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.