Understanding the Early Stages of Dementia

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Unfortunately at that same point and in fact three weeks before I retired [my husband] was made redundant with, retired on redundancy grounds and so he was home just before me and while I jumped he was pushed. And he was very distressed about that, partly because he was working in the Health Service and his job was not going to be done anymore and he was working in the community with people who he felt really needed him and who were essentially going to be abandoned.

And the reason for that preamble is that this is why his dementia masqueraded as depression and was thought to be depression for a long time. And I saw his behaviour to me which was increasingly angry and often bordering on hatred, as the thing that I had chosen to retire. I had, I'd been counselling with Relate Marriage Guidance for twenty years so I had set up in private practice and my retirement was really going and his was a shambles.

And so it was some time before we realised what was really wrong. Ironically in those first few months he became an advocate for the Alzheimer's Society. And he actually went into the, one of the local nursing homes and saw conditions there and he also saw what Alzheimer's looked like at close, close to.

And he I suspected it quite early on. I can remember lying in bed and freezing and thinking 'No, no it can't be this'. And it was probably a couple of months after that, that he said 'I wonder if I've got Alzheimer's?

Together, We Can End Alzheimer's.

I mentioned in the written thing that he would come into the house, he would open up all the windows and go out again. He would lose things. We had a holiday booked for New Zealand and he completely sabotaged the bookings. And it all, there was the thing, is this just, is this anger, is this depression or is this Alzheimer's? And so the doctor arranged for him to see a neurologist who said 'No, it was depression' and arranged for him to see a psychologist who did tests and who said, 'No, this was depression'.

When I think back on the results of those tests, no way did they represent depression. They were very specific losses of memory but she made a good case for this only being depression. Looking back why did it take two years of problems? He was diagnosed as having endogenous depression for which he took the appropriate pills.

Because it turned out that the most significant thing that he couldn't do was to read the music especially tracking from line to line. But to go back to the question, why did it take two years, I think for someone aged 50, dementia was not on their agenda, so a whole lot of other things had to be ruled out. Eventually when he went to [town] and got lost driving in familiar surroundings, then that really rang alarm bells and I took him straight off to the doctor again.

In some cases there was evidence that the person developing Alzheimer's was aware that something was happening to them that they were unable to explain. The first indication of any problems was probably about nine years ago. Very minor things happened. My wife became less reliable than she had been when asked to do anything.


She would cease to, the house, little things in the house were not as clean as they were before. Small things to start with which were noticeable because she had been meticulously clean always. And then she started to ask me 'Who was that? And then when I tried to explain who they were very often it didn't seem to ring a bell at all with her.

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Then we decided it would be as well to see the GP about all this and the GP suggested that another appointment of about twenty minutes, and he suggested she almost certainly was starting to develop Alzheimer's disease which was a fear she'd had, she'd expressed a fear of this, a vague fear previously. But eventually her behaviour changed, her character changed, she would get up in the middle of the night, put anything on the stove without, without any liquids in it, or plastic items melted and had to be thrown out. She would sit downstairs in a cold house without any heating on; with a little persuasion go back to bed.

All these kind of things went on and on and then she started to go off on, not just wandering, very positively to take herself off to somewhere with intention of going somewhere quite logical but without any hope of achieving the destination because of the distance that was involved. In one case she was setting off to go one hundred and seventy miles - on foot - to, to where she came, the town she came from, which was obviously, the direction was right, she was eight miles away when she was picked up, still going strong but the, it was impossible for her to reach the destination.

Anything could have happened to her on the road.

All these, these kind of things went on and on and on, gradually getting worse. She wrote little notes which I found, or kept finding, long, a long time afterwards tucked away' 'Whatever's happening to me? Have I got Alzheimer's? One day she was, we found her tying the gates of an old disused cemetery quite close to home, very overgrown.

Diagnosing dementia

She knew about this cemetery but she was tying the gates with her, from the inside. And I brought her home and asked her what, what on earth she was really doing and she said 'I want to die. She realised there were big problems coming and she was very worried about it and that's what she said. One carer expressed relief that her husband's condition had deteriorated meant that there was less risk that he might be aware of what was happening to him. Another expressed fears that for a diagnosis to be given early in the disease might result in the patient wanting to kill themselves.

Moving house or even staying somewhere unfamiliar sometimes seemed to expose difficulties which had not previously been recognised. Sometimes a holiday lead to what seemed to be the first symptoms of dementia.

Recognizing the early Signs of Dementia

One carer described how she thought her husband was joking when he woke up while on holiday in Rhodes and seemed not to know who she was. A daughter whose mother was fiercely resistant to any suggestion that there was a problem describes her getting lost on the way home from Australia and ending up in Greece.

One time my mother decided to go to Australia for Christmas, because Christmas is always a problem in our family with my parents being separated. So, this particular year, I think it was about , mother decided to go to Australia for Christmas to spend Christmas with a nephew, flew out there.

Stages of Dementia: The 3-Stage and the 7-Stage Models - Kindly Care

Ten days later decided she didn't like it and was coming home again. So they had to phone us from Australia, to say she was coming back. We, my sister and I, went to meet her at the Heathrow and she never arrived. So after meeting three planes and she wasn't on them, we didn't quite know what to do, so we came back here and I reported her missing to the local police.

And the Police said that if we haven't heard anything in twenty four hours, we'd get Interpol. Anyhow, at quarter to five that night, my sister's daughter phoned and said the British Consul in Athens has found granny, can someone go out and rescue her? I think the cheapest way to go out to Australia was to go to Athens and then change planes. They were absolutely marvellous.

I went on the half past eleven plane from Heathrow, picked up the tickets there. But the British Consul couldn't hang on to her because she had to go to a 'do' at the Embassy, and mother wouldn't go to a hotel. So in the end she put her in an all night police station. She gave me the address, so when I got to Athens, I grabbed a taxi, showed the taxi driver this address and he took me to this police station.

He was very good. He waited to make sure that the police let me in and they had barricaded the door to keep mother in. And so at half past six in the morning I picked her up and we were wandering around Athens trying to look for her suitcase. She couldn't remember where she'd left it. We didn't quite know what to do, because Thomas Cook's said that we could have gone back on the same plane, but they said in case there's a problem, its only an hour and a half turn around, so they booked me back on an afternoon plane.

We stayed in that room and then came home that night. But it was marvellous, mother had all her money; she required a coat, apparently, because her luggage had gone missing and she hadn't got a warm coat, somebody had taken her to a shop to buy one. And she had some sort of story of having been given a night's stay by strangers, but we never discovered what happened to her hand luggage, and her main luggage turned up three months later.

One woman who had a strong family history of Alzheimer's disease recognised her own early dementia when she became confused while driving and later when on holiday abroad. In the case of my wife and myself we were I suppose, should I say, fortunate in that two of her aunts developed dementia in their 70s so it was not a new experience for us although we never thought that we would be personally involved. But we first noticed it when my wife was driving. We used to drive down to Spain for the winter and my wife was a very, very good, very confident driver so the way we did it was one of us would drive for 2 hours while the other one would have a snooze in the back seat and that way we used to do the miles down to Malaga very often in a day.

And on one occasion fortunately I wasn't snoozing in the back I was sitting in the passenger seat when we came to a large traffic island and my wife suddenly said "Which way do I go round? Then we didn't think too much about it at the time except that occasionally she said she had wavy lines in front of her eyes which was a type of migraine and it passed if she lay down for a little while but it was evidently something more serious. And then in I think it would be about October 91, we flew out to Kuala Lumpur to see our son who was working out there and while we were staying there my wife began to lose her way between the block of apartments where we were staying and the restaurant over the road where we used to go to breakfast every morning.