Dr. Mehmet Oz has made a career offering medical advice to audiences nationwide as host of “The Dr. Oz Show.” Now, he’s opening up about a diagnosis that hits close to home.
The 59-year-old spoke with People about his mother’s Alzheimer’s disease — as well as the guilt he feels for not spotting her disorder sooner.
Oz described his mother’s diagnosis as a “gut punch” that left him “frustrated and mad,” in the People article published Monday,
“I’m feeling guilty because I completely missed the signs until fairly late in the process,” he said.
According to Mayo Clinic, Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder in which brain cells waste away and die. The result is a decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills, that impacts one’s functional independence. Though there is no cure for the disorder, certain lifestyle practices may lower one’s risk of having the disease develop.
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I recently found out that my mom, Suna, has Alzheimer’s disease. Hearing the official diagnosis was devastating. But just as painful for me was the realization that the signs were there all along — I had just been overlooking them. . When my mom’s stubbornness increased, I simply blamed it on her getting older. My sister noticed she started doing her makeup differently for the first time in 60 years, but kept it to herself. When my mom started giving some of her belongings away to people she barely knew, I thought she was just trying to lighten her load following my father’s passing. But these seemingly subtle changes were in fact the first indicators of Alzheimer’s. . It was painful to admit that my mother’s health was declining, but doing so allowed us to get her help as soon as possible. You have the power to speak up and say something if you suspect any of the above symptoms in a loved one. Doing so may be uncomfortable, but it just might help slow down the Alzheimer’s progression in someone you love. Visit the link in my bio to read my mom’s story, and to learn the 6 early symptoms you should never ignore. . . . #endalz #mom #❤❤ #love #droz
The first signs of Alzheimer’s, Oz said, can be tricky to spot.
“If the right word was, ‘You look beautiful today,’ she would use, ‘You look pretty prettier today.’ I missed those clues,” he said. “Alzheimer’s is like a snake in the grass. You don’t see it. You only see the effects of it suddenly. And if there’s a wind blowing the grass, you don’t even notice the grass moving strangely. It sneaks up on you.”
After seeing his mother Suna grow more and more stubborn, Oz brought her in for testing, and doctors diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s, People reports. The outlet adds Suna now lives in her home country of Turkey with Oz’s sister.
“She’s aware, but she’s forgetting some things,” Oz said of his mother. “Daphne [my daughter] had a baby girl 20 days ago and I called mom to tell her. She knows Daphne, but she couldn’t quite process that Daphne had a child.”
Oz said he believes he could’ve caught on to his mother’s disorder sooner.
“The worst lies are the ones we tell ourselves,” he said. “Everyone in my family probably could’ve figured this out, myself included. But my wishful thinking was that it was just mom being a little bit older, she’s stressed out, my dad was ill. And so we lost our truth.”
Oz also described how having a loved one with Alzheimer’s can feel like a loss in itself.
“These are not normal things from my mom. And that’s the most painful part of this whole process because I end up losing my mom twice,” he said. “The woman that I love whose bright eyes were there for every experience I’ve ever had as a child — those eyes are starting to dim. The light that that made her who she was is starting to go out.”
He added: “As she stops knowing what I’m talking about, as her memories evaporate, she stops being my mom. And then her body will still be there, and obviously I love that body, but it won’t be the same as loving my mom. And then years later you actually bury the person.”
The journey of his mother’s diagnosis came with another shocking discovery: Oz carries an Alzheimer’s gene himself.
“That was shocking,” he said. “I guess you don’t expect it. But from my perspective, my mom gave me a great set of cards to play life with and she taught me how to play those cards. But she gave me one bad card and I can’t throw that card away, I’m stuck with it.”
Though the story of his mother’s Alzheimer’s is a personal one, the TV personality shared her diagnosis on the season premiere of his show Monday, Sept. 9, according to a trailer on his website.
“I know that there are millions of other people like me, who probably feel guilt the way I do, knowing that if we could have figured this out earlier I could have intervened a little bit,” he said.
Despite her difficult diagnosis, Oz said he cherishes all his mother has done.
“I’m thinking about how much she’s accomplished in her life and what a pleasure it was having her as my mom,” he said. “I am able to do what I do because of her.”