Early signs of alzheimers

Jane Wolfe

Registered User
Oct 21, 2003
My father is 89. He has been a widower for 15 years and has been very self sufficient during this time. He still has a social life (to a degree, as he is very deaf and finds a lot of situations difficult to keep up with due to his hearing impairment), he still drives his car (in daylight only!), irons, cooks..... I am 38 and have two young children, but I do manage to help around the house - cleaning, buying frozen meals, gardening etc. I have recently noticed Dad is getting more forgetful than usual, over very minor things.

He puts his oven chips in the fridge rather than the freezer, loses his cheque book, doesn't know what day it is, goes on a coach trip and doesn't remember where he's been by the time he gets home, can't remember if he's eaten at lunchtime or what he ate.

Does this sound familiar? He has always been a little forgetful and considering his age, I have always been proud that he's so "with it", but recently he seems worse. Firstly, I put it down to going a bit stir-crazy being in his house for most of the day, alone. We all forget what day it is when we're on holiday, so being at home constantly makes this acceptable - I think!

I don't know how closely I should monitor him, how much of a deal I should make of his forgetfulness or whether to ignore it and pretend it's not happening - for his sake, and mine. He is a very proud man and has a lot of dignity. I am afraid he will lose this if he becomes dependent on me. He would hate it. He has always maintained that he should go into a home when the time comes.... He also has always been fanatical about not losing his house, to pay for care, as he sees it as what he has worked for to leave to me and my sister. He has such strong views on this, that we have twice visited our solicitor to talk about signing the house over to us. We have always been advised against this, for various reasons, but mainly that a)my sister is separated, amicably, but the solicitor sees this as a potential threat and b)my dad would no longer have a right to stay in his home if a family rift arose and we asked him to leave - over my dead body, but I understand where the solicitor was coming from. Anyway, is alzheimers a recognised illness that enables people, when the time comes, to go into a care home without losing the family house?

I know nothing about this disease, except my Grandmother (my Dad's mother) had it. She lived to 96, but didn't recognise us for most of our childhood years. I knew her for 15 years of my life, never got to know her and it's all so very sad.

What do you do first? Could this all just be an elderly man being forgetful? He leaves his oven on, sometimes, his door open, his pond filling up with a hose.... the list goes on, and I feel that I should call in a couple of times a day to see if he's OK.



Registered User
Jul 9, 2003
South Coast
Dear Jane

I can understand your concern as although your father's forgetfulness etc may be caused by a number of other conditions, you are clearly concerned that he may be in the early stages of Alzheimer's. Can you persuade him that it would be a good idea to have a "health check up" from his GP - especially with the winter coming on? You could have a word with the GP beforehand to tell him your concerns.

Your father sounds very independent and may or may not want you to go with him, or to let the GP tell you what he thinks after the appointment, but it is worth a try, and the GP may be able to persuade him that you should know if there is a problem.

It is is Alzheimer's, there are drugs which can help some people in the early stages, possibly by slowing the disease down for a while or even helping them to remain independent for longer. They don't work for everyone, but seem to help many people for a time at least. My understanding is that these drugs can only be prescribed on the NHS if there is a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, and only up to a certain stage in the progress of the disease. There is also another drug which may be of benefit in the later stages, but it is not available on the NHS in all areas of the country just yet.

If it does prove to be Alzheimer's there are sources of advice and support for both your father and for yourself as carer, via the NHS (my husband has a very helpful and supportive Community Psychiatric Nurse), from Social Services and from the Alzheimer's Society, and you should take every bit of support you can get to enable you to take care of your father as long as possible and as well as possible.

The main Alzheimer's Society website has loads of information on just about every topic you may have questions about.

Also, in the matter of having to sell his house to pay for care, this is a huge concern for many people who are affected by this disease and I have found that the Factsheets issued by Age Concern are extremely useful. Up to 5 Factsheets can be ordered free of charge from Age Concern England - do have a look at their website http://www.ageconcern.org.uk. I have found that their Factsheets 10, 20, 22, 39 and 40 deal in some detail with the issues you mentioned.

Also - has your father signed an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) to enable his financial affairs to be looked after by yourself and/or other members of the family in the event that he becomes incapable of dealing with things himself? One of the most useful pieces of advice we had (from the hospital) when my husband was still under investigation was that it should be done as soon as possible - it doesn't come into effect until necessary, but can save a great deal of trouble and expense if it is done now. The solicitor can only do this while your father is able to understand what he is doing. The Age Concern Factsheet Number 22 explains this in some detail.

Actually the EPA is really something we should all have drawn up, even if we are in good health, as it can save those around us an awful lot of trouble in the event that is ever needed - I am just having mine drawn up as it feels like a very sensible thing to do - you never know what may happen in the future!

The Citizen's Advice Bureau can also be very helpful regarding legal/financial advice.

I'm sorry - I'm not a lawyer, but I've found that you embark on a very rapid learning curve when a loved one gets this disease - so I apologise if I've got any facts wrong, but I'm just trying to pass on things I've found out from experience and from a number of other sources.

I can also understand what a very worrying and difficult time you are going through. There is no easy answer to that, and although I find that in my case I am helped by knowing as much as I possibly can about the disease, the medications, how best to care for my husband, support systems and networks and legal matters, it may not suit everyone to go down that path - this disease and how we cope with it affects everyone differently. But at least you will know from this forum that there are many concerns and feelings which we all have at times, and that it can help to share them with others.

I can only send you good wishes and kind thoughts, and hope that this rather long message may be of some help to you.

Kind regards



Registered User
Oct 17, 2003
Early Signs

The Alzheimers has much excellent advice about paying for care when a family member has Alzheimer's Disease. I think they would agree it is a very complicated subject and there have been many high profile cases where families have had payments refunded. It does seem to depend where you live (as usual) as to what sort of help with fees you can get, but I would not assume that your father would automatically get full NHS funding. There are many organisations that offer help and advice, I have also found Age Concern and Help the Aged. I am sure your local Social Service will work with you and your father to keep him independant for as long as possible by using Home Care, Day Care and such services as Crossroads.

My mother has just had to move into an EMI Nursing Home after living with us for 8 years (5 with Lewy Body Dementia although at the time we thought it was Parkinson's Disease). She has been diagnosed as being in the latter stages which was a shock because I had assumed the early stages she showed 4 - 5 years ago were just normal signs of aging. I have the funding issue most complicated and I'm afraid to say that I feel I have had very little help from bodies like Social Services on this aspect, what I have found out I have had to find myself. I do know that if there are large amounts of capital you can still purchase insurance plans at the time you need care to guarantee payments and safeguard remaining assest. Any homes that you are looking at should have details.