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How My Friendship With My Father Prepared Me to Be His Caregiver

How My Friendship With My Father Prepared Me to Be His Caregiver
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February 25, 2020
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Brandon Burke’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2015.

I didn’t have the closest relationship with my dad when I was growing up, but during my high school years, we began developing our relationship, which soon blossomed into a friendship. In my early adult years we took several trips together and strengthened our bond even further. Neither of us knew then how much those times together would mean to us or how they would prepare us for what was to come.

The Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s
Dad had always been strong, and even in that moment in March of 2015, when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he held himself together as best he could. 

I felt an overwhelming sense of helplessness. The confirmation of such a devastating diagnosis seemed insurmountable. In an instant, life changed for both of us.

So many questions popped into my head: 

“How does he feel? What kind of care will he need?”    
“How will this impact the rest of the family? Who is going to step up to help support him?”
“How long will it be before this disease robs him of all his faculties?”
“Will this happen to my siblings and me?”
 … And that’s just the short list.

Preparing for the Future
Suddenly, my family was thrust into developing a long-term care plan for the man we always looked up to as the leader. Being the eldest of his children and the only one living in close proximity, I automatically became second-in-line for all decisions after my stepmom, Kim. I remember feeling overwhelmed at the thought of all I was now responsible for. 

It has been almost five years since dad’s diagnosis, and it seems like with each passing week, things can change as quickly as a flash of lightning. 

Dad now lives at an assisted living facility, which is set up like a traditional, comfortable home with 24-hour care. I visit with him a few times a week, alternating days with other family members. 

What I’ve Learned
As expected, Dad’s cognitive functions are declining. In those moments, when I see him struggle, it can be very hard to watch. It’s mind blowing when you realize that the person who you once depended on for so much now depends on you in a way that you never imagined. 

Today, I choose to live in the moment with Dad; it’s much easier to live in the moment of his reality than to bring him into mine.

When I turned to the Alzheimer’s Association for help, the organization quickly became a place of refuge. The year my dad was diagnosed, my family began participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Washington, D.C. We have participated every year since. 

It’s been rewarding to know that we are doing something to make a difference for my dad, the millions of people living with Alzheimer’s disease and for those people who will inevitably be diagnosed in the future. I have hope for the day when no son or daughter has to face Alzheimer’s ever again. 

About: Brandon Burke lives in Suitland, MD. His 2019 Walk to End Alzheimer’s team surpassed their goal and look forward to their 2020 Walk to End Alzheimer's.

How are you involved in the fight to end Alzheimer's? Let us know in the comments.

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