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My Life with Alzheimer’s

I had a happy childhood with parents who were intelligent, caring and available.  They met when she was 13 and he was fourteen.  It was obvious to anyone who spent time with them that they were still very much in love.  Dad worked long hours as the head of an accounting firm.  He was involved with local school boards for over twenty years.  Mom was a “stay at home Mom” who volunteered essentially full time for a local mental health center.  She ran their thrift store and served on the Board of Directors.  Dinner was a family affair – we were all expected to be at the table.  Conversations were always interesting, anything from national events, and politics to what marijuana is like.  As we aged our relationships grew.  There was nothing we couldn’t talk about.  They were always there for me and became the ideal parents.

It was really frightening when Mom became distant and quiet.  It took some time before we realized that she had Alzheimer’s.  She was in her early sixties – way too young for such a thing to happen.   Dad and I became a team working through the diagnosis, her anger and frustration, and planning ways to keep her happy and safe.  We had just arranged for someone to move in with them when she went in for relatively minor surgery.  Unfortunately she didn’t survive.  She was a few weeks short of her 75th birthday and their 54th anniversary when she died.

The whole experience of working through Mom’s Alzheimer’s brought Dad and me even closer than we had already been.  We solved all of the problems of the world and certainly of our family on more than one occasion.

After Mom died he was depressed. He sold the home they had lived in for 42 years within six months of her death.  He moved to their second home in upper Michigan a beautiful, but isolated place.  He started to drink more than he should.  More often than not when I called he was sitting on the porch wishing he had done more for Mom.

It took me awhile to realize that the problems Dad was beginning to exhibit where not just depression, but where the all too familiar signs of Alzheimer’s.

I have been caring for Dad now for over six years.  First from a distance as he lived in Michigan with a caregiver I had hired.  For the last four years in my own home.  We spend part of each summer in his home in Michigan and visit two of his other children regularly in Florida.

It is harder this time around because I don’t have my Dad to work through all of the decisions.

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