The first inkling I had was in the late 80s.I was in a hotel room in Washington DC starting to leave and go down to a reception. I stopped at the door and thought I needed to check if I had all my stuff i.e. wallet, hotel key, name badge and a piece of paper in my breast pocket in case I needed to take a note or two. The experience seemed a bit weird but I quickly put it out of my mind and headed to the elevator. That was the beginning of a lengthily road which has recently put me in the same category as one in ten Americans over 65 who have Alzheimer’s.
A number of years after my event in the DC hotel room I became enough concerned to go to a psychologist in Des Moines to be tested for brain function. At that time I registered a small change in memory but thought little of it.
By the time the early 2000s came and went I was beginning to get worried and eventually, because I felt I was really losing memory and the ability to run my company, sold it to my Chief Operating Officer and retired. My loss seemed to stay stable for a while but in 2012 I went to Mayo Clinic, was tested and it was determined that I had vascular dementia.
In April of 2017, upon a return visit to Mayo and a complete workup with MRI, Pet Scan etc., I was diagnosed with stage one Alzheimer’s.
So how had this progressed over the years? At first it was the normal stuff of- where did I put my keys or where did I park the car at the mall or what was that person’s name I met last night at the reception? Those are questions we all ask and for most they don’t mean much. For me those questions begin to signify something bigger. I always balanced my check book-now I don’t -my wife does. My spelling was never very good, now it’s only as good as Seri, on my I Phone, or Microsoft Word on the computer allows it to be.
Many friends say “your fine” -my Neurologist says I’m very good at cover up. He is right-my friends are wrong. Those with Alzheimer’s, at least in the early stages, are usually good at cover-up. However when we walk the grocery store parking lot each time we go shopping and do not remember where the car is, we give our selves away. I used to get up, take a shower, and throw my clothes on and out the door. Now it get up, take a shower throw on my clothes and spend 30/45 minutes looking for keys, wallet, cell phone and my list of things I need to accomplish when I go out. For years I was a fast and very good driver. Now I’m an average not so fast driver and I suspect in a few years will be relegated to the passenger seat.
I try to track any changes on a daily basis and find it hard to say if today is worse then yesterday, but I do believe this month is worse then last month, so I do see a progression. My wife says she sees noticeable changes. My temper is shorter, but I believe it because I am frustrated with myself not being able to remember a date, a name, a face etc. however my neurologist says it is because the disease affects the frontal lob as well, therefore I may be getting a bit more surly because of general brain changes. My suggestion to others in the same boat is plan carefully for your future while you can. Make sure your loved ones know your wishes while you can still express them and look for resources in the community that can help such as the Alzheimer’s Association. Remember (interesting word), you are not alone.
Finally, take my Neurologist’s advice and exercise as much as you can-both brain and body endorphins can help slow down the inevitable process.
My Neurologist also says billions are being spent on research and eventually a cure will be found so the race is between my progressing Alzheimer’s and the research being done. On behalf of the millions in my position I pray the research wins the race.