A Journey to Alzheimer’s

journey alzheimer's

The following is an excerpt from the book, ‘Coming Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy.

The Edgecliff apartment building – Ed’s home for 40 years – was going condo. Since Ed didn’t want to buy his apartment, he decided to move to another complex, Indian Creek. The morning of the move to Indian Creek was filled with Ed yelling, “Kitty, come here!” and “Kitty, where are you?” or “Kitty, I need you in here r-r-right now!” as well as just plain “Kitty!”

Ed was extremely agitated as the four movers transferred his belongings from the Edgecliff into his new apartment. They brought in Ed’s belongings at lightening speed and unpacked everything efficiently. We’d paid them extra to unpack. God only knew I didn’t have the time to do it.

“Kitty! Come here r-r-right now and tell these two men where to put the sofa!” Ed yelled, sitting in his recliner, which I’d requested they move in first so he’d have a comfortable place to sit as the men worked.

This was the third time he’d yelled for me when I was in another room following one of his prior instructions, telling the other two movers where to put something else. I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Ed,” I screamed back, “I CAN’T! I’m in the bedroom showing them where to put the dresser, for God’s sake. Don’t you get it – I can’t be in two places at once?”

I was immediately ashamed of myself for yelling at him like that. Given his dementia and confusion, for which I still didn’t have a name or explanation, this was probably the most stressful experience he was going through since he’d come to the US.

He must have felt frantic and helpless as his treasured possessions were being moved so quickly into this strange new place. I felt sorry for him, but at the same time I thought I was going to lose my mind before everything was unloaded, unpacked and put away.

And that was just the beginning.

I had hoped against hope Ed would adjust to his new apartment, but as I’d feared, he began having problems immediately. At the Edgecliff everything had been familiar, deeply ingrained in his mind after almost forty years of living there.

At Indian Creek everything was new. His confusion became more pronounced; his memory problems more obvious. He couldn’t adjust to even the smallest changes. The new place had a different cable company and he never quite figured out how to operate his TV. He’d sometimes push a wrong button on his new remote and lose his cable connection altogether. I tried talking him through the process over the phone many times, but he just couldn’t get it. I’d always have to drive out and fix it. I became more deflated with each simple task he couldn’t learn.

All things considered, I felt like a mother taking care of a little toddler, but the circumstances were bizarre because this mother and toddler didn’t live in the same house. Just imagine a two-year old living alone in a three-bedroom apartment, his mother coming to see him only once or twice a day.

I was alarmed as I watched helplessly as Ed declined dramatically from day to day, becoming ever more confused. Forget about not being able to drive. It was at this time that he didn’t even remember he owneda car, which I’d decided to just leave in the garage at the Edgecliff.

He wandered around his apartment – often naked – until he happened upon the room he was looking for. I started wondering if he needed to go to a nursing home, but fought tenaciously to keep that idea at bay.

He just moved here for God’s sake. I can’t move him again so soon.

Then one evening Ed called me in a panic because he couldn’t find his scissors.

“Go look in your kitchen,” I suggested. That’s where he kept them.

“Kitchen? What’s a kitchen? I don’t have a kitchen.”

A lightning bolt seemed to hit me. This can’t be happening. He can’t be this confused.

“You know, Ed. Where your stove is.”

“My stove?”

He didn’t know ‘stove’ any more than he knew ‘kitchen.’

“Your kitchen, Ed. Where your refrigerator is.”

“Ed, the refrigerator. You know – where you keep your food cold. Your refrigerator is in your kitchen.”

More silence.

“Oh, you’re right,” he finally said. “How silly of me. I do have a kitchen, but it only has clothes and shoes in it.”

“No, Ed. That’s your closet. I’m talking about your kitchen.”

After a while I got off the phone, never able to help him find his kitchen, let alone the scissors he’d been looking for when he first called.

My hands were shaking, my vision blurred as I finally admitted the tragic truth.

Ed was developing Alzheimer’s.

This article was written by Marie Marley and originally appeared on MariaShriver.com

Share this Story


About MariaShriver.com

MariaShriver.com is a community of women and men who believe in the power of inspiration. The power of storytelling. We come from all walks of life, from different socioeconomic situations, but we have this in common: We are writers and readers. We are communicators and connectors. We want to move the ball forward in our own lives. In our homes, in our relationships, in our communities, in our businesses, in our government. We are about elevating each other and we do that by sharing our own personal stories or by sharing the stories of those who have ignited our lives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *