Alzheimer's Daughter

The Story

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.

Chapter 11- The Meeting

* * *
March 20, 1944
My Dearest Wife,
We had such a wonderful time when I was home. I didn’t even care to eat sometimes. I don’t know how often I mentioned it, but I’m sure you know how pretty you look. I’m so proud of you. I always liked your features and I love your manners; you’re so sweet. Really, you have made me the happiest guy in the world. Now that we are married everything is almost perfect. I can’t wait till summer when you come to stay. 
Forever and ever,
Your loving husband,
* * *
By the end of November of 2008, I was asked to attend a meeting at Lakeview Reserve about the welfare of my parents. After explaining the afternoon lessons to a substitute, I left work early to begin the drive to my 1:00 p.m. appointment. As a teacher, I’d called many conferences relating to student welfare. Those meetings with families nearly always stemmed from a concern about lack of achievement. In my frame of reference, being summoned to a meeting was a sign that things were not going well. I had a sinking feeling. I’d spoken to Annette, and clarified she’d take part via speakerphone. Entering the lobby, I was instructed by the receptionist to find my contact person, whom I’d never met, at the second floor nurse’s station. My contact greeted me with a businesslike handshake and led me to a conference room where six staff members, ranging from medical professionals to social workers and business managers, were already seated around a large table with a speakerphone in the middle. All attendees introduced themselves, giving their titles, and we quickly dialed Annette’s number. As the phone rang, and my pulse quickened, the thought that I was outnumbered six to one ran through my mind. I reeled back through parent-teacher conferences where parents must have felt the same foreboding flooding me at this moment.
Each professional introduced herself again, now to Annette. Then, starting around the table, each person gave facts, figures, and data as to why the environment at Lakeview Reserve was not working for Ed and Ibby.
The meeting is a blur in my memory, but the overarching thought in my mind was, “OK, how are we going to work together to fix this?” As we continued the meeting, I slowly began to realize the staff was trying to be compassionate, skirting around the real issue––or perhaps I was blocking out what they were really saying. Two-thirds of the professionals spoke before I realized they were telling me my parents would have to move out.
This facility had no secure, locked unit for Alzheimer’s patients. All hallways looked identical; therefore Ed and Ibby couldn’t find their way around the building. A person could get off the elevator on the third floor and think they were on the first floor. Often Ed and Ibby could not locate the dining hall. They no longer had the ability to tell time and were frequently late or early for dinner, sometimes even appearing a second time within an hour because they’d forgotten they’d just eaten. Mom and Dad were disoriented and could no longer remember whether to turn left or right, or recall their own apartment number. They became repeatedly lost and wandered within the facility, entering other people’s apartments, confused as to why strangers and unfamiliar things were in ‘their’ apartment.
Even with the move to the assisted living area, the aides were too short staffed to adequately care for Mom and Dad’s ever-increasing needs. There was no way to monitor them twenty-four/seven. I was given the names of three senior living facilities that had locked Alzheimer’s units.
The logical part of me understood Mom and Dad were no longer safe, and I was thankful Lakeview Reserve was ultimately concerned enough to be honest with me about the need to move Ed and Ibby to a more secure facility but I was heartbroken. I knew Annette and I would feel as though we had broken our promise that Mom and Dad could live out their lives at Lakeview Reserve.

On my way home, I called Annette to tell her we had no choice but to move Mom and Dad. Annette and I talked about The Lodge, the facility I’d visited two and a half years earlier with Mom and Dad after she broke her arm. At that time, the residents seemed more progressed in the aging process than Ibby and Ed. We felt this was our best option. 

We held our breath, crossed our fingers, and prayed that they’d have room for Mom and Dad. I felt petrified and physically ill at the thought that I might have to move Mom and Dad to my house until we could find a locked unit for them. I didn’t sleep that night––my thoughts reeling––I’ll to take Family Medical Leave…What will I do with all of the possessions from their two bedroom apartment in the midst of moving them into my home?