Lessons Learned Through The Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

My wife Cheryl was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease in February 2009.  Her disease was judged to be in the “mild stage”.  She was only 57 years old at the time.  I recall walking out of Baylor College of Medicine in shock, not really knowing what to expect, or when to expect it.  I knew so little about the terrible disease that had attacked my wife.

Our lives changed that day.  Since then I have watched Cheryl disease progress at an ever-increasing pace.   I have been told this is not uncommon to have rapid progression with Early Onset Alzheimer’s.  At the time of her diagnosis she was able to handle day-to-day activities in a pretty normal fashion.  She would forget a few words, or leave cabinet doors open, but was functioning on her own.  In less than four years I watched her slip away until this June when she was assessed at a Severe/Profound stage, I was forced to begin looking for a place where Cheryl would be safe and cared for.    In August we moved her into a Memory Care Unit.

I have had a great number of “Lessons Learned along the way.  So many so, that I don’t believe I can effectively express all of them in one blog.  Therefore I will write a number of blogs describing my journey through the stages of Alzheimer’s

In future blogs will touch on the following:

  1. What is this disease?  Learn as much as you can.
  2. Where do I go next?  What resources are out there?
  3. How do I let family and friends know what is happening?
  4. Asking for help, and not being afraid to accept it.
  5. Are all of your documents in order?
  6. When is it time to take away the car keys, and how do you do it?
  7. When should I take her to ΓÇ£The GatheringΓÇ¥ or other AD activity?
  8. How do I deal with her aggression and keep a sense of humor?
  9. Alzheimer proofing the house.
  10. When is it time to use in home caregivers?
  11. How do I find and evaluate caregivers?
  12. When is it time to move her to a Memory Care Unit?
  13. What questions do I ask in evaluating a Memory Care Unit?
  14. What’s next?  Getting on with my life

This is not intended to be a “how to” but merely my story and lessons learned along the way.  If it helps others move through the stages, it will be a success.

-Written by Don Baird as part of our “Lessons Learned” blog series. Be on the lookout for more wisdom and lessons learned from Don in the coming weeks and months.

AlzTex Admin

The Alzheimer's Association Houston & Southeast Texas Chapter (www.alz.org/texas) consists of families, caregivers, scientists, health professionals, and concerned citizens who are committed to finding a cure for Alzheimer's Disease and to easing the burden of Alzheimer's Disease and related disorders on patients and their families and loved ones.