“Brooke, I just want to warn you. Your dad has been doing some odd things lately… making funny mistakes. I just want to give you a head’s up in case he does anything odd when we come visit.”
She was joking right? Surely she wasn’t hinting that he was starting to show signs of Alzheimer’s or something? My grandma (his mom) had just passed away 2 months ago of Alzheimer’s, so maybe my mom was just on high alert. Plus, Dad is only 55 – surely my mom is overreacting!
I’ll never forget the first signs I saw of it. I was 27 and had just given birth to my daughter, my parents’ first grandchild. I’ll never forget the pride and awe in my dad’s eyes the first time he held her. They lived ten hours away and had come to stay the week with us, and we were just sitting down to eat supper.
“Sure is a nice day out! Can you believe this weather?!” my dad exclaimed, as he dished himself some food. It was a beautiful July day, and we all agreed.
Now, my dad has never been a fan of lulls in conversation (that must be where I get it from). As we started eating and enjoying the food, we grew quieter. So Dad piped up, “Sure is a nice day out! Can you believe this weather?!” with the exact same fluctuations and everything.
THREE TIMES he said it the exact same way, not realizing he already had, and none of us knew how to react to it.
Maybe Mom wasn’t overreacting after all.
We moved closer to my parents 2 years later and that’s when I really saw the signs (plus they became more prevalent as time passed). My mom exhausted all other options: she looked into depression, aging, diet… she enrolled them in dance classes, signed him up for Lumosity (and made sure he played every day), they tried coconut oil and blueberries… you name it and my mom tried it.
It took until he was 59 to finally get a diagnosis from his doctor. I think it took so long for two reasons: the first being the doctor didn’t even want to entertain the thought of it because he thought (like everyone else) that my dad was much too young; and second, my dad was very charismatic and was able to hide the symptoms to the outside world for a long, long time.
Alzheimer’s has such a stigma that it is only for the elderly, and it’s not.
My daughter just had her 10th birthday this summer. I can’t believe my dad – and us – have been losing this battle against Alzheimer’s for an entire decade already. My dad is now a mere shadow of himself, unsure of where he is or who any of us are.
He just turned 65. He and my mom should be entering retirement, picking out their next travel destination. I’m not even 40 yet, so my dad has had Alzheimer’s for over a quarter of my life already.
Instead of researching hotels, my mom is researching nursing homes at 64.
This disease is more awful than I can articulate and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It robs you and everyone you love of so, so much. I think this blog will truly help me get some of the words off my chest that I’ve had to say for so long.
If you’re reading this and living it, have lived it, know someone living it and want to give support, or maybe you are just entering this ever-growing Alzheimer’s club, I send you so much love, comfort, and hugs. Never enough hugs. Some days are good, some are hard, and some are downright devastating. Please know that you aren’t alone, and there are a whole bunch of us out here in the world if you need a friend who understands.