How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Realization About Dad's Alzhiemer's

It was nice to get away from the real world for a while, but now I am back in the real world and trying to adjust.  That’s the bitch about leaving the real world: sooner or later one has to return to it.

Mom has a sitter for Dad now who comes to stay a few days a week so Mom can take off for a little while.  Mom came over today. We were sitting on the porch when a neighbor phoned and said she saw my dad walking toward the railroad tracks.  That’s a good quarter mile from the house. Mom called the sitter on her cell and the sitter said she was keeping an eye on dad. About seven minutes later the phone rang again and the sitter said she didn’t know where dad was. Mom bolted out of the front porch chair and took off in her car.  Not long after she left Mom phoned me and said a neighbor had seen dad at Bohannon’s, a building supply store on the highway across from the tracks, and the neighbor had brought Dad home.

Mom wants Dad to go into Emory University geriatric unit for a full evaluation on an inpatient basis for a week or two. I think she is seeking permission to start thinking about placing Dad into full time permanent care. Her sense of duty and guilt preclude her making the decision on her own; she needs affirmation and support that she is doing the right thing, from the doctors, the counselors, the family. I will support whatever she decides. After all, it is not me who can’t get a good night’s sleep because dad is up and down out of bed four or five times a night. It’s not me he argues with about taking his belongings and hiding them. It’s not me who has to go behind him pushing in drawers and closing closet doors over and over again because he is fixated on plundering.  It’s not me who has to make him take daily medications. It’s not me who has to help him dress or shave. It’s not me who has to make sure he eats and assists him in eating.  It’s not me he yells at and takes his frustrations out on. It’s not me who has to watch him every minute to try and intervene when he can’t do a task as simple as putting ice in a glass.  It’s not me who has to go behind him and make sure bathroom water facets aren’t left running.

And, really, my mom won’t be placing Dad anywhere because my Dad isn’t here anymore.  I find myself talking about him in the past tense: “Dad used to love the song “Silver Wings” or “Dad used to watch Andy Griffith every evening”. But then again, he’s not totally gone, only the part that made him who he was is gone. His body is still here.  He still hugs me.  He can still say my name. He still knows who I am.  And I talk about him in the past as if have already buried him. 

I have to struggle to keep my feelings of betrayal at bay. I can’t betray him any longer. The man who I loved, my Dad, has been gone for a while.  He knew he was leaving when, three years ago, he told  me he could hear a whisk broom in his head sweeping across his brain.  He knew he was leaving when he begged me not to let his Alzheimer’s exhaust and kill my mom. He knew he was leaving when he told me to make sure he was placed somewhere when the time came.  He just didn’t say how I’d know when it was time. And I have come to realize, it is not my decision. Dad placed far too much responsibility on me because ultimately it is Mom’s decision, not mine. She is an adult. She knows where the line is. I have to leave it in her hands.  This isn’t my journey, but hers.  All I can offer are brief sojourns from her burdens, my love, and a listening ear.


  1. I am Teri’s husband. I’m a type A personality, and a former Marine Captain. That means I want to take control and to fix things. I can’t fix anything. I watch and cry and hurt so bad for my wife and mother-in-law who I love very much. I can’t stand to see the pain and agony and fear they go through every minute of the day. I rarely see my mother-in-law laugh and smile – her trade mark. I don’t fully know how to relate to watching your spouse and lifelong mate or your parent die the most horrible death you can imagine.

    I thought it was hard to watch my mother die of cancer. That was nothing in comparison. There is no dignity in this dying process. It effects the family as they have to combat their emotion; understandably the stress causes anger and snapping at each other. Their love for each other results in hugs and forgiveness as they realize that they are looking for an outlet to release their tension. I know that this is a very loving family that works hard every day to support each other.

    It is somewhat easier for me – if that can be the word to describe it, as it just does not sound right or true – to sit back a little and try to see things a little more objectively. That is the way I can try to help my family. I try to make an environment where maybe they can think a little more clearly to make decisions. I don’t know if it really does any good or if I am really helping them. I try as it is the only thing I know to do. But it does not take away my pain and agony as I see what my family is going through.

    It helps me some to talk to friends of mine that have watched one of their parents die from Alzheimer’s. It gives me some insight to what I can expect to happen. Knowledge always helps me to cope.

    Alzheimer’s sucks. You cannot cure it or stop it. All you can try to do is give comfort to the one inflicted and maybe some dignity. You support each other in the family. I hold my wife as much as I can, express my love to her, and try to make a safe place for her to let her emotions flow out. She tries to keep too much bottled in. I wish I could be better at this.

    I’ve only been talking about Teri – my wife and Faye – my mother-in-law and the rest of family. I do love Jimmy, my father-in-law, but he is not the one I can help. I am glad that I got to know him before he was ravaged with this disease. I know what a great man he was before this all started. I do and will always have some great memories of him. Knowing him, it is so easy to understand the loss that the family is going through.

    I love you Teri and Faye, I hope that I am providing some level of comfort to you.

  2. and this, world,is only one reason why I consider Jim Adams to be a true man. He is the best part of who I am. He is my heart.