• 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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There are a few languages that require you to keep a sense of direction; they don't have words like "left" and "right" and "behind" and "in front of"; everything's "north" or "east" etc. of everything else. (I heard a bit on NPR about a woman who had to learn one such language, and found herself with a heightened sense of direction and orientation within a few weeks!)

Another friend, a singer and guitarist (among other things), quips that "Names go in one ear and out the other. Tunes go in one ear and stay. That's why I'm a musician."

I understand one of the ways the black narratives could be remembered for generations was by singing their histories. Remember Alex Haley's book Roots tells the story of Kunta Kinte being captured in Africa and the story from Haley's perspective, only to be verified and told by the story of the disappearance of Kunta Kinte from his African ancestors? 

That book caught my imagination!

Daniel, thank you for your continued support for me. As we traveled together through our cancer experiences, we can now support each other as we continue in the aging processes. Aging is not easy; it does not have to be grim. You and I have different conditions and we can rest in the knowledge that we are not alone and we are not the only people who face aging challenges. I have no pain other than arthritis, enlarging knuckles, sciatica, and back pain; your pain is far more demanding leaving you with a lifetime of cancer drugs. I wish I could wave my magic wand and take away your distress. You are and always have been a treasured friend, even a brother to me. 

Re aging not being easy. 

It happens only once so it’s a learning experience.

Hear, hear -- what L.G. said!

Joan, I'm another person who's grateful for you touching my life, even though we haven't met face to face. One more virtual hug from the East Coast!

Oh! I feel your friendship and caring hug, Grinning Cat. I enjoy your wit and wisdom and feel we have a special bond. You give me powerful energy and support and I consider you an important part of my virtual family. 

Joan, it's great that you have your wonderful family around you, giving the love that you raised them with. It's also obvious that you've retained cognitive and language skills. I hope you carry on coping with the problems this well for as long as possible. 

A big HUG from me to you.

Ian, I soak up your big HUG and am so fortunate to have you for a friend. Your wonderful adventures, your music, and the sharing of your family life feel comforting to me. I enjoy your spirit and honesty. Of course, I don't want to develop the aging problems of dementia, but since it is evident I intend to face it head on using all and any skills I have left. Knowing why I am confused and disoriented so much of the time makes it possible to say, "I need time out!" and I sit down and let the fog pass. It does; I can get on with whatever I was doing and I have no need to make excuses, deny, or delude myself and others. 

 

That looks like a great coping strategy, Joan!

Thanks, Chris. I hope it keeps me on track and empowers those who share my life will have fewer frustrating moments.

Good luck with it, Joan.

I think I have stages 1, 7, 8, 9, and 10 right now. Deep inside I feel like I've been this way for a few years. Some things we can do little about but it helps to be aware of them. I am thankful that I am not like my step father who is in a nursing home. He can't walk or drive and he has no car. He is mostly rational but sometimes talks of driving my long dead mother to a hospital in St. Louis. To him it is all very real and it just happened. 

The very fact that you are able to make this post is proof that your mind is dealing with this in a positive way. As for bill paying have it all set up to be deducted automatically. I did that in 2014 and it is great. Hang in there, my friend.

And best wishes to you, Michael. I hope you have family or friends around to help you.

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