A Families Journey in Aging (Part 1)
I feel it is time to write a bit about my families journey - the journey of aging.
I write this not as an expert in any way but as a friend who wants to come along side and perhaps, help you see the things that maybe we missed, the questions you might be able to ask, the steps you should take, before it is too late.
I am talking about Alzheimer's and Dementia.
16,000 Canadians under age 65 live with dementia
25,000 is the number of new cases of dementia diagnosed every year
564,000 the number of current Canadians currently living with dementia
1.1 million the number of Canadians affected directly or indirectly by the disease
Dementia numbers in Canada | Alzheimer Society of Canada
Statistics courtesy of: The Alzheimer Society of Canada is committed to providing accurate and reliable data on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in Canada
Alzheimer's is an irreversible disease that destroys brain cells, causing thinking ability and memory to deteriorate. It is not a normal part of aging. It is a type of Dementia.
Dementia is a term for a whole set of symptoms including impaired thinking and memory, it can affect communication and interfere with doing daily activities, there are different kinds of Dementia depending on where the damage is in the brain. Alzheimer's is one kind of Dementia.
A long time ago, 20+ years ago we noticed my Moms memory was not what it used to be, at the time we did not know what to do, if anything, because it was not so bad that Mom could not function. It was annoying when she could not remember, or failed to show up for an event, but Dad took on the task of remembering for her. We realized later that Dad covered for Mom a lot probably because he did not want to be embarrassed or have Mom embarrassed. I am not quite sure when we realized that Mom had Alzheimer's and maybe we never spoke the word until after the Dr. said it, but we sure thought about it.
Hindsight is always so much brighter. We now know that Mom and Dads neighbors knew there was stuff going on that caused them concern - but no one ever talked to us - the kids (although we were adults). Although one or more of us was seeing Mom/Dad regularly - we did not live there, with them. A relative coming and going weekly or bi-weekly would not notice the little things that just did not add up, or would slough them off as "weird" but nothing to worry about. Neighbors usually have the benefit of seeing people every day or so and when things do not add up - they are the first in line to spot it. I wish someone had come and talked to us. If you have some questions about your parents - ask the neighbors if they have noticed any changes.
In the fall of 2010, now looking back, we saw some changes in Dad that we could not figure out, so we ignored it for the first part. Then came December 18, 2010, when our lives would forever change.
I remember the phone call from my sister - "Dad called Rob (my brother) this morning to let him know that mom did not come home last night."
My brain swirled into panic mode since Mom has Alzheimer's - how long was she out there? Where was she? Did they find her?
My sister continued, "Rob called the police, they and the fire department came and when they knocked on the door, Dad answered and Mom was standing there right beside him. He told the police that he had not seen his wife all night and she had not come home."
They took my Dad to the hospital.
For us it was the start of what we call - "The crazy years".
Dad probably never recognized mom again and went on to look for her for the next three years. He over night had lost sight of her. He was often looking for his mother or his wife. He regressed back to a very young age, probably late teens, early twenties - just home from the Korean war.
Please read more of our journey in next weeks blog...