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Losing the battle
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bjt4unc posted:
My paternal grandparents both received the diagnosis for AD when they were in their mid-70s. My grandfather passed away after about 4 years, due to intestinal cancer, but not after losing the battle with AD and being completely lost in his world. My grandmother lived almost 10 years with the disease and passed away in 2009. Now my father is showing some early signs of the disease and herein lies my dilemma.

I first noticed the signs a couple years ago. My dad forgot my daughters name...and never recalled it that day. I could see the fear in his eyes. It was heart-breaking. He is completely terrified by the prospect of an AD diagnosis, so much so that he threatened to kill himself if this is ever a stigma put on him. He watched both his parents suffer and he doesn't want to be like that, plus he says he doesn't want my mother or me to have to see him like that. He's the type that will never seek counseling nor will he see a neurologist or any specialist that deals with brain issues. He has no problem going to the cardiologist (he recently had a stint put in a 75% blockage) or a opthamologist (he has glaucoma too).

I work with him on a daily basis on our cattle farm and see all aspects of his behavior and memory loss. Many times I ignore it because I don't want to embarrass him, but sometimes I don't think before I call his attention to the mishap. It definitely irritates him but I believe most of his combatant response is a type of self-preservation that arises from his fears. It has gradually gotten worse of the last few years, and he has my mother scared to even mention anything about AD because he has threatened to "take care of it" in his own way. Without question this puts her in a tough position, and also puts me in a position of being in the middle.

Every time I mention the disease or anything relating to AD to either parent, I get a stonewalling response and its put me into a state of depression to the point that I am taking medications daily to help deal with the situation. My mother listens to me most of the time but gets defensive if I push the 'diagnosis' issue. She knows a lot about AD because she's a caregiver by trade (LPN, Adult Daycare Services for 11 years) and leads a monthly support group for other caregivers. Often I hear her say there's no medication that helps AD and "whats the point" of pushing dad to be seen for his memory issues.

This is an abbreviated description of my situation, but I think anybody that's living with this in their family can relate.

Is there anything I can do? Please send me any feedback or suggestions.

Thanks!!!

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cjh1203 responded:
I'm so sorry that your family is in this heartbreaking situation. I guess that, after seeing what he went through, your father is really in denial. I wonder if he thinks that, as long as there's no official diagnosis, there's still some hope that he doesn't have Alzheimer's, and that's why he's refusing to see anyone about his memory loss.

Could you possibly share your concerns with his cardiologist, and she if s/he as any suggestions? Perhaps you could get a referral to a neurologist under some pretext.

I'm surprised that your mother is saying that nothing can help Alzheimer's. There's definitely no cure, but there are medications that can help memory loss and often slow the progress of the disease. I'm sure she knows that, but her reasoning may be the same as your father's -- a sort of "ignorance is bliss" attitude.

I wish I had some good advice for you, but I don't know how you force someone to get help who doesn't want it. Maybe someone else here will have some wisdom for you.

In the meantime, I would suggest that you contact your local Alzheimer's Association, and make an appointment to talk to someone there. This is the sort of thing that they probably have experience with, and that might be able to help you deal with what's going on.

Best wishes. I can understand why this is so overwhelming for you, and I hope you all find a way to get some help. Please let us know how you're doing.

Carol
 
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Byroney_WebMD_Staff responded:
Welcome Btj4unc and thank you for sharing about your family and Alzheimer's today. I think Carol's suggestions about talking to the cardiologist and the Alzheimer's Association are good ones.

Even though everyone may be afraid it's Alzheimer's, what if it's not? This article mentions over a Dozen Reasons for memory loss other than Alzheimer's.

You may want to consider working with a counselor or therapist to help you sort through this complicated and stressful situation.

Please write back and let us know how you and your family are doing,

Byroney
Life isn't a matter of milestones but of moments. - Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy
 
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Judith L London, PhD responded:
Dear bjt4unc,

I totally agree with Carol and Byroney. The sooner your Dad gets help, the better. There ARE medications to delay the progression of Alzheimer's, and if that is the diagnosis, he needs to be on them immediately. Word-finding difficulty is a natural part of aging. Other memory lapses may be due to depression or as a result of dehydration or an infection.

The way you approach him is crucial. Assure him that you are worried and he needs to see a doctor to give you relief. Reassure him that you love him no matter what, and that you treasure every moment with him. Tell him that you learn from him every day,Talk to you Mom and tell her how upset you are and that you are getting sick over it.

Please take care of yourself during this worrisome time. You are the voice of reason, and the better you take care of yourself, the more you will be there for your parents.

Keep us posted,
Judy


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