My journey began four years ago. There were red flags, but as is typical with denial, I ignored them. I honestly thought I’d gotten into a relationship with a verbally abusive and controlling man. The fact that I’d known him for over fifty years kept me from getting out right away. It didn’t occur to me there was anything neurologically amiss. He was going through a messy divorce, and very stressed. And so was I. I’d been alone for the previous 16 years, so I figured the angry outbursts, the verbal abuse, the controlling, was a result of MY adjusting to someone in my life 24/7. I definitely blamed myself for a lot of what happened, telling myself I should be more compassionate, more patient, less selfish. But hindsight being 20/20 tells me that not only were those symptoms of his “journey” but that he’d been on that journey for some time. Very likely that explains the breakdown of his marriage that had lasted almost fifty years. I know one thing, and that is he is not the man I knew fifty years ago — when my exhusband and I stood beside him and his wife on their wedding day. I wrote it off as stress. But there were many more signs.
Once I sent him to the store for a carton of sour cream. He returned with Promise Margarine. And argued with me that that is what I’d said. Since I NEVER use margarine, wasn’t at all familiar with the brands out there, I knew that I had not misspoken. And then there was the daily and sometimes several times a day “misplacing” of car keys. Once we got up in the morning to find the car half in, half out of the garage. And the keys still in the car. He didn’t remember doing that … accused me of blaming him for something I’d done. Except for one thing: I didn’t drive his car. I had my own. (**Recently, we stopped at a flea market and wandered around for about an hour, returned to the car, and it was still running. Earlier he had put the car in reverse, got out of the car without engaging it in park position — leaving it running. Something very serious could have happened with that. The only reason it didn’t is that he was parked on a decline.)
He was fastidious when we “reconnected” four years ago. House immaculate. He was a fussy dresser, often asking me to please put some elbow grease to getting out “collar stains” on his shirts. Once he got very upset with me because I left a lone pair of my earrings on the bathroom vanity. He yelled at me saying he hated clutter and that I should have known better than to do that. (**Today he is the epitome of clutter. His car is a constant mess, and around the house he drops things, throws things, leaves things lying everywhere. It’s like he is blind to it all. And gets upset if I ask him to pick up after himself. “You nag at me too much.”)
If you are reading this, you are perhaps in the midst of denial. If you are further along, then you will no doubt admit that you have already gone through the denial period. It goes without saying that denial is a given at the beginning of this journey.
And no wonder. Dementia is insidious. It is slow but steady. Experts today are suggesting that the symptoms start at least 12 years before diagnosis. I read one article that suggested as many as 20 years. Once brain damage has occurred, it cannot be fixed. Our loved ones can’t be fixed. Maybe in the future there will be a way of diagnosing prior to symptomatology and thus prevent brain damage from occurring. In other words: a cure. But right now that’s not the case. And that is why you are reading this, and why I feel the need to share my experience …