Posted by Tim Barber at 12/07/2012 12:00:11
Every other week there is a headline in the newspaper about the latest way of identifying Alzheimer’s Disease earlier – but with no cure found there’s a bit of a “so what” from people I know experiencing the disease at first hand.
Since my Mum was diagnosed as being in the early stages of dementia in late 2005, I’ve spoken to many friends and friends of friends who suspect that a loved one is going the same way. The same questions seem to be asked – “Well, how did you know?” and “How did it start?”
My Mum had been a teacher and had recently retired. She’d lost my dad years earlier when I was at school, but she led an active social life 100 miles away from us in the Midlands. My brother and I used to joke that she was never in when we called as she was always off enjoying herself – as she was treasurer of various clubs and actively involved with the local church.
Mum used to visit us regularly and loved to come up and see her young grandchildren. It was great for her to be involved in their lives and would give my wife and I a bit of respite – and a well-deserved lie in or trip to the cinema.
It was on one of these trips up North to Leeds that we both noticed that Mum was asking the same question repeatedly. We were planning to go on holiday in a couple of weeks and had discussed the details of our trip to Majorca. It still seems so clear in my memory now the questioning, “So where are you going on holiday”, “we’re off to Majorca Mum” then a gap of about a minute and the same question “So Tim, where are you all off on your holidays” – “Majorca Mum, I told you a few minutes ago” then a bit more conversation about the flight times then “Where have you decided to go on holiday”…the same question being asked six or seven times.
The conversation went on like this for a while, but we didn’t make much of it and put it down to tiredness.
Over the course of the weekend similar repeated conversation were held “So, how is Joe doing at school?”, “Is Joe doing well at school”, “How’s Joe’s schooling going”; “does anyone want a cup of tea” , “no thanks Mum,” a minute later “shall I make a cup of tea for everyone”, “not at the moment thanks” “Cup of tea?”….– all within the space of 5 minutes.
After Mum had gone we forgot about it pretty much even though we thought it was a bit strange. Having been used to teaching and an active social life, we just thought that perhaps living on her own and spending more retirement time during the day on her own, that she had got lazy – and just wasn’t bothering to listen properly to our answers.
Outwardly Mum was the same - smart and elegant, she had no problems helping us prepare food and took great pleasure playing with my kids –so we thought nothing of it.
But after she stayed with my brother a couple of weeks later – he’d noticed a similar pattern of repetition. I called my aunt who lived close to Mum in Aldridge and used to see her every few days – she also admitted having noticed it and again didn’t think it was much to worry about.
On my next few visits to see my Mum or her trips up North – the repetition became more noticeable – and eventually other behavioral changes became apparent which I’ll talk about in my next blog. But looking back now the repeating herself was definitely the first sign – it’s just then we didn’t have a clue what it would lead to.
You can also ready my previous post on 'work life balance challenges'.