11/07/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Erratic and Angry: Politics As Usual, or Early Alzheimer's?

A few weeks ago a friend and I were discussing, what else, politics and she said:
"McCain is sounding exactly like my Dad did in the earliest stage of his disease."

She was talking of the Alzheimer's disease her Dad had died from a year earlier. "When we looked back and doctors asked us about the earliest signs, we thought of how his dementia started to showed itself, She said. "He was always a very controlling personality and he would answer the same thing again and again. Then he would get angry as though we weren't asking him the right things. He would get very defensive and angry and John McCain behaved the exact same way in his interview the other day."

That spooked me. Now I keep hearing of his 'erratic' behavior. His behavior does remind me of the reports I would hear from families I worked with when their relatives with dementia would get admitted to the psychiatric unit of the hospital. I spent hours with families helping them adjust to the changes going on, what they needed to understand about the progression of the illness, and what signs they noticed before things got to this point.

Frequently in families where the patient had been a strong, often successful individual, accustomed to having people listen to their direction, it was the most difficult adjustment. For the patient, the loss of their power to affect others and have others listen to them, sparked tremendous anger. Everyone else was wrong. Great defense against the losses they couldn't let themselves feel.

Whether John McCain has early Alzheimers or not, will come out. In time. It is at times hard to tell the difference between a politician fighting hard and holding onto sound bites that they are coached to maintain, and a tangential, early Alzheimers patient who insists on their version of reality.

I shudder to think though that this country might be gambling on a man who is so clearly vulnerable. We could all be hailing Palin as President. Perhaps the craziness is closer than we can imagine.

Keep observing closely. Don't use your powers of rationalization keep you from noticing the behavior of a Presidential Candidate under tremendous pressure. The early signs can be deceiving.

Only time will tell.

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