If you might indulge me for a moment or two, I would like to depart from my normal rants, highlights, and writings on the sports and youth sports environment to talk about a topic that many, in some way, will face as the parents of baby boomers enter old age. If you only visit my blog for sports topics, written to try and make a difference and change perspective, then I certainly do apologize and assure you that I will continue those efforts in the very near future.
However, if the title of this blog (for whatever reason) hits home with you, then I encourage you to read on as I detail an unexpected and trying experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
The recent diagnosis of Pat Summitt, and her current battle with “early onset dementia ("Alzheimer's Type"),” has certainly put this terrible debilitating disease in the limelight, and rightfully so. The physical, financial, and family consequences of such an illness is, well…frightening to say the least. Dementia’s continuous and relentless pursuit of destroying one’s mind is nearly impossible to put into words. That last statement will become more obvious as I relay to you our family’s recent experience with this disease as we face the daunting task of taking care of our mom.
The reality of dementia, and its magnitude, hit home with my brother, sister and me as we began to realize our mother was slowly losing the ability to remember simple tasks. It was at this point, several years ago, that my brother, who lives with mom, took it upon himself to take her to a neurologist for testing.
The brain scan she received showed some brain shrinkage, especially in areas dealing with memory. At 72 years old you would expect some of this; however, since mom was able to take care of herself (bathing, cleaning, shopping, cooking, etc.) we were instructed just to keep an eye on her. The idea of dementia, with all its many debilitating pieces, was not yet on the horizon. For all we knew, this could just be part of mom’s normal aging process. We had no real answers yet.
Fast forward three years. Mom was doing fairly well, still able to carry on normal, intelligent, and semi-insightful conversation, clean, cook, bathe, etc., even discuss recent and/or past events with fairly good accuracy. The couple things we did notice in decline were her eating habits as she did not seem to be hungry and began losing weight, that her walking gate was turning into more of a shuffle, that she became very anxious when away from home, preferring to spend much of her time there and not wanting to stay at holiday gatherings for very long, and getting lost in the car while going to places she used to go. Her driving was still good, but her sense of direction and knowing where she was, even with places she was intimately familiar with, were slowly going downhill.
We, as a family, were now in conversation about having her license revoked as her memory loss could start to pose a danger for others on the road, regardless of her safe driving record and practices. However, what we did not know, could not know, was that this conversation, along with many others dealing with a conglomerate of issues, was about to escalate exponentially.
Stay tuned for Part II: Facing Dementia, The Sad Tale of Finding a Home For Mom coming Friday.