We can no longer deny the change in our parent. They are scared and they need us now. They know something is wrong and they are hiding it — hiding it as hard as they can.
You see it, you know you do. I see it in your eyes. Even as you are saying “you are overreacting” to the changes in front of us. I forgive you…because I know you don’t want to acknowledge it, validate it, and in a way — allow it to be true.
The reality is: this disease is incurable, the only way to help our parent, inflicted with early onset Alzheimers, is to get them treatment to slow the decline.
Let’s start that NOW, please.
With each day that passes it is, ever more, clear that Alzheimers is descending on our family, and that our parent is different.
Obviously, we cannot count on our parent to tell us how things have changed in their brain. They raised us, were our source of strength for so long, they do not want to let us down…never-mind be “found out” — they are ashamed of just how confusing everyday life has become. They are frantic on the inside, trying to find “normal” that is lost forever. We need to soothe that.
The first step is acceptance, as a family. Let’s find a way to tell them that we see it, we will help, we will love them and will be there for them no-matter-what. We will never leave them alone and confused, even when they no longer remember our faces. We will make sure they are loved until the end.
It will help them, so much, to let the secret “be out” so that the support that is so needed may begin.
This as an open letter to the loving adult children of Alzheimers inflicted parents, who are in denial. So many, during the early stages – pre-diagnosis – find themselves swimming against the tide of the inevitable.
If you see signs of decline: repetitive comments, issues with memory, confusion, unusual anger, many reminder notes scattered around, unsure of the right turn to take while driving the road they’ve taken a million times….take the cue. Don’t fear it.
Delayed diagnosis is the error so many make. As tough as it may be, you must get your loved one to a physician as soon as possible.
They need to have a Sage Test — or the remarkably unfortunately named “geriatric assessment” — as soon as possible. This test is non-invasive and an extremely valuable tool in tracking a disease that is largely undiagnosable until it’s way too late for treatment. It is a simple series of questions and directions (folding paper in half and holding in specific hands) where a doctor can assess memory loss and awareness.
Get them on a wait list for assisted living – or get a plan in place to support them in their home. Their spouse simply cannot be the lone care-giver, it’s too much. Get a case worker to help navigate the often scary waters of support. There are many great resources.
Over the last 7 years I have learned a lot about Alzheimers. Beyond what it does to the person battling the evil disease, this is about what it does to families.
More about our family’s journey in the days to come. Our Dad has asked me to share our story “to help others”.