Alzheimers: The slow, silent and hidden killer.
My Dad was 63 when he was officially diagnosed with Alzheimers. Initially, the doctor who saw my Dad had told my sister and I that he had ‘global cerebral atrophy’. This means that his brain was slowly shutting down.
Let’s rewind a few years and give you a brief background of his life. He has had more than his share of heartbreak. He was three when his fourteen year old sister died from Leukaemia. Thirty when his Dad died. 35ish when his older brother died. He was in his early forties when my parents divorced and not much older when his Mum died. Wherever my sister and I were he made sure he saw us everyday without fail, even if it was for five minutes. He always used to say us “I don’t mind looking after you and driving you places because when I’m older you can do the same for me.”
When we got the diagnosis I was at work, my sister had sent me a text. I stopped what I was doing, sat down where I was trying to make to sense of it. It wasn’t until much later on we realised Dad had been suffering in silence for a couple of years. I used go and see Dad in the local (The Bird in hand or “The bird” to the locals.) He had his place that no-one else sat in unless you were part of that group, but he knew everybody who drank in there, and they all knew him. My friends and I would meet there before going into town at the weekend. They were more than happy to sit and chat with him even if I wasn’t there! We were typical men, talking about football, music and sport in general. I watched Linford Christie win Olympic gold in the 100m in 1992 with him, in that pub. We saw England qualify for the 1998 world cup in that pub. Dad was so happy he kissed a complete stranger on the forehead! I would always spend time with him in the pub. But, slowly something was changing. He would repeat the conversations we had had in the space of fifteen minutes. I didn’t think anything of it. His time keeping had also changed. He was getting to the pub earlier and leaving earlier. Then, he was going to bed at 7.30 every evening. Dad was always busy, running, playing his guitar or keyboard (he loved music), he used to make wine, was part of the local amateur dramatic society. Even when he was sitting down doing nothing he was completing crosswords. “Always keep the brain active” he used to say.
Then, he lost part of his vocabulary. He couldn’t name streets, place names. Everything was “over there” or “round there” or “up there” or “down there.” He was sullen, withdrawn and looking back now he just wasn’t very happy. However, after we got the diagnosis his attitude completely changed. He was smiling, laughing and joking like he used to do! It was brilliant see to him like that again even if it wouldn’t be much longer. Dad loved making people laugh or more to the point he loved making people groan. You know the jokes, the really bad ones where you get to the punch line and go “That’s terrible!” He would be the only laughing, those are the jokes Dad loved. We had him back.
He is still clinging on, there are some of traits still visible. I was talking to a lovely lady on social media after one of my posts and described Dad’s Alzheimer’s like this: I like to think he is still there, he’s just a bit confused! Unfortunately now though, I can’t have a two way conversation with him anymore. We can’t talk about how good the 2012 Olympics were and that magic Saturday night. We can’t talk about Liverpool’s chances of winning the premiership this season. I can’t tell him that in my last season of playing football my team won our division. We can’t talk about any of the new music he might like. We can’t talk about Nikki and I going to see Spamalot (lovingly ripped off from Monty Python’s Holy Grail.) We can’t talk about the Pythons possibly getting back together for a tour. There are a lot of things I can’t talk to him about and there will be many more, but, most of all I can’t talk to him and never will again!
Thank you for reading!
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