I haven’t written in a while. The reasons vary but mostly it was because things with my Dad were status quo. For a couple of months we had no major problems and his mental status remained fairly stable. As I write that, I find myself amused at how different my idea of “stable” is now, compared to what it was before the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
A quick look back at the last two months might be in order. Dad continues to lose memories. He’s lost his ability to concentrate on any task and has no interest now in television or books. His sentences sometimes come out as a jumble of words that don’t fit together and he doesn’t tolerate crowds or loud noises well. In the early afternoon, he starts sundowning and gets very agitated – easily. And, he cusses like a sailor, which is so unlike the Dad I have known that it’s shocking sometimes.
So, you are probably asking why I am writing today. Well, about two weeks ago, Dad started wandering. Wandering makes him a risk for the assisted living facility so they have told us that he has to move to the “secure” memory care unit. My Dad, the man who set the example for trust and responsible living, has to live behind doors that are locked 24 hours a day. He has to be separated from the wife he has been with for 64 years; the woman he brought back from a debilitating stroke with his tender care and love. It is heartbreaking to even think about it.
As a family, we understand this decision but it does not make it any easier. Tomorrow morning, an aid will escort my Dad to his new room. He will be introduced to a room mate he won’t remember and he will spend his day looking for his wife. That’s just what he does. She is his security and she won’t be there to comfort him or ease his fear. In fact, it may be days or even weeks before she is allowed to visit him. Until he adjusts, we have been advised not to visit.
We are not the first to face this challenge and we won’t be the last. Until there is a cure for Alzheimer’s, this will be the story for millions of families. This is a disease that forces families to make painful decisions while watching their loved one fade away into the mental fog. It takes strength and courage and trust and thankfully, we have all three.
To all who have been there ahead of us, my heart aches for you. For those who will follow in our footsteps, I hope that we can be a source of courage. I hope we are as strong as I think we are.