This Christmas was difficult for me and my sisters and brother. My mom’s condition has become life changing for her as well as for all of us. My mom has Alzheimer’s just like her dad and her two younger sisters. Plus on top of the dementia my mom is profoundly hard of hearing and has been since she was an infant. So, her descent into dementia was masked somewhat by her hearing loss.
My mom is the oldest of three girls. She was very ill when she was an infant and the combination of her illness and medications they used to treat her left her with nerve damage causing hearing loss. She had some success with hearing aids throughout her life and somehow she managed incredibly well, even though, she had a very rocky and sad childhood.
My parents moved to Canada from Finland with my sister and I when they were in their twenties. They both learned to speak and read English very well. My mom was an avid reader in both Finnish and English. She is an incredibly social and affectionate person (something that isn’t synonyms with being Finnish). To see all these special attributes we associate with our mom disappearing is heartbreaking.
Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging!
I’m not recounting my mom’s life story here… not now. I want to express my feeling of utter loss for the mom I once knew who was quite the character and some would say eccentric! I want to express how much I HATE Alzheimer’s! Yes there were sign that this was coming years ago, but, she’s managed to live on her own and take care of herself until recently. When you’re with someone day in and day out it’s difficult to see changes. It’s not as easy to notice weight gain or loss as it is when you only see someone every few months. That’s what’s happened with my mom. My sister Liisa and I would visit my mom every few months and over the past few years the mental deterioration has become evident, as has her weight loss. She forgets to eat and has stopped cooking.
This Christmas was difficult. This is the first time she couldn’t remember our names. She didn’t remember my house where she’s stayed many times. Her sense of judgement was off and she had a fall. She didn’t remember how to turn the lights off with the switch on the wall and climbed onto the bed to reach the light fixture. Somehow she managed not to get injured. She spent time with me and Liisa over Christmas. The picture taken above is Christmas Eve morning. I was dropping my mom off at Liisa’s so she could attend Christmas Eve church service with her that evening. My mom loves going to church.
So, many people are going through this, I know. I see it in emergency where I work. People bring in their loved ones because they are exhausted and don’t know what to do for them. My mom is seventy-two years old. Her youngest sister was diagnosed in her mid fifties and has a very aggressive form of Alzheimer’s Disease. Their sister, who is the middle child, apparently also has Alzheimer’s Disease, but, she lives farther away and we haven’t seen her in a few years. It’s terribly tragic that all three girls were struck with this horrible disease that robs them of their precious memories. We have been blessed that our mom has not deteriorated as early as her sisters. It’s still extremely difficult and sad. Right now with the my sister Heidi’s vigilance we are getting services in place to keep my mom in her home as long as possible. We have no idea at this point how long she will be able to be there.
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear in their mid-60s. Estimates vary, but experts suggest that more than 5 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s disease is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, but recent estimates indicate that the disorder may rank third, just behind heart disease and cancer, as a cause of death for older people.
Even in my teenage years, when my grandfather was in the throes of Alzheimer’s Disease, and I watched my parents and my grandmother dealing with it, I had an inkling this day would come for me also. But, when it comes and though you’ve been expecting it, it still feels like a punch in the gut.
Who else is dealing with this horrible disease right now?
Have a productive and healthy week!