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Andrea's Story

After years of taking care of my mother, I've learned a lot about Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia.  Dementia is a problem in the brain which generally affects older people.  A person with dementia can experience:

  • frequent lapses of memory
  • disorientation (not knowing the date or the place where one is)
  • lack of concentration
  • confusion
  • mood or personality changes
  • and many other problems related to memory, thinking and behavior.

The most common dementia is Alzheimer's disease. A person with Alzheimer's has problems with:

  • memory (very frequent forgetfulness, forgetting names or telephones of people close to them, etc.)
  • thinking (difficulty in making simple decisions, difficulty in understanding simple information, etc.)
  • behavior (lack of interest in work or in usual activities)


I learned all this after my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.  It shouldn't have been that way.  It would have been better for her, for me, and for my entire family to have had information beforehand.


My mother was 74 years old when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The doctor believes that at the time she was diagnosed, my mother possibly had the disease for six years without knowing it.  This means that by the time my family and I began to suspect that something was wrong; the disease had already been present for a long time.  We waited too long to take her to the doctor.


The first thing my brothers and sisters and I noticed was that mom began to forget the dates of our birthdays and the date of her own birthday, which we always celebrated with a party.  Once she went to the supermarket alone (something she always did) and said that she became disoriented and couldn't remember how to get back home.  When she cooked, the food didn't come out like before.  Later she began to accuse us of hiding her keys and purse.  When she did this, we thought she was joking and we helped her find her keys and purse.   


As the months went by, the neighbors told us that sometimes they would find mom walking disoriented in the streets.  This alarmed me a lot and I talked to her about it.  She denied that these things were happening and told me: "I am not crazy, you're the crazy one.  You're being disrespectful."  At that moment I kept quiet and decided to supervise her closely.  I saw that mom did not remember her medical appointments, that sometimes she got lost when she went out alone, and that she was no longer interested in going to church, something she used to do more than once a week.  


I also realized that mom did impulsive things, something she never did before because she was very organized and methodical.  If I commented on her erratic behavior, she would shout at me aggressively, and she never shouted at me like that before. When she calmed down she told me that she didn't know what was happening to her, but that she knew she wasn't well.  That was when -- after consulting with her social worker who was helping her with a problem regarding her Social Security --  I decided to go with her for her next appointment with her primary-care doctor.  


Asking for help was hard at first. I wanted my children to believe their father was fine!

Read Marta's story