Life Changes

“I know,” said Eddie. “Think I don’t read the paper? My mind’s as sharp as it was when I was in college. Ever tell you about my college days?”

“You have old friend but I’d like to hear about them anyway. Maybe tomorrow you can tell me when we do this again. But don’t hurry to leave – enjoy your coffee. Just leave your mug on the table when you go. I’m going to lock up and head over there,” Robert said as he patted his old friend on the shoulder.

He fed the cat, locked the door and got in his car. He backed out to the end of the driveway and waved to Eddie, who was still on the porch studying Johnson’s “aluminum” siding. He paused a minute and thought about whether or not he had fed the cat. He decided he had and then he thought about which way he was headed. For a minute, he thought it was the old days and he was heading to work, but he knew that wasn’t right. Once he decided which way to go, he forgot to look behind him again and began to back out. He slammed on the brakes suddenly as he realized he had almost hit little Chad from down the street who was pedaling his new bike right behind the car.

Chad hadn’t even noticed the “near miss” and waved to Robert as he came into sight. Robert returned the wave with is heart pounding like a rabbit. He drove to his daughter’s house and he no sooner entered the door when she broke her embrace from him and said, “Dad, what’s wrong?” He led her into the den and closed the door. “Dad, you’re scaring me,” she emitted. “What is it?”

“I want you to me honest with me,” he started. Are you and Tom and the kids starting to repeat things to me that I forget? Are you noticing me getting confused about things now and then? Be honest.”

She began to cry. “Yeah, Pop, there’s definitely a change there. In fact, we were going to talk to you today. God forbid some lapse of memory could cause you to injure yourself or someone else. We’d like to have you tested, professionally reviewed but we were afraid about how you would react.”

Robert fought back tears and nodded. “I almost hurt someone today. I don’t think I should drive until we know if I am just getting absent minded or if it is something worse.” He handed her his keys. She knelt forward into his arms and hugged him. “Tom and I have already talked about this Pop and we have room for you to stay with us right here. The kids adore you and eventually we’re going to add a little efficiency apartment right off the back of the house for you and Charlie so you can have your privacy and still be close to us. No matter what they find – you’re going to with people who love you.”

“I’m so lucky to have you,” he smiled. “Well we feel lucky to have you,” she returned. “Now let’s not talk any more about this. Tom will drive you home tonight and in the morning I’ll drive your car over and we’ll begin to make some appointments and plans.

Robert thought about Eddie, his car, his neighborhood, his familiar routine and his heart was breaking. He smiled at his daughter and said, “Sounds great.  What’s for dinner?”

“Beef stew,” she smiled. “Mom’s old recipe, you know. Hey how come no tie today?  You’re going to disappoint the kids.”

“Well it’s getting colder now,” he said. “The weather seems to be changing.”

******************************

An estimated 5.2 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease in 2013. This includes an estimated 5 million people age 65 and older and approximately 200,000 individuals younger than age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is the 6th-leading cause of death in the United States overall and the 5th-leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older. It is the only cause of death among the top 10 in America without a way to prevent it, cure it or even slow its progression. Deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 68 percent between 2000 and 2010, while deaths from other major diseases, including the number one cause of death (heart disease), decreased.  While ambiguity about the underlying cause of death can make it difficult to determine how many people die from Alzheimer’s, there are no survivors. If you do not die from Alzheimer’s disease, you die with it. One in every three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.

In 2012, 15.4 million family and friends provided 17.5 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias — care valued at $216.4 billion, which is more than eight times the total sales of McDonald’s in 2011. Eighty percent of care provided in the community is provided by unpaid caregivers.

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