UNABLE TO COMPLETE A FAMILIAR TASK
As far back as eight years prior to finally bringing my parents to live with me, there were some early warning signs that I failed to recognize. The last time they were packing up a house here in Ohio for a move to a new home in Florida there were plenty of signs that I missed.
My parents were hardcore household movers. Having moved their belongings between Ohio and Florida some 18 times over their lifetimes, moving was just another task to be completed for them.
Instead of stopping to scratch my head over their lack of progress, the day before the movers were due to arrive, I showed up to help them finish packing, and when faced with the lack of work completed, I simply dug in to the task and worked nearly 22 hours straight to get things ready for the move. In the heat of the packing there wasn't really time to consider why things weren't done, only time to get it finished.
Looking back, it was obviously time for them to stop moving around the country and stay close to me. But they were still stubborn and it didn't occur to me that anything was really wrong with them.
GETTING CONFUSED IN FAMILIAR PLACES
A couple of years later while vising with my parents in Florida, Mom and I got in the car for a short trip to visit friends in their "old neighborhood". The old neighborhood was literally a dozen blocks from where their new home was, so they'd lived there for a little over eight years, certainly long enough to know the lay of the land.
As we drove over, Mom was driving and pulled into the driveway of a home that I didn't recognize (I'd been to visit plenty enough times to know where all the friends lived). We got out of the car and I said to Mom, "are you sure this is the house?" She assured me it was and she walked up to the front door and knocked. I stood in the drive and looked across the street and saw the house where their friends lived. When no one answered her knocks, I pointed across the street and asked again if she was sure of the home. She stood there for a moment and got a confused look on her face. Right then I knew she'd made a mistake and she did too.
She walked back to the car and when she got in she said to me, "don't tell your Dad about this, he already thinks I'm crazy."
I could tell she was embarrassed by the lapse of memory and obviously from her statement, it was likely not the first lapse she's had.
MY MOTHER, THE CHEATER
Mom and I used to play cards constantly. Our favorite game was Double Solitaire and we could play by the hour to pass the time. Neither of us was particularly good, so we both won and lost equally.
A couple of years before "the big change" I noticed Mom playing strangely. She would play twice in a row and not wait for me to play, or she would make illegal moves. When I finally would say something to her, she would just laugh and apologize. She never denied it, but she also didn't seem to see anything wrong with "cheating", something she would never have done in the past. Now, in hindsight, of course this was a warning sign. Just one more in a long line to signs that I chose to ignore.
DRIVING WITH BLINDERS ON
All of these signs, and so many more that I missed, were so apparent now that I look back. I simply had my blinders on didn't want to see the signs that pointed to diminished judgement by my parents.
No one wants to think their loved one may be struggling. Especially our parents. They are supposed to be the ones to care for us. It's not our job to watch out for them.
Well, this just isn't always so. Our parents need a watchful eye, even if they are healthy. If they were to have difficulty seeing we certainly would get them to an eye doctor. If they have shortness of breath we would insist that they see their family doctor.
Do them a favor if you see any of the signs of memory issues and insist that they get some diagnosis from a knowledgeable physician. Your family physician may not be the right doctor either, please do some research to find out if he or she has experience with older patients. I've been completely surprised by the lack of knowledge of dementia and Alzheimer's symptoms. If you aren't comfortable with the experience of their doctor, or lack of, please seek out a geriatrics practice. It's easy to be tested and so important to allow them to rule out any physical issues that may be causing memory issues that could easily be corrected.
Please share this blog with friends. It's so important to educate everyone about this health issue that will effect everyone in some manner or other in their lifetime.