Alzheimer’s And My Family
The First Sign Of The Disease
My father started to have problems with his memory when he was in his late seventies. I didn’t realize at the time that it was the first sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
My father was an only child. Both of his parents had died at age 69. My grandfather had a stroke on the day of my parents’ wedding and passed away while napping on his 69th birthday, six weeks later. My grandmother died of cancer when I was 11.
I was not aware of anyone else in my father’s family having Alzheimer’s disease, but that may be because he outlived most of his relatives who died in their seventies.
The Disease Progressed
My father had a stroke shortly after his 81st birthday. The memory problems seemed to get worse after that.
He was finally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s after the stroke. At that point, his problems with his short-term memory were apparent to him and the rest of my family.
The stroke affected his left side, so he had some weakness on that side and had to wear a shoe with a brace. However, his speech was not affected. After the stroke, he was no longer able to drive and became more dependent on my mother.
My father was a writer, and he worked in marketing for a company that made scientific products. He was laid off in his fifties and continued to work part-time until his mid-seventies. He was a great story-teller and joke-teller.
As the disease progressed, he couldn’t remember the stories he had told for years.
In addition to his memory loss, he started having trouble finding the right word. When my mother dislocated her shoulder and had to go to the ER, he referred to the ambulance as the “hospital bus.”
How He Dealt With The Disease
I admired how he dealt with this disease. He always maintained his sense of humor even as the disease took parts of him away.
Over the next several years, the Alzheimer’s progressed to the point that he could not remember the names of his grandchildren or recognize long-time friends. But he was very good natured when he was reminded of the people who loved him.
My sister was devastated when he could not remember her name.
I prepared myself for the day when he would not know me. That day never came.
He always seemed to know who I was. I’m not sure why, but I am the oldest, and I resemble my father.
My father developed leukemia and needed to get a blood transfusion because he had severe anemia. I met my parents at the hospital. When I walked in, he looked at me and said, “you’re my daughter.” I said, “yes, I’m Abby.”
He died a month later, two months before his 86th birthday.
Alzheimer’s Changed My Life
My father’s experience has changed the way I think of the future.
My father passed away in 2012. I had a milestone birthday in 2014. Six months before that birthday, I finally made a will and bought a long-term care policy.
I have always had an extraordinary memory and have not noticed any changes at this point. But based on my father’s experience I should consider and prepare for the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s in the future.
I know that my journey through aging may have some difficult bumps in the road, but I am preparing to face the obstacles head on. If you want to learn more about Alzheimer’s or donate to the cause, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website.
What struggles or challenges do you foresee in your aging journey? Let’s ELM and shape the conversation about what aging means to all of us.