Mental Health Monday: Plaques and Tangles, the Book

plaques and tangles take over the brain of a person with Alzheimer's
plaques and tangles take over the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s

On November 24, 2007, I wrote my first blog post about my mother. Today’s post will be my 50th. While driving to and from Jackson to visit Mom this past Friday, I decided what my next book project will be. I’m going to put together a collection of essays from those blog posts. I’ve got 47,651 words in these posts so far—just the right size for a small book. Of course the word count could shrink or grow with editing, but I’m thinking this could be a good book. Working title is Plaques and Tangles, which comes from this post on August 15, 2012, Plaques and Tangles.”

So what about my visit on Friday?

Mom on October 2, 2015
Mom on October 2, 2015

When I arrived at Lakeland Nursing Home I went to Mother’s room and someone else was in her bed! I freaked out and went running to the nurses’ station to ask where my mother was. She calmly replied, “Room 208.” But on the way to room 208 I found Mom, in her wheelchair in the hallway. She was fine, so I left her briefly to go look in room 208. There was all her stuff—her pictures, her clothes, everything. Why hadn’t someone told me about this move? The last time they moved her they called me and asked if it as okay and everything. I was a bit upset, and I went to the front office and asked to speak to a social worker.

Meanwhile I wheeled Mom up to the front lobby where we could see outdoors while we visited. She looked so much older—like she had aged quite a bit in the few weeks since I had seen her. For the first time ever, when I sang “You Are My Sunshine” and “Amazing Grace,” she didn’t sing along or even smile. When I would finish a song she would say, with no emotion, “That’s nice.” It broke my heart to see her this much more diminished. And yet still here. (Remember when I said I asked Jesus why she was still here? I still don’t have an answer.)

May, 2007, when Mom was still in an assisted living facility
May, 2007, when Mom was still in an assisted living facility

And then the social worker joined us in the lobby and reminded me that she had called me on the phone about moving mother to another room. As she spoke about the details of the call, it began to come back to me. Vaguely at first, and then more vividly. I apologized to her and said something about me having a senior moment. But it was so scary…. Because this is how it all started for Mom, when she was a bit older than me. Or maybe not.

The event confirmed my desire to publish this book while I still can. I don’t mean to sound alarmist, but I know that a project like this could easily take 2-3 years, and I’ve also got the novel and the anthology in the works. Do I have the mental health to pull this off? I’m determined to try.

Before the plaques and tangles get me.

12 thoughts on “Mental Health Monday: Plaques and Tangles, the Book”

  1. Hi Susan, I like your blog.

    I’m David and Cherry Dunn’s younger friend from Oxford, as you may recall, and your FB friend.

    So, sorry about your mom’s condition, but I know that you have found the blessings in it, too.

    David H.

    1. I was visiting with Sally about this and she said for me to quit thinking about it so much, that I’m going to “think myself sick with Alzheimer’s.” She’s right that the anxiety doesn’t help! Thanks, always, for reading.

  2. Having worked in retirement communities for the last 20 years of my employment, I have a healthy (?) fear of Alzheimer’s/dementia. 7 years ago I had a caregiver that was manipulating me and convinced me I had All. Adult Protective services sent me to a Neural psychologist who diagnosed me with mild cognitive impairment. I wsd retested a few weeks ago. No further deterioration.

  3. Susan,
    I think this is a great idea!!! You are great at writing essays, and I think a book like this would help a lot of others who are also caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s.

  4. Susan, I think this will be a very important book project for all of us who have dealt with Alzheimer’s in our families and for all those who will deal with it and other forms of dementia in the future.

    As someone with a family history, I understand your fears. It’s certainly entirely possible that the phone conversation slipped your mind due to fatigue, pain, busy-ness, distractions, etc. Obviously, your fear is that it is an early symptom of Alzheimer’s, which is a valid concern. Do you have access to a gerontologist or other specialist who could do a screening? (I suggest a specialist because in my family’s experience primary care doctors often miss early signs.) If the screening results show nothing, it can set your mind at ease. If there are early signs, you can begin treatment to slow progression so that you can continue your three(!) book projects.

    Wishing you all the best as you deal with the full-to-overflowing plate in front of you.

    1. I’m just now reading these comments (been out of town, etc.) and your words give me something to seriously consider, getting tested sooner rather than later. Thanks.

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