For many years as a classroom teacher, I taught writing. I helped students brainstorm and prewrite, get their stories down on paper, and then we worked through their revisions and published their stories. For several years, I taught teachers how to teach writing in a three week summer program, and one of the requirements of the instructors was that we publish a story or poem in an anthology during each summer class. I published something each year, and it was usually humorous and sometimes a bit touching. Writing has been a big part of my career, and I usually enjoy it. But somehow, I've been hesitant to write about all the things our family has endured over the past several years.
So, finally, I am writing...and I may never stop. Billy and I met during the beginning of my freshman year in college, and although we had a few minor break-ups, we've been together ever since. Our love for each other has deepened over the years, and I never remember either of us even thinking about not being together. Don't mistake that as always seeing eye to eye because we've had some major arguments, but we always got over them.
After several years of memory issues, and a diagnosis of adult Attention Deficit Disorder, Billy was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in 2007. He continued to teach school until he was forced to take disability retirement in April of 2009. He could no longer deal with the details of teaching. He couldn't remember students' names....couldn't keep their papers together and get them graded. He was very disheartened that he could no longer teach, and he talked about getting a job in a plant nursery. He had been in the nursery business for years before he began teaching. The first year he was "retired" he stayed at home by himself. He could still drive pretty well, and he was able to do some minor chores around the house. He kept the laundry caught up, kept the yard in good shape, and he emptied and loaded the dishwasher.
He had another complete evaluation in April of 2010, and the doctor told me he didn't feel like Billy should be left alone. I had sold his pickup a few months earlier, so he would not drive while alone at the house, but I really had not realized that he didn't need to be alone. I decided I would assess things when I had a few weeks off in the summer. When I returned to work, Billy had some significan delusional episodes daily, and I found out very quickly that he didn't need to spend every day alone. He now attends a wonderful caring adult day care center, and he loves it. He really misses going when he stays home. We are very blessed to have this place for him, and I do not take it for granted.
My hope is to write through this blog as often as possible, and in some way increase the awareness of early onset Alzheimer's Disease. When you pick up a pamphlet about AD, you typically see a picture of an elderly grandmother or grandfather. Those are the typcial faces of Alzheimer's, but there are some younger faces out there also. I've heard too many times over the last few years that Billy doesn't qualify for this program or that program because he's too young. Unfortunately, he's not too young to have AD.