By Angela Wittman
My father who suffers from Parkinson's and Alzheimer's Disease has been living with us since mid August of 2018. Our lives have a "new" normal and I hope that sharing my experiences with others in our position will benefit or at least help them to not feel alone while dealing with this disease.
First of all, let me lay some background for the reader: My father is 83 years old and lost his wife last summer. I'm not certain when he first began exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer's as we were estranged for many years. I suspect that he had been hiding it and that might be partly why he pushed me away.
Our estrangement began when he would make excuses why I should not visit (he and his wife lived approximately 3 hours away from my home.) The excuses would vary from the timing was bad as he and his wife would be out of town to they didn't have room for visitors. I knew there was a history of Alzheimer's Disease in our family, but I did not know he suffered from it until the last few years when his sister-in-law began contacting me to let me know how much Dad's health was declining.
When Dad's wife died they had both been admitted to a nursing home and I began visiting him on a regular basis. Eventually I obtained power of attorney for dad and decided he would be more content living with family than at the nursing home; I have medical assistant training and felt I could take care of him in our home and will continue to do so until he reaches a point where I believe I am not able to give him good care.
Here are some examples of how the disease has affected Dad:
- He no longer remembers my mother who he was married to for 22 years.
- He doesn't know what day it is nor does he remember after repeatedly being told the date.
- He doesn't remember when he has eaten, showered or taken his medication.
- He doesn't remember the name of my youngest son or when he has recently visited.
- He asks me about family members who have been dead for years - he thinks they are still living.
- He has mistaken me for his mother and often gets sassy - I take this as a compliment as it appears Grandmother was a moral woman.
- He tells us the same stories of his youth over and over again... But I am detecting changes in the stories, so his long-term memory is failing as well.
I think the worse part of this for me is remembering how he was and then seeing him as he is now. I often struggle with this dreadful disease as it seeks to completely take over not only my father's life, but mine and my family's, as well.
It makes me feel alone and that my father has become a stranger - who is this man who has lost all memory of important events and of the woman who bore me? I continually remind myself that it's the disease - not dad, but oh how personal this foe has become! I can only pray and grab moments to be with the Lord - yet I know He is always with me and will give me the strength needed for this task.
Friends, please pray for us as Dad progresses in this disease - and if you are a caregiver, please remember you aren't alone. I pray you will lean on the One who has been with you and will continue to be with you throughout all of your trials.