By Rick Phelps
Did you know it was dementia?
I used to work for Peabody Coal Company. I was a chemist there. It sounds way more important than it actually was.
I was also in law enforcement, private security and EMS for over 24 years. My wife and I owned and operated a private investigation business.
We also had a body removal business. We were contracted by many funeral homes to do in-home body removals and transfers to the funeral home, morgue, wherever.
We had many accounts and did many out-of-state transfers. We employed about six people. I always thought people would say, "I always wondered who did this service."
I also was an investigator for the State of Ohio for severely handicapped people. I had six county areas here in Ohio that I was responsible for. It was my job to go to the facilities, day cares, home visits and such, and make sure that standards were being met.
All employees there were up to date on their training. I was also in charge of all investigations dealing with crimes against the patients. Be it theft of their meds, sex crimes, theft of personal items, abuse by staff, abuse by patients to staff, and on and on.
It was while doing this job I realized I could no longer do what I could before. I was fine when it came to investigating crimes and such because I had done this for years in law enforcement.
It was indeed in my long-term memory. The problem I was encountering was doing the needed reports to the State. They gave me a computer to use, which was a PC. I had always used MAC computers, and I simply could not learn the new format. I didn't know why, but it just wasn't going happen.
In time, I went to my supervisor repeatedly and explained to him that I just couldn't understand how to do the reports. He said it will come, given time.
He was trying to help me, but as always, he didn't understand. Six months into the job, I was a total wreck due to stress over not understanding what I was doing, and stress of the job in general.
At 3:00 am one morning, I got out of bed and was getting dressed. Phyllis June asked me, "What are doing, it's 3:00 am?" I told her I was taking the computer, phone and all my reports to the office, turning them in and quitting.
That decision was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Now, of course, I know why I couldn't understand or learn the PC format. But I had no idea then; no one did.
I knew something was wrong. Like I tell everyone, you will know if you have some sort of dementia. It's not like forgetting where you put your car keys.
It's like having them in your hand and not knowing what to do with them . . .
Editor's note: Rick's journey with Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease was chronicled in "Fade to Blank: Life Inside Alzheimer's," an in-depth look at the real lives of families impacted by the Alzheimer's epidemic. His story continues on his personal blog on AgingCare.com.