For John MacInnes, the beginnings of Alzheimer’s disease were startling. The
retired executive and former pastor in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., first realized
something was wrong as he was delivering a PowerPoint presentation to a
community group. “Then in mid-sentence, I had problems,” he says. “I had a
well-rehearsed script in front of me, but I couldn’t get the words right,
couldn’t get them out. That kind of shook me up.”
Memory loss and impaired thinking are hallmark symptoms of this disease. But
MacInnes was fortunate in one respect. He was diagnosed at an early stage,
which enabled him to take steps to cope with memory loss, organize his daily
life, and plan for his future by making his express wishes known to loved ones
who can carry them out.
I didn't know anything about Alzheimer's before my mother and
my stepfather developed it at roughly the same time in the spring of 2005. I
was living outside of Portland, Oregon; they were living in Mission, Texas.
They were 86 and 84, respectively. I had tried to talk them into moving to an
assisted-living community in Portland previously, but they always said they
were doing fine. So I was surprised when my mother called one morning out of
the blue and said, "We need help."
My husband and...
Shortly after that unsettling presentation, MacInnes, who was 80 years old
at the time, consulted his doctor. He was having trouble managing multiple
tasks, something he had always been able to do well. He also became confused
while driving in new areas. After being evaluated, he learned that he had
Alzheimer’s, a progressive brain disease that destroys brain cells and causes
memory loss, confusion, thinking problems, and personality changes.
Like many who receive an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, MacInnes felt fear and
sadness. “I went through that struggle for several weeks, feeling sorry for
myself and asking why did this have to happen to me? In the middle of that, I
wrote myself a little poem -- something I had never done before -- and I
titled it, ‘ALZ Is Not About Me.’ Looking back, that’s probably the point when
I began to concentrate on leaving self-pity behind me and focusing on learning
more about Alzheimer’s.”
As he writes in his poem, “My shining days may be dimming, for sure, but
life for me is not done/May God grant me peace, whatever those sunset days may
Despite his new attitude, the gradual loss of independence has been
frustrating, says MacInnes, now 82. For example, he can no longer drive long
distances, but must limit himself to short drives to familiar places.