Hi! Since my last blog my husband Don and I have begun an eight week Early Memory Loss class at Emory. It is designed to provide both care partners and diagnosed persons with encouragement, enhanced communication skills, information and peer support. It is doing just that. I’ve met another set of scared, yet brave people seeking to know more about memory loss, thought processing, reasoning and, especially; what to expect next. Though “next” is uncertain Don and I are enjoying these classes. We study together HIS weekly homework assignments, often in the car on the way (our drive is about an hour). This activity gives us discussion topics that enhance our communication and provides us with wonderful insights into each other. I’ve learned he enjoys these classes as much as I do. They leave us feeling positive and ready to meet what’s next.
Ironically, for Don and I, this class is held at the Wesley Woods Facility in Atlanta. This is the very same facility, same building and even the same floor where we first came for his initial assessment after he began having trouble with word-finding. It was the first time someone suggested that his problems might be associated with memory loss. We started with our family physician, who recommended a neurologist, who pointed us in the direction of a cognitive neurologist. These terms were new to me. (Did you know, even care, what a cognitive neurologist was before your journey began?) Our cognitive neurologist is located in this place, on this floor, down the hall. Perhaps I’ll peek in and say hello. Will she remember?
Looking back, I cannot recall any other signs of memory loss besides the language difficulty. Don, on the other hand, remembers a much earlier time when he was asked to speak publicly and could not. I was with him that day. As a couple we were invited to co-speak to a group of about 50 folks. He was unable to get through the evening. Though he had recorded his thoughts, he could not get them out without great difficulty. We played it off, and it ended up well. Afterward, I didn’t think anything more of it.
You see, initially, this particular illness is often unnoticed or dismissed. A person with early memory problems seems normal. Many days, Don goes about his retirement schedule fairly well, though slower, more deliberately and as thoughtful as he can. Other days, he says it’s a chore; frustrating. Those closest to him, particularly me, sense a change- subtle at first- then ominously obvious. Even when Don’s trouble recalling words became apparent to both of us, I didn’t suspect anything serious. I merely suggested, “When you go for your next physical, tell the doctor you are forgetting words.” Little did I know. That statement has led us to our current situation which we are handling as best we can. Some days are better than others for both of us.
Thank you for reading this blog. I hope I’ve provided some insights and that you have smiled at least once. Writing on a regular basis provides me some relief, even though this topic is a heavy one. I have always found sweet relief in writing, in recording my thoughts, the written word as I see it. God has blessed me with this gift of writing and I am starting to understand more and more why it is my gift.
Through it all, the major word for me is still “discovery.” I’m discovering another side of me as well as another side of Don. Until next month, I am courageously…
Discovering what’s next!
A writer all her life, Eunice is a full time author, poet, and editor. Her latest book, Mashed Potatoes in My Salad, tells the poignant story of a woman, who after several unsuccessful and abusive relationships, finally finds the man of her dreams under unlikely, risky and daring circumstances, only to end up in caregiver roles time and time again as he endures serious illnesses– including the ultimate, life taking disease of Alzheimer’s.