It is often difficult, looking back on the life of one who develops Alzheimer’s disease, to be able to say, “yes, it started then.” Even today, my husband, Dana, and I often sit and look through our photo albums for signs of when his mother began to slip away. We look closely at pictures of Katharine that were taken during past holiday visits or at our children’s graduations and birthday parties. We are always looking for clues of her impending disease to try and determine exactly when it began.
With the luxury of hindsight, we can now recall some signs in her behavior that we probably should have seen. Still, we cannot find a single picture which might have hinted at Katharine’s early Alzheimer’s disease. We look closely at her face in pictures taken from one Christmas to the next. Sometimes, when we look especially carefully at her eyes, we think we can see the beginnings of the dimming that progressed ever so slowly.
In many ways, the creation of the caregiving role may be viewed as a similar kind of progression, because caregiving often has an indefinite beginning. Many of those who have become caregivers to elderly parents or spouses are not quite sure exactly when they assumed the role. As a child or a spouse of an impaired loved one, the caregiver may be surprised to look back and be unable to remember exactly when the caregiving began. For the child of an impaired parent, the role change was so subtle that the caregiving child has no idea when the parent be