The Long, Strange Trip

This is a blog about our personal experience with dementia.  Writing this blog about my mom’s dementia was a difficult decision.  On one hand, medical issues are very personal.  On the other hand, by sharing the experience. I hope we can touch one person, and help them get through what we are going through.  This is the first of many installments, some amusing, some bittersweet, and some, unfortunately, sad.

I think that the lessons we all have learned will be of value for someone just entering the world we entered almost five years ago.  We all thought it was an important story to share.

First A Quick Setup

Harriet was born in Milwaukee in 1929.  She was the youngest of three girls, the daughter of  a Jewish, Russian immigrant couple.  Max and Irene were her parents.  Esther and Florence were her sisters.  They were a very close family, up until the day each one of them died.  She is last surviving member.  She was married to Russell (aka my dad) for 53 years before he passed away in 2005.  It was in 2007 that she moved to Fountain Valley, about a half a mile from where my family lives.

When I told her I wanted to blog about our experience with her disease, she agreed. She doesn’t mind me sharing our story, but she is not quite sure what a blog is.  For a brief time, she did have an Internet account, long before her dementia was discovered.  Even on her best day, it took me longer to explain to her how to send an email than it would have taken for her to write a letter, put a stamp on it, drive to the post office, and place it in the mailbox.  And this was every time she wanted to send an email, not just the first time.  Opening a photo was a near impossibility.  I finally gave up and got rid of her computer and closed her broadband service.  Now she gets her information the old fashion way, from TV.  She even reads a real newspaper.  As of today (April 8, 2017), she still lives on her own and takes care of herself.

Where It All Started

My biggest regret was not starting this blog at the time her dementia was first discovered.  I will recreate what has transpired so far, and pick it up from here in real time.

It all started on New Year’s Eve, 2013.  Up until then, she was fully functional.  She drove, and helped out a lot with our kids, driving them wherever they needed to go while Tammy and I worked.  She worked part time at a woman’s clothing store.  She could cook, and make a hell-of-a mean brisket.  She was strong enough to walk a half-mile to our house.

When she walked into our house that night, we immediately knew something was wrong.   She couldn’t remember how to do simple things, like push the button to close the garage door.  She seemed very confused, and introduced herself to everyone as my grandmother.  Tammy and I took notice of her actions.

After she left, we discussed the idea of taking her to the emergency room for an evaluation.  We were afraid that she had a stroke. We went back to her house, and asked her if we could take her.  She dismissed us outright, and said that nothing was wrong with her.  We decided to take her to the doctor for evaluation.  We did, and that is where it all started. He diagnosed her, and was in the early stages of dementia.  He referred us to a neurologist.