When I first noticed Mom’s personality changes a few years back, I wondered if there was more to it than just a mellowing with age. There was plenty of news about dementia and its early symptoms, which put me on the alert. In spite of my suspicions, Mom was not officially diagnosed with dementia until last year, when it had become painfully obvious to me and others that her abilities had markedly declined.
Generally speaking, Mom’s symptoms were a change of personality from something else to simple and cheerful. From being particular, she became easygoing. Though at times, she would anxiously call about things being missing, and one of us would have to go and find whatever has been misplaced. It also seemed conversations became much simplified and complex ideas could not be understood. So there was memory loss, personality change and also a loss in ability to manage complex functions.
So for the few years while my suspicion flared off and on, Mom was managing on her own, and in retrospect we might have done better. Mom’s dementia is a combination of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, and by the time she was diagnosed, the brain scan showed multiple old strokes. Such strokes might have been reduced had Mom taken her medication for hypertension and high cholesterol regularly. In fact now, one year after her diagnosis, she seems to have stabilised (touch wood) and I attribute this to having regular meals, regular medication and less anxiety overall.
I have an acquaintance whose father had been getting more forgetful for the past 10 years. He would typically repeat his questions, forget where he was and what he had been doing. Nonetheless, the family just put it down to old age and did not seek treatment, believing nothing could be done. Lately, he started having difficulty walking and adding two and two, and so finally a brain scan was done. This showed a shrunken brain with multiple old strokes all over.
I know it is said there is no cure for Alzheimer’s dementia. But Alzheimer’s is not the only type of dementia there is. Sometimes similar symptoms are caused by depression, thyroid problems or other issues in the brain such as strokes. Some of these can be treated and managed.
A year ago, I had believed Mom could only go downhill inexorably. Time has proven me wrong, and I am grateful for all the people around me who have rallied to help me look after Mom.
My point is – if someone is showing early symptoms of dementia, have it looked into. It might be treatable.