One of what became early signs of Dorothy’s dementia was her reluctance, although rarely, to get out of bed in the morning! It was so out of character, and I would ask her if she was unwell, or “going down with a cold”, or a similar query. Invariably, and fortunately mostly, her reticence quickly dissipated without further ado, and we went on with the day. Another unusual behaviour was for her to keep repeating stories and incidents from the past, again and again. Yet another was to open and shut cupboards, wardrobes, and drawers, clearly looking for something. Upon my enquiry, it might have been socks, or slippers or a jumper. Then I would gently remind her that she was already wearing them! Many times, behaviour like that resulted in us both having a giggle. If I had only realised, back then, it really wasn’t a laughing matter.
All of us, at lots of times, become forgetful. So, it seemed at the time to not be unusual, and I’d gloss over ‘our’ silly, infrequent, lapses. It’s normal, isn’t it, to forget where something is, or some planned activity? As a rule, such lapses are so inconsequential, and we are quick to forgive and move on. Just as I did – for a while……
But over time, I stopped laughing and overlooking, and began to recognise those memory lapses were too frequent and they became increasingly worrisome. Constant forgetfulness wasn’t just a joke.
I had sensed, of course, for some years that Dorothy had been changing in other ways, too. Word games, crosswords, and her lifelong love of the card game cribbage, were all becoming confusing and beyond her ability. I knew our children were aware of Mum’s different behaviour long before I would admit it.
I talked to our GP (Doctor) who understood my concern and promptly arranged for a raft of comprehensive tests at a specialised external centre.
Dorothy, in her usual good-natured way, happily went through that series of examinations, including her driving skills. She retained her relaxed and placid nature throughout all of that day-long procedure, but the results confirmed the diagnosis. She had failed all the relevant tests and then, without demur, even surrendered her driver’s licence. That day was more stressful to me than to her!
Of course, it was in clear sight right under my nose, but until that day I didn’t want to believe or accept it. After all, she’d managed for all those years, safely and expertly, to bring up a family and a husband, with hardly even a cut finger or a burnt saucepan!
Now it was confirmed, Alzheimer’s was the diagnosis. I could no longer be sure of her safety with anything, at all times, night, and day, here or anywhere. But surely, all I had to do was to arrange for home help? Indeed, that certainly was the first step.
(….to be continued)