A Daughter's Perspective: Navigating Denial
Last updated: February 2023
My mom was in her early 60s when we first began noticing the early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. While we didn't know that it was Alzheimer's at the time, we noticed that she was forgetting things a lot and having trouble finding her words.
She would ask the same question repeatedly in a matter of minutes and she would tell the same stories over and over again.
This went on for a little while before we grew concerned enough to address it and suggest that my mom see her doctor. My mom didn't believe that there was anything wrong with her.
Denying Alzheimer's symptoms
My mom would try to reason and say things like, "I'm getting older," or "It's just old age." She refused to call her doctor to schedule an appointment.
My dad responded in the same way. He didn't see what we had seen, or at least he claimed not to have seen it. He would say the same things. "It's just old age. It's natural." My dad didn't see the need for my mom to see her doctor either.
Worsening signs could no longer be ignored
As time went on, my mom's symptoms worsened and became more apparent, so much so that my dad could no longer ignore what was going on.
Although both of my parents were resistant to the idea, my mom saw her doctor and was eventually diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease.
She was no longer in denial about what was happening to her and she often told people about her diagnosis as if she was confessing to a crime.
My dad, however, was a different story. He continued to stay in denial long after my mom had received her diagnosis.
It wasn't that he didn't believe she had Alzheimer's - it was that he was constantly looking for another logical reason for her symptoms and behavior.
If my mom seemed more out of it one day, he blamed it on not sleeping well the night before. If my mom was having a hard time getting into the car, he blamed it on the way he walked her to the car door. If my mom couldn't understand what she was seeing, he blamed it on her dirty eyeglasses.
He was always looking for a rational explanation for her decline.
Trying to cope when the love of your life is diagnosed
I couldn't blame my dad for not wanting to see the truth — his wife of fifty years was slowly losing every ability she had to this horrific disease. But I also knew that there was no other explanation. The reason for my mom's symptoms, behaviors, and decline had nothing to do with bad lighting or too much noise or feeding her the wrong thing for dinner.
The reason for all of it was that she had a progressive, degenerative, neurological disease for which there was no treatment and no cure.
Denial and an Alzheimer's diagnosis: It's not your fault
Although it upset me to see my dad in such denial, I knew there wasn't much I could do. He had to realize it for himself. All I could do was gently remind him of my mom's diagnosis and assure him that none of it was his fault.
He didn't cause her decline. The disease did. And as long as it wasn't affecting my mom's care, I allowed my dad to continue to ponder the reason behind my mom's worsening symptoms. After all, it was the only thing that kept his hope alive for better days to come.
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