a woman with Alzheimers in distress with her fingers pressed against her face is struggling with finding words.

Something Is Just Not Right: Getting an Alzheimer's Diagnosis

Last updated: December 2021

Everyone’s diagnosis journey is a little different. The twists and turns can be flip flopped. The pace and hurdles have their own time table. The destination is, however, generally the same. Whether it’s from an injury, illness, or some other physiological change, our loved one’s brain is no longer functioning the way it used to. They aren’t the same as they used to be, and they aren’t coming back from that.

The first Alzheimer's symptoms that appeared

With my mom, it started with little things. Mostly my chatty mom was having trouble coming up with words to say. They would get stuck on the tip of her tongue, just out of reach. She would substitute “thing” or “stuff” instead. More and more things became “stuff.” You know, the thing! With the stuff!

We were at her hearing aid appointment when we saw a poster advertising help for “word-finding” with a speech pathologist. We made an appointment. Our speech pathologist was great! She thought it would be a good idea for Mom to see a neurologist and have a baseline exam. We made that appointment. That doctor had an MRI done and some other assessments.

The diagnosis: What comes next?

That’s when the diagnosis came: vascular dementia with likely Alzheimer’s disease. I felt like our journey was beginning a little backwards. We didn’t start with our family doctor and then see the specialist. We started in a separate field of medicine. Her primary doctor was the last to the party.

So now what? What are the ramifications of all of this? So many questions! I think first I had to ask about my role as a caregiver in all of this. I had decided that, actually, years before. It was on my mind when I wanted my parents to move up closer to where I lived in Buffalo. They had a crappy house down south anyway. Dad’s health was declining. I wanted to help Mom with him. He had Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and a whole host of other issues. We sold our home and moved in with them. I knew my dad would be getting worse. I wanted to be there to help.

My parents were in Mississippi when Dad died. Just days before, I had been cleaning their rooms that I had left untouched for the months they had been away. I felt like God had prepared me just like He had prepared for my dad to come home. Mom came home with me after the funeral, the rooms were all ready. Before we left to return, my brother, mom, and I thought it would be a good idea for him and me to be added to Mom’s bank account. That way, we could write checks and make decisions if anything happened to her. That was a really good idea.

Feeling prepared really helps

Getting ready, before you need it, before it’s a crisis or dramatic, and while you have options and aren’t exhausted, upset and have your wits about you is a good idea.

Cooperation, making decisions together, having support is a very good idea.

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