Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hidden Symptoms

Mom and I have often discussed exactly when my grandmother started exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer's. Since she lived so far away, and other family members were in charge of her care, we just don't know.

People can be very good at hiding things. Especially if they are afraid of what will happen if someone finds out. There were things that my grandmother did that we just chalked up to her quirky personality or to stress. But, looking back, mom and I can now see the symptoms were there even when my grandmother was still working.

When mom or I would visit her, she would want us to pay her bills and balance her checkbook for her. Now others would do this in our absence, but she would want us to do it when we were there and to double check the others.

If she and I went shopping, she would want me to write her checks out for her and sign them. I now realize that she was losing her ability to write and this was a way to hide it. At the time, this never occurred to me.

She would get easily sidetracked. She would start out looking for her keys for example and wind up going through things in her closet. This happened on more than one occasion. But it did not happen in close succession of one another so it was difficult to pinpoint. She has always gotten stressed out over things, so we just figured most of this was because of that.

I know this may seem quite obvious to most, but you expect people to forget things as they age. You expect them to lean on you more for the little things that you take for granted like paying your bills.

If you are able to spend a lot of time with your family member, you can probably spot these things rather easily. But, if there is a great distance between you, it can be difficult especially if they have become quite adept at concealing things.

I think my grandmother started showing symptoms as early as her 50's. It is unfortunate that none of us were as aware as we are now. We could have taken her to the proper doctors and maybe helped her cope with this a little better.

While I do feel a certain sense of responsibility for this, I also realize that there were others that lived a lot closer that did not seem to notice these changes either. I feel bad for my Granny because of this. Medicines like Aracept and the like were not available during her early stages. By the time these came on the market, she had already progressed to the point that no one could tell us if they would even make a difference.

I share this so that you can really look at your loved one. Look at the things they are doing, conversations they are having. Notice the subtle changes. If you are able to go back over several months or even years, you may be able to spot some things that are out of line with your loved one. Then, you can make a better informed decision regarding their health and living arrangements.


  1. Tracy said...
    Thanks for this post.

    I know that you realize that what you can see in hindsight is never so clear when you're going through things. From all that I read you are an awesome grand daughter.
    That corgi :) said...
    I totally understand what you are saying here. My MIL has dementia associated with her Parkinson's disease. However, I think this was starting to come to the surface even a few years before she got diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, but only in looking back and remembering did I come to that conclusion. we lived 1400 miles away from my in-laws a lot when we lived in Montana, but I do remember when we came to see them the summer of 2004 (2 years before she would be diagnosed with Parkinson's) she kept repeating a story about a favorite student of hers (she had been a teacher before she retired) and when she repeated it, it was like she hadn't told it before. I chalked it up to she was excited about him and wanted to share him with us, not realizing it could be memory loss/dementia causing her to do this. I have to ask my brother-in-law who was here the whole time if he could quantify other experiences before 2006 when she started having trouble with her memory. Interestingly, I see things in my hubby at age 56 that I wonder "is this early dementia?" or is it just forgetfulness

    very insightful post for us to think and be aware before it is too late


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