We turned a corner yesterday when we came to terms with the reality that there is a stranger in our house. For the past four years, he didn’t really act like my Dad but he sure looked like him. I was comfortable calling him my “other Dad”. It wasn’t so bad having two Dads. They both remembered my childhood but neither of them could remember that I visited yesterday. I didn’t mind that so much.
So what changed, you ask? We finally got tired of fighting with my Dad to shave and wear his new denture. That’s the way it is with Alzheimer’s disease. In the Alzheimer’s brain, those things get lost in the fog. They no longer matter. In fact, they don’t even exist, not in the Alzheimer’s world. Our family will give in to this phase of my Dad’s disease. We won’t fight it anymore and will let it take my Dad and turn him into an old man with a face full of hair and no lower teeth.
For months we fought it, thinking that to give in would rob my Dad of his dignity but we have finally realized that we cannot win this fight. Alzheimer’s will win and a stranger will be living in our house and sleeping with our mother. But that will soon change too I’m afraid. No, I’m not afraid. I’m terrified. Alzheimer’s is stealing my Dad, bit by bit. And dignity? It’s no longer something we can worry about because Alzheimer’s has already stolen the part of my Dad that cared about his dignity. He is still loving and happy but that is all that remains of the Dad I knew.
We will live with the stranger as long as it is possible to maintain health and hygiene. We will continue to love him and reassure him of our love. It won’t ease the pain of losing Dad but it will help us to continue this journey, one day at a time.