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!

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10 Responses

  1. Nancy Strom Miller says:

    Thanks Zack for sharing your story. I am proud of you and can see that you really love and care for your mom. -Aunt Nancy

  2. Erik says:

    Well said Zack, thanks for writing this piece.

  3. Roger Strom says:

    Zack—I know this writing you did will help somebody else; helping other people is what it is all about. Thanks! Love, Dad

  4. Viviane Schaller says:

    Zack,
    I appreciate reading about how you deal with your mom’s disease. That is wonderful how you can learn from this experience and exercise your patience in the same time. There is always so much to learn in difficult situation and you are doing it just beautifully. Stay strong for your mom who loves you very much!
    Viviane (friend of Jane)

  5. Sue S says:

    Thanks for the reminder to appreciate the small accomplishments.

  6. Aunt Barb says:

    Your mom is so fortunate to have a family like yours, Zack. We all appreciate all of you. Love, Aunt Barb

  7. Marilyn Schilling says:

    Zack thank you so much for sharing your insights with us. I have spoken to your dad numerous times about your family and can see what a fine young man you are. You can thank your mom and dad for raising such an insightful and thoughtful child.

    Marilyn Schilling (support group facilitator)

  8. Carol L. says:

    Watching you with your mom and your family is an inspiration. I’m sure that your writing will help many people who have a family member or friend with this disease. I know it did me.

  9. Linda Lang says:

    Wow Zack! Your mom & dad are so lucky to have you and your brothers there by their side. Your ability to “roll with the punches” as they say, and be so understanding of where your mom is coming from from moment to moment is very special and important. Continue to have fun with her and take care of yourself and have some fun with the rest of the family, too! Lots of laughs and lots of agreement go a long way! Linda (Cheryl’s friend)

  10. Susan says:

    Hello,

    It’s obvious from your post that you’re a very thoughtful and responsible young man, Zac.

    Having been full time carer for my mum, who had dementia, for five years, I know how sad and difficult it is to see someone you love and know so well becoming a stranger. My mum never lost her lovely nature, always said please and thank you, but changed, through no fault of her own, in just about every other way.

    It’s important that you still have a regular life outside of the home, so I am glad you are able to do that. I became very isolated, and that’s a bad thing.

    Anyway, I just wanted to commend you on looking after your mum and on having a wonderful attitude.

    Regards,
    Susan

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