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Health & Spirit

Most people won't confront a relative about Alzheimer's. This woman knew it was time

Alexia Diamond, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Health & Fitness

Cecilia Gray came home from work, only to smell the dreadful odor again. She knew just where it came from.

She walked through her living room and straight into the kitchen to find a pot on the stove coated with the burnt remains of food that had been cooking for hours.

She confronted her mother, Dolores Martinez-Graves, who had moved in with her family in Lee's Summit that February in 2016. How did this happen?

Martinez-Graves not only could not remember what she cooked, she did not even remember cooking that day at all.

It was a scene that played out several times, though these accidents never resulted in a fire -- "just burnt pots and pans," said Gray.

Gray noticed other changes in her mother's behavior. "She would start to put things in places they didn't belong -- like washing her cellphone."

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"I was scared for her and her safety," said Gray, glancing at her mother seated next to her on their couch on a recent afternoon. So she confronted her mother in a different way: She asked her mother's doctor to do a basic cognitive assessment. It was then at age 84 that Martinez-Graves was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

A survey by the Alzheimer's Association revealed that 9 out of 10 Americans experiencing memory loss would want others to tell them. Yet nearly 3 out of 4 Americans would feel reluctant to share those concerns.

Gray was different. She didn't wait to tell her mother she was worried. And after the diagnosis, the family tried to learn all about the disease.

"We started to educate ourselves because she had it long before we knew," said Gray. "It would've been different if she was diagnosed in her 60s."

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