Mondays With Mother: An Alzheimer's Story

In 2002 my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It is a hard road, and we live it one day at a time. This is a chronicle of her disease and my Monday visits with her.

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Name: Anne Robertson
Location: Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States
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Monday, September 20, 2004

The Beginning

Not that this is news, but Alzheimer's is a terrible disease. I began to notice that something was wrong with my mother when we went to a conference together in 2001. She has always been sharp as a tack and super organized. A Brown University graduate, she was an English teacher and then a guidance counselor in a large high school. She was the senior class advisor for years, managing classes of about 500 students, running graduation and honors night and the schedules of her many counselees without ever missing a beat.

But at this conference, I noticed she was slipping. She was having trouble figuring out what materials to bring to each session...she who at one time could have designed the materials. And then, on the day before the conference was scheduled to end, she turned to me and said, "Should we check out of our room now?" I was puzzled. "No," I said. "If we do that, the nice hotel people won't let us spend tonight in our rooms." She laughed. But then a couple hours later, she asked the same question again. And then later in the day she asked a third time.

The next thing I noticed was that she was having difficulty driving. The mechanics were fine, but she had trouble with directions and road signs. She picked me up at the airport and I thought surely we were going to die trying to get out of the parking garage. She was in a complete panic and stopped dead in the middle of the garage, completely unable to cope with the signs and arrows.

Then she started getting lost driving home from my house, less than a mile away. It was moving fast. We took her for some neurological testing. Scans showed that there had been some mini-strokes, but that wasn't the whole story. The doctor said the "A" word. It's funny, that "A" word. I've noticed that people are reluctant to pronounce it. People who have no trouble talking about cancer, Parkinson's, strokes, and other debilitating or even deadly diseases will say to me, "Does she have it..I know..." "Yes," I respond, "She has Alzheimer's." They look at me like I am the pilot of the Enola Gay.

By her 70th birthday in 2002, it was obvious to everyone that something was wrong. She often had a sort of vacant look, and she had started to lose a lot of weight. Doctors put her through every test on the planet to find a reason for the weight loss...even taking out her gall bladder, more of a test than anything else...before finally saying, "Well, that can be a part of Alzheimer's too."

The grieving began.


Anonymous Mike said...

Thank you. After much searching I have finally found a blog about Alzheimers. I will be back to read much more.

5:55 AM  

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