Sometimes, reading or hearing about another person's experience with Alzheimer's can help you cope with your own situation.
The following is the first part (of 3) of an interview with a reader who expressed her willingness to share her mother's journey with Alzheimer's disease, in hopes that it would encourage others and remind them that they are not alone.
Can you tell me a little about your mother? Who was she before the Alzheimer's started taking over? What were her gifts and talents?
My mother was a wonderful mom as I was growing up. As a young lady, we spent every Saturday going into Boston. It was our special day of the week. I never even wanted to go away to college because of the love that I had for my parents. I chose to commute to college, back in the day.
My mom worked as a secretary for the VP of Real Estate. She was there for 27 years and everyone loved working with her. She had a smile that would melt your heart. She was very outgoing and caring. The young girls always came to her with their problems.
What was special about your mother? What do you miss the most about her?
We had a bond that was so very special. My dad passed away at 72 and my mom at 90. After his passing, there wasn't a vacation that my husband & I went on that did not include her. She never interfered; she was just a pleasure to have around. I talked to my mom at least two or three times a day. I always met her for lunch or we had her for dinner or took her with us. That is what I miss the most. There are many things that I want to tell her and can't share with her anymore.
When did you know something was wrong, and what did you do about it?
The first time I found out something was wrong was when my mom was 86. I always called her when I got to work. I knew her schedule every day, by the minute. When there was no answer at 9:00 am, I just knew something wasn't right.
My boss was wonderful and let me leave work to run over to her home. I found her lying on the floor, not responding to me. I called 911 immediately and they were over asap. They kept her in the hospital, and found out she had stopped taking her blood pressure medication. I was shocked. She was always so organized, and never missed a beat.
Then when she was released from the hospital, much mail had accumulated. I was there opening it with her, and found out she had not paid many bills. Telephone, insurance, etc. I was dumbfounded. I questioned her and with her great big smile, she just said she was busy.
What were some of the other challenges at this time?
At that point, I knew something was not right, but I did not know what was going on. I called some of her friends, and they told me different stories about her. I looked at the phone and thought they were speaking of someone else. Not my sharp mother. They all told me that they had not wanted to call me and tell me all these things that were changing.
They also said they did not think she should live alone. My heart was broken, and I had to think of a plan. I never thought anything could happen to my mom. Again, my boss was wonderful and I went part time in my job. I took every Friday off to help her.
One of the things I realized was that she shouldn't drive. I told her the car was broken and had to be picked up to bring it to be fixed. Her friends picked her up once in a while to go out to eat and spend time with her. She never questioned where her car was.
I would go clean her house, and after a few weeks, I would find it a mess again. So I found a wonderful woman, Marion, who would come every Wednesday and help out. She took her shopping, and brought her to her home to eat dinner with her family.
(See these resources for in-home help.)
That lasted a few months, and then Marion called to tell me my mom would not open the door. She did not know how to unlock it. Again, my heart stopped. I knew this disease was progressing.
How was your mother diagnosed with Alzheimer's?
I brought her to a neurologist who told me she had Alzheimer's. I broke down in tears when my mom could not even tell her what year we were in. I had to come up with another plan. I thought this could not be happening. Now what? I didn't know what to do.
A word of thanks to Margie, daughter of Ruth, for her willingness to share her mother's story.