Teen discusses having a parent with Alzheimer’s

In today’s National Caregiver Month blog, I have someone very special for you to meet. Zack is a 17-year-old high school senior whose mother has Alzheimer’s. As we continue our conversation about Alzheimer’s and kids/teens, I thought it would be important to make sure you heard directly from them about how they experience this disease:

The Strom family: Jane and Roger along with sons Erik, Zack and AJ

“For the past several years, I have witnessed the stages of Alzheimer’s disease as they go.  My mother had gradually been displaying more and more signs of memory impairment—it could be expected in junior high that she might forget to pick me up for an appointment, or I’d need to give directions to places—and in 2009, at the end of my freshman year of high school, she was diagnosed with the disease.  Gradually, I have learned a good deal about the disease, through both casual research and firsthand observation.

My responsibilities, whether they are assigned to me or otherwise, remain unique from others in my social environment, and this is perhaps the most visibly different part of my life.  Sometimes, I will need to run errands for my family or be home at a certain time, but this does not hurt my interactions with others. For the most part, I just live a normal social life, as the circumstance my family is in, fortunately, does not impact my ability to go to school and participate in activities outside of class.  

From being around the house, I have learned that patience is extremely necessary and that you cannot expect consistency from someone affected by the disease.  Like just about everything else in nature, it does not operate like clockwork, and those who live with Alzheimer’s patients know that an unexpectedly deep failure to remember something very simple may be quickly followed by impressive lucidity.  At dinnertime, my mom might be unable to tell you in concrete detail about anything she did during the day, but afterwards will still hand-wash all of the dishes without even being asked.  Just the other day, when she was picked up late from her care center, she called home to ensure someone was coming.  That is another thing I have learned—you must appreciate the small accomplishments, even as you anticipate the future.

For any teen with a recently diagnosed relative, I would most emphasize the importance of continuing to have fun with that relative.  Obviously, it is a troublesome diagnosis to deal with, but do not allow it to greatly diminish your interactions; you can still appreciate the time you have together.”

Thanks, Zack for sharing a few words with us! Tomorrow, we’ll hear from Jaimee, who has played a role in caring for her grandmother who has Alzheimer’s.

Don’t forget to share your experiences here, on our Facebook page or at www.alz.org/nadam. We want to hear from you!