When my father’s inability to continue to care for my mother nearly resulted in her death, I stepped in despite his loud protests. It was so heart-breaking as one minute he’d be my loving father and then some trivial little thing would set him off and he’d call me horrible names and throw me out of the house. I took him to several doctors and even a psychiatrist, only to be flabbergasted that he could act completely normal when he needed to.
Finally I stumbled upon a thorough neurologist, specialized in dementia, who put my parents through a battery of blood, neurological, memory tests and P.E.T. scans. After ruling out numerous reversible forms of dementia, such as a B-12 and thyroid deficiency, and evaluating their medications, he shocked me with the diagnosis of Stage One Alzheimer’s in both of my parents – something all their other doctors missed entirely.
What I’d been coping with was the beginning of Alzheimer’s, which starts very intermittently and appears to come and go. I didn’t understand that my father was addicted and trapped in his own deeply engrained bad behavior of a lifetime of screaming and yelling to get his way, which was coming out intermittently in inconsistent spurts of over-the-top irrationality. I also didn’t understand that ‘demented’ does not mean ‘dumb’ (a concept not widely appreciated), and that he was still socially adjusted never to show his ‘Mr. Hyde’ side to anyone outside the family. Conversely, my mother was as sweet and lovely as she’d always been.
Alzheimer’s makes up 60-80% of all dementias and there’s no stopping the progression nor is there yet a cure. However, if identified early there are four FDA approved medications (many more in clinical trials) that in most patients can mask dementia symptoms and keep them in the early independent stage longer.
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How to Survive Caring for Aging Parents