In honor of Alzheimer's Awareness Month, I am sharing this pertinent information, as published in Stone Benches: Understanding the Invisible Footprints of Dementia, (Copyright 2016 Symphony Publishing).
The warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease can be subtle. However, after making note of concerns and looking at the overall picture, discrepancies become easier to see. Following are common warning signs published by the Alzheimer’s Association. These signs, which occur in no particular order, are easy for me to identify now as I look back at my Mom’s symptoms.
The following is a four part series originally posted in April 2016.
Ron Grant is an inspiring advocate
who also happens to have been diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's.
This term is often confused with the early stages of this disease.
In reality, Early Onset is the occurrence of Alzheimer's disease
in those 65 years and younger.
Find out what Ron is doing to change the lives of people he will never meet!
In 2007, Ron Grant checked the mailbox to find a letter from a neurologist's office. The contents would soon stop the 55 year old in his tracks. The news was unthinkable. The letter revealed a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Ron and his wife, Vicky, were not even aware this diagnosis was possible at his age.
Early-onset, or younger-onset, is defined as those diagnosed under the age of 65. Although most think of Alzheimer's as a disease affecting the elderly, the Alzheimer's Association estimates approximately 200,000 people in the United States are living with early-onset Alzheimer's. Ron thought he might have a tumor, a thyroid problem, maybe even cancer - never did it cross his mind Alzheimer's would be the culprit of his symptoms.
"How would you feel if you found out one of your most valuable assets, your brain, was diseased?" This is the question Ron Grant posed to a bright, young professional - a staffer working for a Senator in Washington D.C. “I don’t know you, but I know something about you,” Ron convincing relayed. “Many bright, intelligent applicants applied for your job, but you got the position - you are the cream of the crop!”
Every person who sat in the suite located in our Nation’s Capitol that morning reflected on his question. “How would you feel if you were dealt this diagnosis?” It could happen to any of us; after all, Ron had no family history of dementia. The reality hung in the air. “I would be devastated,” the young woman was finally able to vocalize. “Yes,” Ron stated. “I was devastated.”
Early-onset Alzheimer’s brings a host of additional challenges to its victims.
Early-onset Alzheimer's, the occurrence of Alzheimer's disease before the age of 65 (not to be confused with the early stages of the disease), changed Ron and Vicky Grant's life dramatically. Vicky works full-time, while Ron stays at home. She defines her greatest challenge as walking out the door knowing her people-loving husband is being left alone with only the television and computer for interaction.
The books Ron once loved to read are now in boxes in the attic.
The most frustrating result of this disease for Ron is not being able to grasp what he could before. This highly intelligent man, who graduated magna cum laude while accumulating three masters degrees and a doctorate, no longer attempts to read books. He limits annoyances in his life, which meant putting away his beloved books, now a source of frustration. It is also why he avoids loud restaurants, screaming children, and sensory overload.
Alzheimer's is the only leading cause of death without a cure or treatment.
Monday morning I woke with a revelation: this book has the potential of making the day a little better for those affected with a disease of dementia. I wrote, “Perhaps they would be responded to a little differently, understood a little more.” I went to bed that night with the heartbreaking realization my own father had experienced one of the worst days of his life - absent of the understanding of his needs unique to this illness.
Last week it was discovered my father had an infection. Although his condition would normally be treated in a doctor's office for you or I, doctors were telling me they would not treat my father outside a hospital setting. When dad became weak and unresponsive Monday, the support system of doctors, nurses, and hospice staff I have formed to aide me in these difficult decisions all agreed an ambulance should be called. I knew from my experiences with mom - the ER is an exceptionally scary place for those with dementia.