I have had serious anxiety for years..
I over think everything, I worry when there is no reason too, and I like things to be a certain way. There are nights when I can’t sleep because my brain won’t turn off and I have panic attacks that leave me incapable of doing anything until they pass. However, as I have identified appropriate medication that works for me and met with a counselor, I am now able to manage my anxiety better than ever.
This being said I am no stranger to mental health disorders, but I was still not prepared for the news I received a few days ago.
My father is 65 years old and is my best friend. He has been there for me through everything, gave me everything he could, and I know would drop anything to come to my rescue should I need him. Lately he has been having some problems remembering little things, sometimes he would ask questions multiple times, and has been misplacing things more often. While I noticed this new behavior I shrugged it off as older age and daily stress. I know quite a bit about dementia from working in the field and from conducting numerous memory and executive functioning batteries, but I didn’t once think it was anything serious. Just to be safe my mom had him go see a neurologist who conducted many tests and brain scans. He was then sent home and told he would receive results within a few weeks.
Fast forward to a few days ago…
My dad called me early in the evening the day he went back to discuss his results with the neurologist. He paused for a moment and then said “Lauren, I have been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. They started me on this medication donepizel and that’s all I have for now.”
My first reaction was to laugh, he tends to joke about losing his mind and so I thought he was joking, plus there was no way that he could actually have Alzheimer’s.
Unfortunately, he was serious.
I responded with “Ok, send me the information that the doctor gave you. I will talk to you later, love you.”
I hung up the phone and sat on the couch and just stared. I didn’t really react, I don’t know if it didn’t sink in or if I still just didn’t believe it. I know that Alzheimer’s is a slow disease and right now not much is going to be different, but I am having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that at some point my dad may no longer know who I am. True there are new medications and treatments available today, but this disease is not curable and the reality is he is going to get much worse over time.
The good news (you always have to try to find the good in a bad situation) is that it was caught early and he has started treatment. If you suspect that someone you love potentially has some form of dementia get them tested as soon as possible so that they are able to start a treatment regimen that will help them better manage their symptoms.