Events & News

No tricks: Alzheimer’s Awareness Month begins tomorrow

10/31/2016

I was at my desk working. The phone rang. When I answered my mother spoke. By the tone of her voice I knew something was terribly wrong. She said her doctor wanted to talk to me. I asked what was wrong.

“He says I have Alzheimer’s.” Her voice broke. She was devastated. My mother was a strong woman who rarely showed her emotions because she didn’t want to let her family down or give any of us cause to worry about her. This breakdown was very telling. I would go to her house if she wanted me to. No, she said. We both had things to do and she had to tell Dad what the doctor said.

When I was alone, my thoughts were very busy. Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s? My mother? My bright, gifted, talented, outstanding mom among all the moms who have ever been … and she had Alzheimer’s? I made the promised appointment to speak with the doctor. I didn’t learn until much later that his mother-in-law was suffering the same diagnosis, his family dealing with the same problems related to the diagnosis. Did they miss the subtle red flags along the way, too? Were they caught off-guard as well?

Eight years later, after my father’s passing, I stayed with Mom for a while, my brothers and I and our families trying to keep her independent for as long as possible. But it became necessary for safety’s sake to have her admitted to a nursing facility. I visited her as often as I could. One day I found her in her room at the facility, in her bed. She wouldn’t speak. I asked what was wrong.

“I don’t want to talk. I don’t want everyone to think I’m an idiot.”

“You are not! You keep talking to me. Don’t you ever be afraid to talk to me.”

“OK,” she murmured quietly. I saw the gratitude in her eyes that I respected her and loved her. She recognized that.

Alzheimer’s is beyond horrid. You don’t notice those subtle changes until much later when you ask yourself how you could have missed them before because now they are so blatant to you. When you go to see your mother and suddenly find yourself in the middle of the room, in the middle of a firefight with her, arguing over things that don’t really matter and you ask yourself how this happened. There is such pain when you are doing everything you can to help her and she says bitterly, “Just wait until it happens to you.”

Patience, friends. Be patient with your loved ones as they age and slip further and further into the clutches of mind-robbing diseases like Alzheimer’s. More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s right now. Every 60 seconds someone in the United States develops the disease. By 2050, every 33 seconds someone will develop the disease. It is the most costly chronic disease, costing the U.S. $236 billion in 2016. Nearly one out of every five Medicare dollars is spent on someone with Alzheimer’s. By 2050 it will be $1 of every $3. It is the #6 cause of death in the U.S., and the only cause of death that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed. All of these facts are provided by the Alzheimer’s Association.

When I am out in public and I see family members being impatient, even disrespectful, with their elderly I wish that they understood the disease, that they would treat their loved ones with respect and tolerance, learn everything they can about the disease, the studies, the current information available. Then, become advocates for the loved ones who can’t stand up for themselves any longer. Go back and read the statistics I’ve shared. Go to http://www.alz.org/ to learn about dementia and how to help.

Alzheimer’s complicates everything for the family, causing high stress for the caregivers, even dividing families at times. Adding the disease into the substance abuse picture can only make everything seem much worse.

My mother has been gone for five years. What I wouldn’t give to sit with her a while and talk the way that we used to, even when she had Alzheimer’s and repeated the same thing over and over again. Love your loved ones with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia even when your patience is worn thin and you are fighting your own struggles. You don’t have to struggle alone.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org.


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