I ignored many of the signs of Early Onset Alzheimer Behavior with my Mom. I brushed off silly things Mom said and did and odd things she would tell my two brothers. I often thought it was a faze she was going through.
Some things, I realize now, were a clear warning of dementia or some other physical problem. But at the time, I saw them as sheer orneriness. And, my Mom could be onry if she set her mind to it.
It sounds inconsistent to say such a sweet lady as my mother could be onry, but she could. I think stubborn might be the better word, but in her later years that stubbornness became obstinate. So now I even wonder about those early days and signs and symptoms that I dismissed as stubbornness.
Should I have suspected sooner? Could Mom have taken medication earlier? Could I have done something to slow the progression of her early Alzheimer’s disease?
==> What did I miss? <==
We could all say and think the same thing, but we would be berating ourselves for naught.
Could I have been kinder when her behavior was atrocious and angry– or more receptive and loving when she wanted a hug. Certainly I could have but it would have made no difference to Mom, nor does whipping myself now change anything.
Changes in behavior is the hallmark symptom for Alzheimer’s disease whether your loved one is in their late 40’s or late 70’s. It isn’t always a big change in behavior but can be something as small as a hug.
Mom began hugging in her late 70’s, I mean hugging all the time and hugging hard. She had never been a hugger in the past and it gave me a little hitch in my stomach every time she hugged me. Something was wrong. Yet, how could I go to the doctor and say, there has to be something wrong with my MOM–she hugged me today.
On the other hand, the earlier the diagnosis, the sooner medications are prescribed to delay symptoms. It’s a catch-22 for sure.
I would never have considered a disease as culprit when Mom started hugging. Not then, or now. I only knew that my mother was different, somehow. I thought it might be senility due to her age, or loneliness because her husband had passed away. The changes in her personality weren’t particularly “good” or “bad.”
==> Mom was just different <==
Suddenly she was no longer my regular, good natured, Mom.
Growing up, I never heard my mother say a curse word. She didn’t curse and she didn’t allow her children to curse. She wasn’t a strict disciplinarian but she had rules and we obeyed.
Old fashioned as she was, she didn’t tell dirty jokes or speak evil of anyone. Likewise, she didn’t coddle nor hug her children. She remembered the depression of her youth and the difficult life her parents had endured to survive it. “All work and no play,” was the rule of their day and held true for my mother as well.
==> My mom was not a hugger <==
Still, I knew she loved me and my two brothers. She was not over-affectionate or prone to hug and kiss her children or my father. To her way of thinking, you didn’t make a public display of affection, even in the privacy of your own home.
When Mom hugged me for the first time, me… a sixty-year-old grandmother myself, it was a death-grip. Like no hug I had ever had before, I recoiled. It felt so uncomfortable, so unnatural that I couldn’t stay in Mom’s grasp. Mom was breaking a rule that she’d adhered to for all of her life and demanded that we obey also. She was seventy-eight years old and she was hugging me so tight that it was uncomfortable.
Mom’s behavior changed in many ways. Over the next few years, in baby steps, inhibitions were forgotten, family rules were no more, soft-spoken became out-spoken and gentile became bawdy at times. The changes came slowly–over several years–one at a time.
I didn’t see them all at once, as a whole, as the beginning of a dreaded disease–not until after the diagnosis. Now, all those moments of change bring pause to my thoughts–remembering all the behavior changes that I ignored. If only we had begun treatment sooner, I scold myself–
Alzheimer’s Disease is a slow, progressive disease that may run its course over 20 years near the end of a life span. In the beginning–symptoms are few and easily overlooked. Behaviors change gradually, but eventually, the person you knew is no longer there–