A few weeks ago, I posted some of the myths concerning Alzheimer's. But, in my experience, the most commonly held misconception is that Alzheimer's is simply a disease of forgetfulness. I've heard it referred to as "Old-timer's disease", inferring that it is just part of getting old. But the forgetfulness is what people originally observe... the tip-off that something is wrong. And while that is certainly a very big part of the disease, there is so much more that people just don't see.
We have experienced everything from her accusing me of reporting her for using too many ice cubes to her trying to get out of a moving car. Twice. Reality has disappeared. She asks questions over and over and becomes furious if the answer is not what she believes it to be. We have become very accomplished liars just to pacify her and keep her calm. She trusts no one, yet, panics if I am out of her sight. The only thing that we can count on is frustration and anger. She imagines conversations and believes them to be true. Her few remaining memories are based on a tidbit of fact, yet, remain true for her. The many family portraits on the wall have become something to count rather than a collection of memories. She has always had a strong faith in God but now believes she is Catholic. Many of her fears no longer scare her. Yet, many of the things that have long comforted her now are the enemy. At this point, the only consistent thing that she remembers is her sister Kathy. Those memories bring her comfort.
On many occasions, I have compared Mom to a toddler. But, with a small child there is excitement each day of what the child will learn and acquire. The reality of Alzheimer's is that it is a deadly disease. It will slowly take away more than her mind. And instead of excitement, we face each day with dread wondering what this heinous disease will steal this time.