense to me.  My mom began using shorter sentences and less words, until at one point, she didn't speak much at all. She was quieter than I had ever known her to be.  Her brain was literally shutting down in small sections, similar to light bulbs going out.  Her world grew more dim, as the disease progressed.

Prior to her growing "quiet" and not speaking at all, she would use words that I never heard her say when I was growing up.  Words that would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap!  I've been told this is quite common with dementia.

My mom had many of the classic signs of Alzheimer's.  You can read more about those here.

Early diagnosis is the best thing you can do, to start helping your loved one.  I only wish we would have figured it out sooner.  I sometimes wonder if much of her struggle could have been delayed, if we would have known what we were up against. Then again, with this disease, you just never know.  Why does it affect some patients in their 40's or 50's, and not develop in someone else, until they are 70 or 80?

There is so much about this disease we just don't know.

I highly suggest the same book my mom's specialist had me read, called The 36-Hour Day.  You can read my review of that here.

*The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother, who lost her battle with Alzheimer's. I share snippets of our story in these posts, and some things I learned along the way.

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