Every 70 Seconds
Looking back on the time I first suspected my parents of having Alzheimer’s was when I noticed my mother exhibiting strange behaviors. She became very paranoid and began accusing my sister of stealing from her. Their relationship became very estranged and because of this my father made up a story and told my mother that apparently a robber came inside their home and robbed them. My father had cracked open a window when my mother wasn’t looking and then took her over to the window and showed her that this is how the robber was coming into their home. Needless to say this resolved the issue of accusations against my sister, but it opened up a whole new set of problems. After she apologized to my sister, she then insisted that my father nail shut all the windows in the house. He did as she asked. She then took scotch tape and placed it over all the key holes in the doors. And, every night before she would go to bed she would take coat hanger wire and wrap it around the door handle and the dead bolt lock. She then would take my grandmother’s trunk and push it against the front door. This process played out every night for her, just as the repeated story of the robber coming into the house and stealing all of her jewelry. On one of my visits to their home, and witnessing this firsthand I asked my father about her behavior. My father simply said, “if it makes her happy, no big deal.” I was shocked by his reaction and also realized at that moment this had apparently been going on for a long time. It was this first trip home to visit them that I stayed for several weeks to observe both of them. It was also during this visit that it became apparent my father also was struggling with the disease of Alzheimer’s.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 2009 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures 5.3 million people have Alzheimer’s; there is a new case diagnosed every 70 seconds; 148 billion dollars in health care cost; Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death; and there are 9.9 million unpaid caregivers.
My mother and father passed away almost 2 years ago and God’s plan for me then was to be by their side, taking care of them, loving them and holding their hand until the end. That was my purpose then. My purpose now is to spread the word and help educate as many people as I possibly can about the Beast named – Alzheimer’s.
10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s:
Memory changes that disrupt daily life
One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's, especially in the early stages, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; relying on memory aides (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.
What's typical? Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.
Challenges in planning or solving problems
Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.
What's typical? Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.
Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
People with Alzheimer's often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
What's typical? Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.
Confusion with time or place
People with Alzheimer's can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.
What's typical? Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer's. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast. In terms of perception, they may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room. They may not realize they are the person in the mirror.
What's typical? Vision changes related to cataracts.
New problems with words in speaking or writing
People with Alzheimer's may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a "watch" a "hand-clock").
What's typical? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.
What's typical? Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote control.
Decreased or poor judgment
People with Alzheimer's may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.
What's typical? Making a bad decision once in a while.
Withdrawal from work or social activities
A person with Alzheimer's may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.
What's typical? Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.
Changes in mood and personality
The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer's can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.
What's typical? Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.