My mother’s diagnosis of early onset dementia was not a shock to us. It was something that we really had to push her to figure out what was going on. Once the diagnosis was given, it was almost a relief for us. We weren’t just imagining things; there actually was a problem.
Now, six years later, the struggles are increasing. My dad is stressed out, trying to take care of her and manage every aspect of their lives. The only time he gets a break to breathe and relax is when a family member comes to visit. Luckily, my sister and her husband live close so they try to go by a couple times during the week.
But, it’s the little things that are the hardest.
My phone calls with my dad can no longer be one-on one. She is very paranoid that people are talking about her so he has to put the calls on speaker just so she doesn’t get upset. The conversations tend to be her asking questions that break my heart.
“So, has _____ found a job?”
“Yes, mom. He’s been working for the same company as my husband for about six months now.”
“Is ______ in school?”
“Yeah. He graduates from high school in a couple of months.”
They’re simple questions, but questions that she asks every single time we talk. As hard as it is, I have to remind myself that right now at least she still remembers who we are. I want to cry yet am so grateful that we have these moments that I can look back on.
As I look forward to the months and years to come, I try to prepare myself for what I know will eventually happen. We’ve been through this before with my mom’s dad.
He too had early onset Alzheimer’s. I remember going to visit him in the nursing home with my parents and watched as my mom spoon-fed him. I remember the couple of times that he would struggle out a word and there. I remember not really understanding why my mom would tear up just hearing his voice.
I’m going to go visit my parents this summer, and I’m going prepared. One of the things that I will be bringing with me is a voice recorder. I want to record as much as I can so that when it’s no longer there, I will always be able to play it. I’m taking my camera so that I can have as many pictures of her as I can get.
But most of all, I’m going to cherish each and every moment and memory we make during my trip.
We don’t know how fast it will progress so this may be my last chance to do so.