• I was probably the first one to notice that I experienced changes in my life, and my son, Cary, who lived with me, began to notice changes as well. There were subtle changes at first, things that could be passed off as, ”We all forget!” Or ”I can’t remember names, either!"

  • My first noticeable clue was I could no longer do arithmetic. I couldn’t balance my checkbook and so I stopped paying bills. I simply threw bills in a box and didn’t care that I no longer took responsibility for my spending. 

  • I lived in the same home for 40+ years and I could not find my way home from the grocery store that I frequented every week of those years. I became so alarmed, I told my family. My dear daughter and my son-in-law, Larry, asked, ”Mom, do you mind if we put a GPS on your car?” My response was quick and decisive, ”Oh! Please do!

  • I could not remember the names of my four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren I had to constantly ask for their names. At first, it was funny to us all; then it became obvious I was having difficulty. 

  • I often become confused and Cary was frustrated that I could not remember that we discussed problems and conflicts between us. He told his sister, Laura, that I didn’t perform as we had agreed, problems didn’t get solved and conflicts continued. 

  • I kept telling the same stories over and over.

  • I couldn’t remember words and the family became very proficient in completing my sentences. 

  • I gave up housekeeping altogether, not doing the basic tasks to keep the house clean and I didn’t care. 

  • Craig, Laura’s twin brother who came for a visit, became alarmed when I told him I was throwing the bills in a box and not paying them. He checked with Cary and Laura and they began putting the symptoms together. 

  • Cary suddenly died from esophageal cancer and I floundered around, not knowing what I should do. First I wanted to stay in my home of 42 years and soon realized I was no longer able to function responsibly as an adult. The family patiently waited until I decided I must sell my home. Laura and Larry agreed to make a home for me and I would spend half of the year with Craig. 

  • Laura and I consulted my physician of many years, I took a test and a diagnosis made it official, I have early stages of dementia. At last, I had a name to define my confusions. I can live with knowing I have a mental problem and we can make adjustments to compensate for my declining mental and physical health. My physical health clearly declined through diabetes, a heart problem, fractures from my many falls, and cancer. I need living assistance. I am so very grateful that my entire family step up to the plate and give me excellent care. Should I need to go to a nursing home I can make that adjustment as well. 

Here are the textbook signs of dementia:

Dementia Sign #1: Short-term Memory Loss 

Dementia Sign #2: Forgetting Instructions / Skills

Dementia Sign #3: Forgetting Words

Dementia Sign #4: Mood Changes 

Dementia Sign #5: Apathy

Dementia Sign #6: Difficulty Performing

Dementia Sign #7: Confusion

Dementia Sign #8: Repetition

Dementia Sign #9: No Sense Of Direction

Dementia Sign #10: Difficulty Adapting

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Thanks for sharing, Joan. This gives me a better understanding of your recent life, and I do care. My husband and I often forget small things, but still can go on together. It helps to have two brains. We also find life easier when it's routine, with no special appointments or challenges for the day.

Keep in touch.

Yes, Ruth, having others to assist in brain work helps greatly. Routines reduce stress and increase joy. I love your bear hug. I definitely plan to keep in touch. 

What I like very much is that you're able to analyze what's happening, and you accept it. I guess you won't confabulate after a mistake, like most sufferers from dementia. Both your view on your illness and your acceptance might be invaluable to help you through what's coming.

Plinius, learning of the difficulties you experienced makes me determined to be as clear and informed as I can be and attempt to keep active in things I can do. It helps greatly to have a family that keeps me challenged. Jared, my granddaughter's partner came to take me for a walk in the woods, Austin, his son, arrived to empty the compost buckets for me without being asked, Ethan, Michelle's son, helps me with computer problems. Jacob, Katelynn, stop by to tell me about their dates, Noah comes to the house just to give me hugs. I am secure in the arms of my family. 

I'm very happy that you feel so safe with your family, Joan! Great to think how you built, taught and supported them and now they're there for you!

I would think this has to be scary in a lot of ways for you, Joan: to be aware that something untoward is going on, to see it happening in retrospect, and wondering what you can do about it.

I don't know what I can do to help at this distance, but you got to know: if I can help, you got it.

I stopped driving the moment I realized I was not in control of my brain. That was the scariest part, to think I might have tried to drive when I could not. I didn't wait for the family or the licensing bureau to tell me to stop. At first, family members were cranky with me until they began to put the puzzle together, then they joined with me in laughing about "Crazy Great-Grandma's" not being able to find words. They perform expertly now at sentence completion. The greatest gift they give me is laughter. 

Joan, I second Ruth’s Thanks.

At 88 I’m glad I no longer pay bills each month by writing checks and mailing them. Doing the arithmetic is not a problem; opening the envelopes in which bills arrive is. I have twice received letters from collection agencies and opened them only because I didn’t recognize the return address.

Humor helps. I like to joke with other elders, saying aging has not yet caused me any great harm but I’m glad It happens only once.

Two years and two months ago I boarded a train bound for Chicago and enjoyed the scenery, especially approaching Denver down the slopes of the eastern Rockies. After two days in Chicago, mostly visiting museums, I returned to the SF North Bay. I want to take another trip, perhaps by way of Seattle across the northern states I’ve never been to, but am questioning my endurance. 

Your occasional mentions of your travels and your activities leave me a little envious. During four years in Arizona I made myself memorable enough to advise my brother in San Jose, when he was in his forties, that if he goes to Arizona to first change his last name.

I think I will start a Nexus discussion titled Do You Know Why The Prospect Of Dying Annoys Me?

Be kind to yourself.

Darn you, Tom, for being able to do arithmetic at your age. I had hoped to beat you at that task. Aging is not for the weak! It takes fortitude, outrage, pride, trust in others, doughtiness, realism, and a positive outlook on life. Getting on a train to go to all the places you did at 86 proves my point. I suspect we will use up all the aging jokes before we are done. I like your idea of a Nexus discussion, "Do You Know Why The Prospect Of Dying Annoys Me?" Go for it, I will join in that one. 

I went for it, Joan, and put it in the Water Cooler.

Excellent !

I hope the best for you, Joan.  Glad you have helpful family members.

I'm surprised at how well you still express yourself.

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