Alzheimers disease continues to dominate our lives. I’m rarely the daughter anymore. I’m really just someone who seems familiar. Dad continues to lose ground. He isn’t as steady on his feet now and his sentences sometimes end up a garbled mess of non-words. In spite of it, he still loves to laugh and if I meet him in his world, he’s pretty happy.
I still have to make myself visit him and then feel guilty for feeling that way. My brother has found the balance and he sees Dad weekly and takes him out for a short ride. That works for him and is less depressing than sitting in the memory care unit with so many others just like Dad, or worse. Those visits give us a glimpse of the future and none of us want to go. .
I guess our biggest struggle has been in trying to help Mom learn to cope with Dad’s disease. At her age, it’s just hard for her to accept that he can’t get well. Her time with him is frustrating for her since she still thinks she can ask enough questions to draw him back into her reality. I cannot imagine how she must feel when the man she has loved for 64 years doesn’t recognize her and, can’t remember the milestones they’ve celebrated together.
Mom visits 3-5 times a week but the visits are growing shorter in length. She seems satisfied once she sees that Dad is clean and as okay as we can hope for. The problem comes when it’s time for her to leave. For weeks on end she left Dad with tears streaming down her face. She would prepare to leave and tell Dad she would see him tomorrow. Even now he is sharp enough to know (for a minute anyway) that he doesn’t want her to leave. And, he’s not shy about saying he doesn’t like them living in two different places. It tears my Mom’s heart into shreds.
My brother and I have learned that it’s easier for all concerned if you just tell a lie. It’s easy to tell Dad we’re going to the bathroom or to get a soda, and then just vanish. Before we can get to our car, he has forgotten we were there. He didn’t know us anyway so he can’t be mad at us. Mom has a hard time learning to lie to the man she’s been completely honest with for 64 years. But, yesterday was a monumental day. Mom called me and said that when she prepared to leave Dad, she told him she was going to get her hair done. He let her go without a fuss. That, is progress.
Today, I think it’s safe to say that Mom is learning to lie. Isn’t that a sad commentary on what Alzheimer’s disease does to families? Hardly a day goes by that I don’t think about the hard decisions we’ve made and how it must have felt for my Mom. She not only lost her husband to a horrible disease but she also lost the home and all the reminders of their life together there. Yes, I think of her a lot these days. I wrote about it once and I think it’s time to do it again.
So that’s it for now. We’re doing okay. If you’re facing the future with Alzheimer’s, you’ll be okay too. I promise. You’ll learn to be strong and you will learn to lie. It’s easier that way. So, my wish for you – that you will lie only when necessary and that all your lies will be harmless. It’s an art.