Has it been awhile since you’ve been back to your home town? Are you worried at all about seeing your parents, siblings, who have seemed inappropriately older and less sharper since the last time you saw them? If you notice signs of memory loss, how will you feel? What should you say or do? Are you scared? Do you need someone to listen? Offer advice? I am here for you. I have experienced this many times myself. My sweet mama would sit in the kitchen window and wait for me to drive up, for hours mind you. It was always such a heartwarming and endearing thing to see her run out to greet me in the driveway. Until…

Nothing prepared me for the times I came home for my decade installments of class reunions and the information I didn’t want to hear would begin to flow like a river.  My lifelong best friend Sue would come over to Mama’s to visit and let me know of times she had seen mama outside dressed inappropriately for the weather.  Also that she seen Mama walking in areas of town far from her house and had brought her home safely, but was worried about her. Mama loved to walk for exercise, but many times forgot the way home while on her journey. Changes were in the air and they weren’t necessarily good. At my actual reunion, several old friends spoke of times they saw my mom and she seemed a little forgetful. No where to hide in a small town it seems.

My own memory lane…Mama was always a favorite of my friends when we were kids. She loved it when my friends were over. She like getting snacks together for us and engaging my friends in a little game of poker. She also loved to dance with us. She was always the hit of the party. She always felt deep down that it was easier to have me and my friends under her roof so she knew we were safe, than worry about where her rambunctious teenager was.  She was always a great mom and I loved her dearly. The time came however, when she needed my help, even if she didn’t know it yet.

What are you seeing on this trip? What is going through your mind? Does mom or dad live at home? Is the house in disarray, dusty and not kept up? Is there expired food in the fridge? Is laundry piled up? Some of the scariest things you will experience is if they have a definite body odor and appear like grooming isn’t a priority. If they are still driving you might want to survey the car for dents. If all these issues are adding up, don’t take repetitive questions as an aberration.  We often make excuses to let red flags slide; she wasn’t focused, he didn’t hear what I said. The next time you come home, 6 months, 1 year or more from now, things could be a lot worse. Now might be the time to ask questions. How have you been feeling? Have you noticed any changes in your memory? Do you feel safe?

Ask if they need help balancing their check book. This will give you an idea if they are spending money erratically.  Offer to take them to the bank and chat with a teller if possible to ask if large sums of money are missing or a bank account is low. Check their mail to see if bills have been paid or they are getting a lot of requests from companies asking for money, and if they are, take that mail and contact those entities to get your loved one off of their mailing list. These are the first signs of symptoms of memory loss and dare I say Alzheimer’s disease. Ask if they need help with house keeping, cooking, meal preparation, laundry or even rides to appointments. If possible, this is a way to broach the idea of having a home care company come in to assist. If they fight the idea, a trip to their doctor with a list of the signs you have seen may be in order.

No doubt about it this is a terrifying time and you may experience uncomfortable discoveries. If I can be of assistance to answer questions, recommend resources or just listen, please call or email me. My heart goes out to you. The reunion trip home can glean unwelcome surprises. I care deeply and would love to hear about your experience as you venture home for your reunion this year.

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Jill Lorentz is the author of this Blog. Her years of dedication to helping people with dementia live quality filled lives with dignity started with her Mama and has expanded to thousands of people. To learn more visit her ABOUT page. Listen to her weekly radio show Dementia Resilience with Jill Lorentz on Cruisin’1430 am or past podcasts on her “Radio Podcast” tab on this website.