Alzheimer’s Daughter introduces the reader to my healthy parents, Ed and Ibby, years before their diagnosis, then recounts painful details as our roles reversed and I became my parents’ parent.
Their disease started as translucent, confused thoughts and ended in a locked memory care unit after a near decade of descent into the opaque world of Alzheimer's.
I began writing Alzheimer’s Daughter one week after my mother's death––when I was stunned, realizing Dad had no memory of her or their 66-year marriage.
I write to pay tribute to the undying spirit at Ed and Ibby's core, and with the hope that the story of their parallel decline might be helpful to others.
Monday, June 22, 2015
Saturday, June 20, 2015
Months after Mom died, I attended a Father's Day picnic at the memory care unit where dad now lived alone.
The staff grilled burgers, hotdogs and produced an array of every food anyone would encounter at a down-home family reunion. Residents smiled and laughed at the happy hubbub. Staff members lovingly served each resident.
As entertainment, a country crooner belted out his one-man-band 1950s hits like, "Won't You Come Home, Bill Baily," and "Love Letters in the Sand."
Staff members coaxed residents who were mobile and could stand to get up and dance. Dad danced with me. I'll never forget that moment, the pure joy springing from him in this otherwise bleak situation. Dad held onto his joy and graciousness until the very end of life about 9 months later.
I coutinue to learn important lessons from him through reflection on his life.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Caregiver decisions are agonizing. Mom died five years ago, and Dad four, but I still second guess myself. Did I make the best decisions for them?
In my case, both of my parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease on the same day and declined hand in hand. Mom suffered broken bones and food poisoning while still living in their own home and Dad still believed he was a capable driver.
The picture above of them holding hands in front of their climbing red rose bush, with their clematis vine to the right side, reminds me of the pride they had in their yard and their small brick ranch home.
In talking with other caregivers, lingering guilt is a common thread. A loving adult child never wants to shoulder the responsibility of slowly stripping away the independence of parents who gave them everything.
Even as we try to convince ourselves we did the best we could to make decisions to keep them safe, guilt lingers.
The only way for me to counter that guilt is to honor them with pleasant memories.