This week, Ambassador Louis Frey has provided us with his final Alzheimer’s vignette. We would like to thank Mr. Frey for taking the time to share his story with us. His words have truly inspired us here at the Alzheimer’s Association and we hope you readers have been equally moved.┬á
WhereΓÇÖs the car?
In the early stages of Alzheimer before true diagnosis, daily life with the patient seems normal with little deviation, which is often thought to be associated with other causes. ThatΓÇÖs why it is to differentiate unusual responses from the patient, who you have known for years, from the responses you have come to expect.
After work one day, I came home and noticed my wifeΓÇÖs car was gone; which is nothing to worry about, normally.
The smell of fresh-brewed coffee came wafting out of the kitchen, and I inquired, ΓÇ£Hey darling whereΓÇÖs your car, over at the shop getting an oil change?ΓÇ¥
Softly she said, ΓÇ£I donΓÇÖt know.ΓÇ¥
Encouragingly I added, ΓÇ£Not to worry, it could use an oil change anyway, and weΓÇÖll pick it up in the morning.ΓÇ¥
ΓÇ£No, no,ΓÇ¥ she said. ΓÇ£I could not find it. ItΓÇÖs not where I left it when I came out of the doctorΓÇÖs office.ΓÇ¥
Rosie, while still in the early-stages, drove to one of her many doctorsΓÇÖ appointments, and parked the car in the parking lot at the corner of Binz and Caroline. She would then walk by the Museum of Natural Science and through McGregor Park to one of the office buildings along Fannin Street in the Texas Medical Center.
Eventually, I got the car back.
The parking attendant allowed the car to remain parked for 28 days before calling a tow truck and the police.
This incident revealed several things.
One: the need to relate the parking location to her destination did not occur to her.
Two: the long walk from the parking lot to the Medical Center made no real lasting impression.
Three: this partial mental malfunction did not cause the loss of the original destination from her memory in spite of the her long walk.
Four: after the doctorΓÇÖs visit, the parking lot and car locations were not mentally retrievable.
It would appear that the mind and memory switches ΓÇÿoff and onΓÇÖ at unpredictable intervals. I noticed that these intervals came closer and closer together as the disease progressed and more of the brain matter is affected.
ItΓÇÖs very cathartic for me to recall these incidents, plus by sharing and describing these episodes they reveal subtle signs of things to come and helps others to recognize them.
It is only now that IΓÇÖm able to connect the dots. Recognizing them early in a personΓÇÖs life can save an enormous amount of anxiety and frustration; but you must be ready to face the situation that is before you and talk about it constructively and finally acquire a complete diagnosis.
Weeks can go by before another odd incident may occur and these lulls of abnormal activities seem to prevent the layman from suspecting AlzheimerΓÇÖs.
Fortunately we had children who live out of state who saw their mother only once or twice a year and they were the first ones to mention the strange behavior or suggest, ΓÇ£SheΓÇÖs not making sense any moreΓÇ¥ or┬á ┬áΓÇ£she asked me where I live several times and she knows where I live.ΓÇ¥
Once these odd comments are made or strange incidents observed it is imperative that the family members get together and discuss what they each think prompted them and the situation in which they occurred.
In lieu of making a big brouhaha about it and stumbling through the world of denial, seek a diagnosis as soon as possible. Once the diagnosis is obtained, develop a strategy for the care of the patient and the ΓÇÿcaregiverΓÇÖ.
Seeking assistance from the AlzheimerΓÇÖs Association would be the best thing you can do for the entire family; but in particular for the caregiver and patient who are taking their first steps together on a long and unknown journey.
Seek assistance, and youΓÇÖll be miles ahead.