As they get older, they blink and their cognitive ability declines, and there are probably not a few middle-aged people who doubt, ‘Maybe I have dementia?’ However, it is not easy to find a hospital on your own. It’s because I’m afraid of what would happen if I really had dementia. Recently, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) introduced the experiences of four actual dementia patients from recognizing and admitting their disease. The four of them agree that “early detection is more important than anything else.” So, when did they start to suspect their dementia? I have included a detailed story about him.
“Why did you suddenly become dazed and dull?” (Deb Jobe, 56)
Depp, who worked as a customer service manager, noticed something was wrong when his usual task seemed difficult. She was in her early fifties at the time, and while she was dozing off during a presentation, she constantly repeated questions to learn new things. She initially thought it was her stress. But her husband, John, also had an intuition for her ugliness as she repeated and unable to remember her conversations.
Eventually, at John’s suggestion, they went to the hospital. In Depp’s case, it was similar to the symptoms of ‘brain fog’ that often occur in some postmenopausal women, but the doctor did not take it lightly and decided to proceed with a detailed examination. As a result of a positron emission tomography (PET) scan, Depp was diagnosed with posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease that affects the brain responsible for spatial perception, visual processing, and computation. She forgot some of the tests she did at the time, but she vividly remembers when she was finally diagnosed with dementia in the clinic. “It felt like my whole world was falling apart. I was sick to my stomach and groaning. Tears were shed and I realized, ‘This really happened’.”
She said the first six months were the most difficult. Not only was she unable to keep up with her job, it was also difficult to tell her friends. She distanced herself from everyone except for a few of her friends who became aware of her situation. She is currently serving as a member of the Early-Stage Advisory Group of the ‘Alzheimer’s Association’, where she is Depp. “It was hard to watch some people distance themselves from me,” she said. In the meantime, I think the Alzheimer’s Association helped me. Because there were people I could lean on and talk to along with treatment.”
Although she stopped driving and added a ‘0’ to a check, dementia gave her life something she had never seen before. That’s artistic ability. Starting with adult coloring books, Depp has recently been working on sketches that require more sophisticated skills. He lives his daily life with a positive attitude to the point of admiring himself, “How fascinating is this work?” She invites those who will have the same experience as her. “Early detection is key. If you have any abnormal symptoms, be sure to visit a hospital and get tested. If you miss this time, you may be wasting several years that could improve your quality of life.”
“What was that? I can’t remember that word.” (Clare Sulgit, 51)
Claire, who was a pastor, felt abnormal symptoms at the beginning of the outbreak and went to the hospital, but even doctors could not confirm her disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 2 million Americans under the age of 65 have not been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s on an initial test. After undergoing tests such as PET scans, she was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment due to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 51 in January of this year.
Claire recalls the time when she felt abnormal symptoms like this: “Last summer, it was difficult to find and say the words I wanted. I felt so confused at times, but it was a very unfamiliar experience for me.” In fact, her father also suffered from dementia and died. Because she was conscious of these changes, she held several doctor appointments, but she soon canceled her appointment, believing it was due to the COVID-19 virus. However, it wasn’t long before Claire was diagnosed with ‘frontal temporal lobe dementia’, just like her father.
Even after being diagnosed with dementia, she is still trying to maintain a positive attitude. “Life is still good,” Claire said. I may not be able to find a cure for the rest of my life, but I have many reasons to live, and I hope that I will have meaningful experiences throughout my life. My faith plays a huge role in giving me comfort and hope,” she said.
She recently participated in a clinical trial at West Virginia University’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Laboratory. She hopes that the new medical treatment will help slow the progression of the disease, while if not, she hopes it may provide a small help to other people with dementia.
“I know the letter K, but… How did you use it?” (Daniel Miller, 59)
Daniel, a procurement analyst, began to complain about typing difficulties after retiring. He suspected that it might be some kind of dyslexia, but even his doctor dismissed it as the degree of arthritis that occurs with age, so he tried to ignore it. However, the doctor’s expression changed at the word he threw. “I know what the letter K looks like. Also, when you see K, you know that it is K. But he can’t remember how he wrote K.” Because of his unusual story, the doctor sent him to an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) specialist, and he was eventually diagnosed with ‘Postcortical Atrophy’ (PCA), one of Alzheimer’s disease.
From that day on, he had to stop driving. It was only possible to travel in a car driven by his wife. Daniel described these daily changes as ‘loss of independence’. Because there are fewer and fewer things you can do without anyone’s help. Nevertheless, he is actively engaged in treatment and is not sparing his support for himself. And from the experience of finding clues to Alzheimer’s in the smallest details of our daily lives, he asks. “Observe his own changes objectively and firmly, and if you feel any abnormality, do not delay your visit to the hospital. Also, if you see a doctor, explain your situation in as much detail as possible.”
“Why did I come to the wrong airport?” (Bart Brammer, 72)
Bart, with 30 years of experience in the automobile manufacturing industry, used to visit three places a week on frequent business trips to other regions. But at some point, I started to confuse key information such as dates, hotels, rental cars, and planes. Even though the symptoms were severe, such as arriving at the wrong airport and showing up a day earlier than planned, he did not go to the doctor right away. It was just that he was confused for a while due to his busy schedule, or that it happened due to excessive stress. Then, at the age of 70, he suffered a stroke, and while recovering he developed symptoms such as stuttering and memory loss. The attending physician, who decided that it was difficult to consider it as a simple stroke sequelae, conducted a related examination, and found out that Bart was developing dementia.
After being diagnosed with dementia, he felt very empty, but the saddest thing was that he could not make plans for the future. For example, if someone asked what he was doing on July 4th next year, he couldn’t answer anything. “I couldn’t think of the distant future because of the fear that I might not be around him then,” he confessed. He kept his condition a secret for six months, out of his concerns about his life stigmatized as a dementia patient. However, he couldn’t continue to live such anxious days alone. He eventually shared his condition with those around him, and his life has gradually changed since then.
Before he suffered from dementia in the past, he asked himself these questions all along. “What’s next? What to do next? Where are we going next?” But now I feel that such a question has become unnecessary. Instead, “I live for today. I am in that moment” and live each day with gratitude.