For those that have watched a loved one’s memory falter as dementia engulfs them, it’s usually difficult to pick an exact moment when you realized that there was something wrong. While certain forms of dementia may manifest more suddenly, it seems that with many Alzheimer’s patients, it’s a gradual decline that can sometimes take years until it’s to the point where that person needs help.
For my dad, there was one incident in particular that stands out in my mind as being a huge warning flag. I call it the burrito incident.
My mom would send my dad out on errands, which included things like getting money orders and mailing out bills, picking up a few groceries at the convenience store and buying lottery tickets. Mom always wrote everything out in detail on a sticky note. This one time, as we saw signs of dementia become more apparent, everything went wrong.
He was still driving at the time, so he pulled into the convenience store parking lot. He picked up a couple of burritos for dinner as was on the note and picked out the lottery tickets that my mom wanted. Then he walked out without paying for anything. The clerk made a big scene and yelled for my dad to return and pay for everything. He thought he had and an argument ensued. At this point, dad was in denial that there was anything wrong with him so it must have been a humiliating experience, as he was always a very honest person.
My mom was called and the order was paid for properly. Dad came home with the burritos, not that either one of them was hungry anymore. And the lottery tickets? That night, dad couldn’t remember where he put them. The next day, he found the tickets … in the trunk of the car.
It’s small incidents like these that illustrate how dementia steadily chips away at the mind until you hardly recognize the person left behind.