Following is the first of a two-part blog by Carol Granger Parker. (Read part two.)
Who is that man in the mirror?
He is tall and handsome with dark brown eyes and carefully dressed in a white shirt and red tie. His black suit is well coordinated with his shoes and his brown hair is trimmed and combed. The image in the mirror is the Dave we all know and love. But the man in the mirror is not Dave. He is different.
Dave is not the attentive, loving family man he has always been. Dave is not interested in or challenged by life. He is not polite, considerate or the arbitrator that solves problems. He is not the first one to smile and hug family and friends. He is not Dave. His family members are not doctors or counselors, but we think we know what is happening to Dave and why he is different. He is not Dave, because he is:
- Unhappy because he retired in 2012.
- Anxious because he is no longer CEO and president.
- Bored because nobody calls him anymore.
- Depressed because he does not get dressed every morning and go to work.
- Apathetic because he is tired.
- Tired because he is not exercising.
- Withdrawn because he lost interest in life
- Agitated because his family is pushing him to do things he does not want to do.
- Angry because he does not have daily interactions with friends and politics.
- Overwhelmed because his treatment for kidney and prostate cancer.
His family pulled together and came up with solutions to help Dave adjust to retired life. Maybe if we encouraged him to:
- Play more golf.
- Go on trips with family to the Baltic and to Russia and skiing and Alaska and California.
- Increase his workouts at the gym.
- Review his photos of the 59 national parks he has visited.
- Write about his experiences at the parks for the professor’s travel book.
- Stay in touch with his lunch and dinner buddies.
- Go out to dinner four times a week with friends and/or invite them to his house for lunch or dinner.
Maybe, maybe, maybe if we put all of our solutions into Dave’s life he will be fine. Dave’s family “maybe'd” for two years.
Dave’s family was in denial. We made excuses for Dave’s behavior, his impulsive reactions, his loss of filters, his angry words, his impatience, his erratic driving and his new found interest - sleeping all day. We covered up.
In 2014, Dave got into an argument with the taxi driver in New York City over the cost of the fare. Their yelling continued into the theater until security ushered the driver out of the building. Some people at the theater thought we were part of the production. I smiled and found our seats.
On the same trip, Dave challenged the patrol man at the train station by calling him stupid and not knowing how to do his job. Horns honked and people in their cars booed at Dave. I smiled and made a friendly gesture.
Dave started making up his own rules of the road. His driving became erratic, impulsive, verbally aggressive and impatient. He started swearing at drivers he thought were tailgating him, or cutting him off, or speeding up and slowing down just to aggravate him. Our grandchildren learned all of the swear words known to mankind and started using them. Their mother and father were startled to hear those words repeated at home. Dave was no longer allowed to drive his grandchildren.
Dave got lost in Washington, DC. A city he has driven in for more than forty years. He got lost in Salt Lake City, Anchorage, Detroit and cities in California, New York and Florida that we have visited multiple times over the years. We started using Uber.
Over a period of time Dave lost the ability to use the polite, social, correct filters that he had used all his life. He gave a finger to the TSA agent at National Airport when the line did not move as fast as Dave wanted. He loudly expressed his displeasure to the airline attendants when he did not get the meal he wanted. Dave reprimanded a hotel doorman in Cuba when the doorman did not respond immediately to his request for a cab.
In 2016, intervention came in the way of a longtime friend. She took two of the family members living in the area to lunch. She discussed Dave’s behaviors based on her medical knowledge and what she suggested we needed to do immediately. She made it clear that our denial was not helping Dave and it was not helping us. Her approach was straight forward, nonjudgmental and humorous. Her clear and direct conversation hit home. Before the month ended, we made contact with the first neurosurgeon and started our family education and training on dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Changes is mood and personality is one of the warning signs of Alzheimer's. People with Alzheimer's can can become confused, suspicious, depressed, anxious, or aggressive. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone. Learn more about the warning signs of Alzheimer's. Questions? Call our free 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.