I lost my dad two years ago to Alzheimer's, and my stepdad now suffers with this terrible disease. As a caregiver to my dad for two years, I would have to say that it was probably the most stressful time of my life.
I always said I would not put my parents in a facility but would take care of them in our home. I was married for two months when I received a call from Social Services telling me that my dad was in custody of a guardian and that if I wanted to come get him, I would need to go to court. That's another story, but it's sad when can't help your parents out in their time of need.
My dad lived 14 hours from us, and we saw him a couple of times a year. Over time, we noticed him forgetting things when he talked and always telling us that he would think of it later. Who knew these were the first signs?
His condition worsened over a winter where he basically confined himself to the outside. He lost a lot of weight before the neighbors reported something wrong with him. After going to court, he came to live with us.
Various stages of his behavior occurred over the next two years. Denial was the first stage: Why is this happening to me? Hostility was the second stage, but that didn't last too long. The third stage was massive confusion, and he was very paranoid. During the fourth stage, he became pretty mellow and slowed down.
My dad had always been in such great shape. I took him to the doctor one day because one of his feet kept swelling. There was a very large blood clot in his leg. After spending time in the hospital, an eruption from a small vessel in his brain burst and caused major issues that eventually led to his death.
My dad's living will expressed that he did not want to go on life support. I really believe this was God's way of taking him home so that he did not have to suffer with Alzheimer's any longer.
As far as my stepdad, my mom takes care of him. I offered them the option to move in with me and that I would help as best I could. She feels that keeping him in his environment is the best thing right now.
He has had Alzheimer's for about eight years and is on medication. My mom works during the day, and he stays at home. She doesn't know how long she can do this, though. She is past retirement age by far, but this gets her out of the house. He reads, and she keeps him busy with chores. She has to leave many notes. His short-term memory is really bad; he can't remember from minute to minute but can remember long term. He can also recall pictures and recognizes most people he knows. He does go through sundowning in the evening, so my mom tries to make sure he is home then.
I wish there was a cure for this disease, and I pray that nobody else in my family gets it. I think cancer is easier to overcome than this. To all the families out there with a family member with Alzheimer's, you are very special people. It takes patience, love, family and God to make it through the bad days, and smiles and joy on the good days.
If anyone is struggling out there and needs someone to write to, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.