Finding out that my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's was one of the worst days of my life. All the warning signs were there, but my mother did a great job covering up what should have been evident to the family.
We noticed small things, such as forgetfulness, confusion, calling 411 to get her sister's number, asking for addresses she had written down in her address book, making accusations, forgetting to pay bills, and misplacing items. Still, we dismissed it and said it was due to her aging. I remember her calling me, telling me she had lost her wedding ring. She was perplexed and said she didn't know where she had put it.
Then, one day, she was coming home from work and pulled over on the side of the road. Unfortunately, she couldn't find her way home. Thankfully, she lived in a small town, and someone recognized her and was able to help her navigate home safely. By then, we knew something wasn't right. What was happening to her was more about memory loss and less about her age-related changes.
I scheduled an appointment so she could see a neurologist. She had a physical, discussed her family history, and was given a memory test and MRI. After the doctor received the results, I remember him entering the room with a stoic demeanor. And I will never forget when the neurologist said, "I just received the results. I'm sorry. Your mom has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's with behavioral disturbance. As a result, she's losing her memory."
A numbing sensation overcame me because I didn't know what this diagnosis meant for us and my relationship with my mom. I had many questions but didn't know what to say or ask. As the doctor wrapped up our appointment, we were given a pamphlet that explained the diagnosis, but at that moment, all I could think about was what life would be like caring for a mom who couldn't remember.
As I handed my mom the literature, I watched her break down and cry. My mother is strong. I had witnessed her cry only at her mother's funeral. It broke my heart to look at the woman who gave life to me, breaking down and crying because her entire life changed instantly.
We walked out of the office without saying a word, and the car ride home with her was filled with an overwhelming feeling of pain, loss, frustration, anger, fear, and regret because I didn't know what was ahead for us.
Finding out that my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's turned my life upside down. After digesting the news of her diagnosis, I started researching the significant impact the disease would have on her life. I knew she would need assistance, roles would change, and as much support as possible from family, friends, and the community. But I also knew our perspective would have to change if we were going to beat this disease!
Instead of looking at the negative impact of this disease, I decided to use our story to encourage others. Finding out your loved one was diagnosed with Alzheimer's doesn't feel good, but your story doesn't have to end there.
Instead, place a comma where the doctor thought a period was supposed to be. This is not the end! My mother was given a diagnosis that leads to death, but we weren't going to treat this disease like a death sentence -- we decided we would live!
Photo Credit: Ronnie Kaufman / DigitalVision via Getty Images
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