After a while, one starts to wonder just how many times a human can ask the same question. And then, one starts to wonder how many times it can be answered the same way – verbatim. Mostly though, one wonders how to stop it. It’s maddening. It’s exhausting. It’s…Alzheimer’s!
Mom and Dad have been in their new assisted living home for eleven days. It has been a great change for Mom. In such a short time, the staff has fallen in love with her and she is the first to arrive at any activity offered by the staff. She’s been on van rides, played bingo, listened to a gospel quartet, and more. The woman who could barely get dressed in the morning is the fashion icon of her new community and she hasn’t had her afternoon nap since she arrived. She’s just too busy.
Dad, is another story. He has gone from thinking he is in a hotel to thinking Mom is in the hospital. And through it all, he is stuck on one question – “is this my house?” Actually, that’s not completely accurate. He is also stuck on “this ain’t my house”, “where are my clothes?”, “is my car here?” and “how do I get home from here?”- over and over and over again. Thirty minutes with him seems like an eternity.
The staff tells us he will eventually adjust. We wonder. One of the other residents told me yesterday that she doesn’t know how my mother remains so patient. I laughed. My Mom is anything but patient. My brother and I worked so hard to make Mom and Dad’s room look and feel like home. We filled the walls with familiar pictures and things that mattered to both of my parents. Although we purchased new beds, we used their old familiar chairs, dresser, chest of drawers and tables to help ease the transition for Dad. It didn’t.
Two days into the move Dad became very agitated and we had to increase his dose of Seraquel. It helped but now, he cries – a lot! And the worst thing that has come from the move is that my Dad seems to have lost the part of his brain that knew my brother. He knows he has a son but doesn’t recognize him when he visits. That broke my heart. My brother is a good man and he has worked so hard to make this move happen. It rips my heart out when my Dad looks at him and says “Do I know you?” My brother says he understands and that it’s okay. It’s not okay – not with me. He deserves so much more than to be erased from his father’s memory.
After only eleven days, I am now having to talk myself into visiting. I’ve been there all but one of he eleven days but I catch myself dreading it and looking for a good excuse not to go. It isn’t fair to Mom though, to punish her for something none of us can control. And so, I will put on my happy face and I will go again today. I owe them this and I don’t want to live with regret. I won’t let this monster (Alzheimer’s disease) keep me away from the people who loved me when I was unlovable and who have always been there for me. My Dad raised me to never back away from a challenge. I won’t disappoint him even though I know that today could be the day when his memory of me is erased.
If you wonder why I write it is for one reason only. Until there is a cure for this insidious disease, we have to help each other face the difficulties it brings. So many others have reached out to me, shared their experience and stories and helped me to understand that I am not the first to feel these things. They have helped me to understand that we are not alone facing the monster. I am grateful for their kindness and hope that our experience will help someone in the same way. That, is why I write.