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Calls From Betty

Posted by / in Blog, Mild Stage / 6 comments

Thank you for sharing

When I was growing up, Betty and her family lived right across the street and our families were always the best of friends. We would run over to say a quick hello or borrow some sugar for making a pie.

Shortly before Dad died, I got a call from Betty. She asked me if I’d noticed that Mom was getting forgetful and was starting to repeat stories and questions. I remember thinking that yes, I had noticed some things, but I really wasn’t too concerned. I told Betty I would keep an eye out. After all, Mom was in her 70’s. Don’t all people in their 70’s repeat things?

I got another call from Betty. She told me about the night that the gang had bridge night (for you young folks, it’s a card game) and it was Mom and Dad’s turn to have it at their house and provide the appetizers. Everyone gathered and Mom was running around trying to find the cards. Mom’s appetizer was a bowl of peanuts. Ok, that never happened before.

Betty called again. She said that she and Mom had gone shopping together and Mom was the driver. Mom turned in front of oncoming cars to make a left turn and Betty saw her life flash before her eyes. Mom, in Betty’s opinion, was becoming a very unsafe driver. At this point, I had no idea what to do about that.

Before Dad passed away, it hadn’t occurred to me to ask him if he thought Mom was having issues. Why on earth not? Betty was going to ask Dad if he was noticing things, but Mom was always in the same room and she couldn’t ask him with her there.

Looking back, Dad had been covering for Mom and the rest of us were dismissing these things as part of her growing old. For months after Dad passed away, we all blamed grief.

My life was busy and full but it was time to start paying closer attention to what was happening to her. I had to spend a lot of time with Mom after Dad died to ease her grief and help with all of the necessary paperwork that must be done after a death, but everything about that process was new to me and to her. Where to start? My drive to her house was an hour without traffic, so that wasn’t easy either. I guess “take it day by day” took on a new meaning.

I am grateful that Betty was right across the street for all the time I couldn’t be there. I asked Betty how long she had been noticing Mom repeating things and getting forgetful and she thought that it had been nine months or so. Alzheimer’s is a very gradual process and I have learned that most people experience symptoms for nearly three years before any sort of diagnosis by a doctor.

Not everyone has a spouse or a friend like Betty. It’s still troubling to me to think what could have happened to Mom without Betty in those very early days.

Suggestion: If a small voice says to you that something is wrong, listen to it.

I was in denial about the situation. Looking back, I probably knew I was facing something so uncomfortable and frightening to accept, that I rejected any thoughts that something was really wrong with my Mom.

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I had a nine year journey with my Mom who suffered with Alzheimer's disease. I wish to share what I learned about caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer's and also provide a website with information and helpful resources.

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6 comments
  • Ron Kays

    May 5, 2014, am31 5:28 AM
    01

    Virginia —

    A very moving and necessary website. You may have no idea at this moment how many people will be positively impacted by A New Path for Mom. Keep writing.

    R&V

  • Linda Scheck

    May 6, 2014, pm31 10:34 PM
    02

    Virginia, This is very helpful and so true. I like your writing style since it is so personal and open and friendly. And very helpful.

    I found two important points you made that resonate with me. It is the “job” of the husband or wife to cover for the person who is having memory problems. It is what loved ones do. We don’t want to share anything so frightening with others. It is our job to protect the person we love. That is what your Dad probably did as he held it together for both of them. And this can be after years of the person, herself, perhaps your Mom, who had first hidden the losses from others. This is also often preceded by lots of time in denial by both.

    Your second point is the one about being busy. At a time our when parents are aging, we are busy with our own families and careers and volunteer work and our marriage and church and community and travel and meetings. We are pulled in the direction of our busy lives just about the time when the tiny signs of memory loss begin to appear in our aging parents. And they may simply be the signs of aging. We all forget things more often as we age. But if the symptoms begin to move on into more serious areas, we may not be not there to see the changes. We may be too far away. This is something that you point out that needs to be part of how families deal with the possible slide into more serious memory loss in order to react and act in positive ways. Thank you for sharing this is such a lovely way.
    Linda

  • Ro

    July 18, 2014, am31 4:28 AM
    03

    In 1996 we had moved into our new townhome, I was bringing a box upstairs, I had asked Ed where he was as I was coming up the stairs, no answer! I looked for him he was in the master bathroom just standing there. I asked him what he was doing he just stood there, I laughingly said you have to know what your doing, he said “get used to it, its only going to get worse!” Did he know something was wrong, 17 years ago???

  • Betty Kays

    August 10, 2014, am31 1:56 AM
    04

    I have been reading all the things on your website tonight and I am shedding tears of sadness and also tears of joy because of the fact that what you are doing is going to help many, many people so they don’t have to go through all the stress and strain that you endured. God bless you, Virginia, and may He help you continue this wonderful work you are doing.

    Love, Betty

  • Nancy Silver

    September 22, 2014, pm30 4:03 PM
    05

    Wow! Way to go Virginia! This is so helpful and informative! You are touching many lives for the better!

  • Liz Stretton Reinke

    September 22, 2014, pm30 8:30 PM
    06

    Dear Virginia,

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I spent this evening, reading everything and I am so proud of what you have put together. It is well done, personal, and informative all at once. I will definitely share with friends who are dealing with parents with similar issues. As someone else said, I am sure you have no idea about the impact you are going to have and the people you will help though this. Blessings and I know your parents are smiling and so proud of their girl! Love, Liz

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