Another Sign of Alzheimer’s Progression?

Dad seemed to be doing very well lately.  It is over 10 years since dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and he has had poor short-term memory for quite awhile already.  Still his long term memory seemed good.  In the past 2 months, when I took him out to lunch, he has been eating better than he had in the past few years.  He completely finished his entre most times, whereas before he only ate half.  I was beginning to think he was going to stay stable for a long time.

However, in the past week, he had an experience that worried me. We went to his favorite restaurant where we have been going regularly lately.   When we arrived, he tried to get out of the car before I even got the handicapped sticker up on the mirror.  I said: “Wait Pop!” as I scrambled out of the car and to the other side to take out his walker.  After I set up the walker, I opened his door and dad tried to climb out.

He had forgotten to take off his seat belt and it was holding him back. He tried several times.  I said “Wait, – take off your seatbelt!”  He tried to lift it over his head.  My heart sank.  I never saw him do that before.  I reached across his lap and unsnapped the belt buckle and he climbed out.  I wondered all through lunch if this was another watershed moment.

Dad only ate half his entre that day. But when we got back into the car he sat right down and snapped his seat belt into place.  Maybe it was a fluke?  I worry about every small incident – is this a mark of deterioration or not?  I will only know in retrospect.  But for that day, it was a sobering moment.

Since then I have visited him twice, but only in his facility either in the lounge or in his room. Each time he has been quiet, though that is not unusual.  I try to draw him into conversations with comments, pictures and questions.  But for the most part, he looks briefly at the pictures and says he doesn’t remember to my questions.  I know I shouldn’t ask questions, but make statements instead, but there were days when he surprised me with stories about cousins and friends from long ago times.

Today I mentioned that I had watched the Roosevelt television series during the past 2 weeks. (Using the DVR I stretched it out rather than watching every evening and I can time shift to a bit earlier in the evening.)  I asked dad if he remembered the day when Roosevelt died.  He didn’t.  I was somehow surprised at that, as it was such a big historical event.  (I still remember when President Kennedy was shot – where I was, who I was with, etc.)  But for dad, the memories continue to fade.

Of course, I feel sad each time I see another indication of dad’s fading memory. I know I can’t change things, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to!  I am now in the process of trying to line up three companions for the winter when I travel.  Some of the companions from last year will not be available again this year.  I will miss them because I like and trust them, and also because I need to find replacements.  I like to have the same people every year so dad will have continuity and they will know dad better too.  This process is also stressing me, since I won’t relax until I know I have at least 2-3 confirmed companions and one or two more as backups.

Sometimes I have to remind myself of why I feel so stressed and so busy. After all this is the retirement I waited for.  Why don’t I feel free to travel and do the things I always wanted to do?  The answer is obvious – I have to plan ahead to have someone cover for me and I have to be ready to return home at a moment’s notice if there is an emergency.  I wish over and over that my siblings would be of some help, but I have to accept that they simply never will be.

In every family, there is one responsible person who takes on the eldercare responsibility.  In my family, that one person is me.  My siblings have personal issues, mental health issues and perhaps financial issues that get in the way.  Most of all though, it is the lack of desire that keeps them from helping dad.


About letstalkaboutfamily

I am a retired and was the primary caregiver for both my parents before they passed. I have children and grandchildren. This blog is an attempt to connect with other caregivers and share ideas and experiences. I hope you will let me know what worked for you if you had an experience similar to mine. The main issues I am going to talk about are elder care, death and dying, assisted living, family relationships and hoarders and hoarding. Other topics will come up as I address the issues and my relationship with other family members.
This entry was posted in Alzheimer's Disease, Caregiving, Dementia, Elder Care, Eldercare and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Another Sign of Alzheimer’s Progression?

  1. liramay42 says:

    I so relate to this. My mom has been doing remarkably well for the last few months, but every time there’s a little something — like this morning when she felt lightheaded in church — I get that knot of anxiety, fearing that it’s going to be the start of another decline. And I’m already planning ahead for a trip I want to take next summer… considering who in the family I might be able to persuade to come and stay in my apartment and take my place as Mom’s caregiver, just for a week.

  2. Joy Johnston says:

    You are right, it is hard to pinpoint decline with Alzheimer’s in the moment. All we can do is try to appreciate the good moments with our loved ones and muddle through the bad ones as best we can.

  3. boomer98053 says:

    As caregivers, we tend to be very sensitive to every wee bit of change in the person for whom we provide care. Maybe your father’s seatbelt incident was a fluke, maybe not. I guess it’s worth documenting, however, so you can compare his symptoms on an ongoing basis to get a better sense of where he’s at on his journey. For example, he had difficulty with his seatbelt, but an equivalent symptom would be difficulty knowing how to use his toothbrush, or turning on the TV, or any other type of mundane activity. I sincerely hope you are able to find caregivers that provide the care your dad needs, and the peace of mind that you deserve.

    • Thanks, Irene. That is an interesting comment as dad has stopped watching tv. Or at least I haven’t seen him turn it on in years though we continue to pay for basic cable. It is constantly running in the lounge but he says he doesn’t watch it. He does know the people on the talk shows though so I suspect he watches more than he says he does. As for brushing his teeth — again, he doesn’t and hasn’t for years. The aides do it for him. Since I don’t know if he ever did or when he stopped, it is hard to determine the meaning of that either!

  4. dementedgirl says:

    Ten years…?!??! Oh my goodness. I don’t think I could ever face the prospect of that. We are not even up to four with MIL…

    • Of course, we had no idea how long he would live. Mom passed away almost 4 years ago, and before that she was with dad most of the time. It is easier for me to have him in an ALF rather than at home, for the most part, but facilities bring their own problems whens they forget or ignore things they are supposed to do! Mostly I would like help from a sibling, but they are not here and not interested in helping at all. Why not — when I do it all!

  5. Janet Yano says:

    I’m sorry things are in such a state of flux and that all the responsibility is falling on your shoulders. Hang in there. You are doing a great job!

    • Thanks, Janet. It would help immensely if my siblings took some of the pressure off me, but they are emotionally just not there. I knew it would be like this, but it remains difficult. I am following my mother though as she was the primary caregiver for both her parents and her brother. She was a good role model for me and I feel her presence now.

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