Waking on this World Alzheimer’s Day, I hear Momma mewling through the wall. A bed rail and a body pillow keep her tucked beside my father who still, by the grace of this morning, sleeps. It is 5:00 am. My husband cares for Momma while I begin the morning preparations. When two hours pass, I wake Dad gently – lifting the blinds a crack, letting in the slightest beam of day.
“Good morning Poppa. Medicine time.”
“Thank you Baby.” He swallows the pills down. “Thank you Honey. Thank you.”
“Go back to sleep for half an hour,” I encourage him. “I’ll wake you for breakfast.”
After the time passes, I go to him again.
“Rise and shine!”
I help him to dress, lead him to the table, and we drink coffee together, listen to opera tunes. By 8:30 am the white van arrives. I walk Dad to the door, watch him recede. He is off to The Tender.
Back at the top of the steps, I glance toward Momma now slumped in her chair. Her soft face is crumpled, oblivious.
The video above was created by a local company – Holman Automotive – to show their employees how the money they donate to the United Way is spent. My dad and I are featured in the first 2 minutes (then again towards the end) sharing our love for The Tender, his day program. The Tender receives partial operating support thanks to the United Way Impact Fund. But it’s not enough! Truly, I do not know how we would have made it through the last 3 years without The Tender. As Momma declines more rapidly than Dad, every new day of him witnessing her discomposure reopens a fresh wound in his memory. The Tender is a place where he finds respite from our daily heartache. It is a place where he can be fully himself. It is a place where he is loved, engaged, and supported. I want desperately, I need desperately for places like this to continue to exist. Thank you for being here with us and sharing in our story.
Always thinking of your family. I talk with co workers about you. When I listen to the pettiness around me of people that think they have struggles, I talk about you and your family even though I do not know you. I pray for you and for peace for your mom and dad and for a calm and loving household. What you do is amazing. It will stay with you forever. It changes you as a person forever. How could it not. !
I am so incredibly touched Brian. I will talk about you too and your kind words that bring me so much strength. Thank you.
This video! This story!! This beautiful heart that always touches me always, always always… I’m thinking of you guys an this special day!
I don’t know how to put into words how I feel after viewing this, Elizabeth. Only tears in my eyes thinking of how privileged I am to know someone like you. What you are giving your parents is indescribably beautiful. And what you are doing to make the public aware of what life is like for individuals with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers is invaluable. You are making a difference.
Elizabeth, Thank you for sharing this with us. I also know the heartbreak of having both parents diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Watching my Mom struggle with it was unbelievably difficult for me. Thankfully my Dad refused to put Mom into any type of facility and he chose to provide my Mom with all the care she needed. Which included lifting her up and out of the wheelchair she needed and Dad was in his mid seventies then, so it wasn’t such an easy thing for him to do. The love my Mom and Dad shared in the 56 years of marriage was what drove my Dad to do such an unbelievably good job. My Mom passed away in her sleep in 2008. It wasn’t but a few years later that my Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s as well, but sadly he doesn’t have my Mom to care for him and ease his worries. My sister’s and I have also refused to put him into any type of facility and he still lives at the home my Mom and him built some 25 years ago. Being there keeps the memories of my Mom easier to remember for him. Elizabeth I don’t know if you’ll read what I’ve written here, but if you do I want you to know that the hurt I feel now is pushing me closer to the edge and I honestly don’t know how much longer I can go on. If you, or anyone who might read this has any advice or suggestions, please, I would greatly appreciate them. Thank you and God Bless
Dear Doug, I am so so sorry for the pain this disease has caused in your life. I have days when I feel so much despair I can barely catch my breath to imagine how to get to the next moment. I feel as if I’m being eaten alive by a greedy and unrelenting monster. I don’t know what to say besides to tell you that my heart aches for you, that I feel your hurt, that I’m sorry. I’m not sure whether you’re hoping for practical support in the form of resources to help with the care load, for inspiration to get through your days, or maybe for someone to listen and understand your heartbreak. So much love to you.
Elizabeth, Thank you very much for your kind words. It is comforting to know that there is someone else who knows the heartbreak, pain, and sadness this horrible disease causes not only in the lives of our loved ones who struggle each and every day with it, but in those like us who love them with everything in us. The cruelty of this disease has caused my Dad so much pain. After providing all the care and love my Mom needed when she was struggling with Alzheimer’s, his thanks has been that he now is going through all that the love of his life went through not all that long ago. As I said in my reply to your thoughtful post, my Dad lives in North Carolina in the house he and my Mom built that they had planned to enjoy the last years of their life in, but I live in Pennsylvania, nearly ten and half hours away by car. The distance that separates us has only increased my depression. I have made two attempts in the past year to move down there to be with him and help with anything he needed, but he’s at the stage where he’s extremely argumentative and angry and he has thrown me out of his home both times. I have a sister who lives about 30 minutes away from my Dad with her own family, but the strain of being there and caring for him has caused her to have a heart attack and now I worry about her having another one. We do have caregiver’s down there who come in twelve hours a day to be with him, but because of his being so angry he has thrown quite a few of them out of his home as well and we’re now running out of caregiver’s who will even come in for him. Elizabeth, I have read almost all that you’ve written and from the very first one, I thought to myself what a special lady you are. I’m envious of your strength in the face of what I know to be an overwhelming battle. The fact that you offered your inspiration and an ear to listen to my heartbreak, when you yourself are suffering the same heartbreak, brought tears to my eyes when I read those words. You are indeed a very special lady and I can’t find the words to adequately thank you for the love you sent. You have all of mine as well. You have been, and will continue to be, in my prayers.