Progression of My Mother’s Early Onset Alzheimer’s in Photos

Progression of My Mother’s Early Onset Alzheimer’s in Photos

After watching Still Alice with my husband recently, I began looking through photos of my mom in old blog posts–photos of her living with the enemy, early onset Alzheimer’s disease.  I pieced together the pictures in chronological order, trying to create a visual timeline of her decline.

progression of early onset alzheimer's in photos

People who stopped visiting her during her illness told me they didn’t want to remember her this way or that she didn’t interact with them anymore.  Well, I didn’t have a choice. She was my mom, and I was responsible for her care and safety.

I remember her like this.  I remember the heartache.  I remember losing her in slow motion.

And I want people to see the reality of this disease–how a brilliant and creative teacher and nurturer (yes, I remember her that way, too) becomes like an infant, completely dependent on others for care, completely unable to communicate with the words she held so dear.

It may seem, in looking at the following photos, that my mother declined very quickly, and there were certainly time periods of rapid decline.  Yet, the decline seems less rapid when you consider that she was already in the moderate stages of the disease by the time she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2006, immediately after I graduated from college.

Progression of my mother’s Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease in photos

6 months after my mother’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease

with my mom and husband
My grandparents’ house Thanksgiving 2006

 

A year later on my mom’s last vacation

Carriage ride in Victoria, British Columbia Aug. 2007
Carriage ride in Victoria, British Columbia following a family cruise to Alaska August 2007

 

My wedding festivities (the end of her really knowing who I was)

Our couples shower October 2007
My couples’ shower October 2007

 

At our wedding January 2008
Toasting at my wedding January 2008

 

Placement in a secure wing in a longterm care facility

Dixie
Shortly after moving into the nursing home November 2008

 

*I couldn’t find any pictures from 2009, which probably means I didn’t take any. I frequently took my black Lab with me, and we spent a lot of time in the fenced courtyard during our visits.  She always thought he was her black Lab mix, Rocket, and she consistently called me “Linda” (not sure if she was thinking of her cousin, Linda, or her childhood friend, Linda) that year.*

 

Constant, frantic motion, falling all the time (see scar on forehead)

20101021175917
Still able to feed herself but serious fall risk October 2010

 

Only saying simple words like “thank you” and “yes” and no longer getting out of bed without assistance (except for rolling out of it in the middle of the night)

December 2010

 

January 2011
January 2011

 

early onset alzheimer's May 2011
Still joyful at times May 2011

 

alzheimers grief process
In the hospital May 2011

 

Placement on hospice care with trouble swallowing (and using a special, high-backed wheelchair)

early onset alzheimers
July 2011

 

my mother alzheimer's disease
August 2011

 

December 2011
December 2011

 

Asleep more often than awake in end stages (and using a geriatric chair because of severe leaning and muscle stiffness)

alzheimers grieving process
My due date (with my first daughter) January 2012

 

my mom's best friend with my mom, baby girl and me
With my mom’s best friend March 2012

 

Christmas music Alzheimer's
December 2012

 

3 months before she died

mothersday
March 2013

And she was beautiful to the end.

7 comments

  1. Jean Aiken says:

    Thank you so much for doing this. It is good to actually see the progression. The last Mother’s Day picture is so beautiful of all of you. I’m sure you will treasure it forever. I was wondering if you would be seeing Still Alice or not.

  2. Leisa says:

    my mom died recently from complications of Parkinson’s with dementia. It was a cruel journey for both of us, one I remember and carry it with me everyday. Thank you for sharing

  3. Jennifer says:

    I worked for KEYE and I’m SOOOOOO glad they aired your story. I hope this gets you tons of press and you are able to keep hope alive for so many people struggling right now due to either illness or tragedy from the recent storms/flooding!

    KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!!! You are an inspiration to many!

    Jennifer

  4. Marla says:

    Lauren,
    I just read about the shirt you designed to benefit flood victims in the San Marcos Daily Record and saw the picture of you and your mom. We were good friends with your mom and dad in Round Rock where your mom and my husband, John, both taught. Your mom was so full of life — always happy and such a joy to share time with. We kept up over the years and, I believe, we all went to Aquarena Springs together when you, your brother, and our children were younger. We had lost touch and I had no idea about your mom’s illness. What a terrible loss. It is easy to see the legacy she has left. I will pray for you and hope to meet you someday.

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