How do you decide what the best solution is when that decision concerns someone else? I’ve been thinking a lot about these questions since my Dad’s Alzheimer’s has gotten worse since this past March. My mind has been a swirl of thoughts, emotions, hope, and despair. I’ve wanted to write about this experience many times and have stopped myself. Yet, writing this blog about health and self nourishment helps me. Writing about my life whether good or bad is I believe, good for my health and nourishing to my soul. I always think that maybe one of my readers can relate to my own challenging experiences with Alzheimer’s. It sucks, I hate this beast of a disease.
For a few years after my Dad’s diagnosis of Dementia (about 10 years ago) which has progressed into Alzheimer’s he was aware that he was forgetting or the fact that he couldn’t understand why the memory just wasn’t in his mind anymore. He used to be able to hold a conversation and be okay around family gatherings, Currently, he becomes agitated during these gatherings and is unable to converse. He speaks very quietly or stays mute. When we Face Time I’ve learned to talk slower and to let him tell his stories even when I know he’s not making sense. I’ve gotten comfortable with his silence. It makes me very sad. His journey has been a long one and we’ve all watched as the man we all know and love has been disappearing right in front of us. If you have experienced someone who has this disease you will have witnessed what it is like. My Grandmother also was diagnosed with Alzheimers and passed from it. My experience with her was very sad too but when it’s your own parent the journey feels heavier.
Before the disease my Dad was very social, loved to golf , ride his bike, spend time outdoors and be with his family. I remember him as always laughing, joking and very curious about the world. He had an engineers mind and took pleasure in building with his hands. His eyes always sparkled with light and love, his face radiant. He no longer can do any of these activities his eyes dark, his body frail. Some times on a good day he’ll smile for a moment or dance with my Mom, his greatest love. As a family we’ll transition into this next phase of the disease by coming even closer together in support for one another.
For the duration of this journey my Mom has been his primary caregiver. My parents have been married for 50 years and have been a true testament of love and living life through thick and thin. Their relationship has been a great example for myself and my sisters and to all who have known them. In a sense my Mom has lost her partner and her best friend since my Dad’s diagnosis. He is no longer the man she fell in love with and married. How terrifying for them both. In the begininng he was forgetting, then he stopped taking care of their house, lost his ability to drive and interest in activities. For the most part his body was healthy and after a few surgeries it seemed harder for him to bounce back physically and finally, he has stopped actively engaging with others. Being responsible for herself and him has taken strength and courage but also has weighed heavily upon her. I’ve wondered how challenging it has been for her. As a caregiver, how do you take care of your partner while taking care of yourself? When do you decide what the next step is, how does one make decisions that are best for the other person?
I believe when you are faced with situations such as this, you do your best. Whatever that looks like to you. Rely on family to help you and pray for you. Recently in a moment of sadness I asked my sister to pray for me and I felt like this action helped me. After thanking her later she replied with this message. “Knowing that something greater is lifting you up and that others are taking our burdens to God for us is good medicine.” She went on to say, ” Yesterday I was speaking with my son about struggling and suffering and the place that it has in our lives. I told him that God is always there, trying to help us to grow and learn. Even in the dark times, there is something we can take from our suffering. It is our job to ask, why is this in my world? What do I need to see?” With this new perspective I ask myself the same questions.
So, my Dad will only continue to decline and this experience will continue to grow in weight for all of us. My Mom will be faced with many more decisions. The how’s will work themselves out. Asking others to pray or think good thoughts will help us along. This experience has reminded me time and again that love is powerful, community is necessary, making healthy choices for yourself is priority, don’t take life for granted, forgive, pray, and lastly tell those closest to you just how much they mean to you.
That is all for now.