Thursday, July 6, 2017

"How Is Your Dad?"

I think the question I get the most is “how is your Dad?” Which is a valid question. And I am often stumped on how to answer. Do you want me to say “fine.” To avoid going in to detail and so we can both check off the social etiquette box. Or should I give you the real and depressing truth. And do I want to have that conversation. It takes an emotional toll to keep repeating the same depressing truth. 

Because of my personality I tend to go with the depressing truth. Not because I want the asking party depressed but because I believe in not sugar coating the reality.
So how is Fred?

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Well, he has Alzheimer’s. This is a degenerative disease, so things get worse, never better. But it is also very inconsistent. There are days where he is totally confused, there are other days where is spot on and you see much of Fred.

What really scares me is Alzheimer's or premature senility, losing that ability to read and enjoy and to write. And you do it, and some days maybe aren't so good, and then some days, you really catch a wave, and it's as good as it ever was.     
Stephen King

Dad recognizes those in the house and people that he has interacted on a regular basis for most of my life. But he slowly starting to mix up names. He sometimes forgets the house we live in is home. He will almost instantaneously forget something you just told him. As a result you answer the same question over and over. One day he was asking Mom how much they had to pay per night to stay at the house. Another day he asked if we were going to eat dinner (every meal is dinner) we joked and said there is no food in the house, he turned to me and said, “think you’re funny do ya?!”

He no longer has appropriate emotional reactions. Sometimes when people are being very serious he’ll start laughing, other times when people are laughing he’ll start crying.

Since March he has had 3 what the hospital called “syncopial episodes.” AKA he passed out. However what doctors weren’t getting was after these episodes his cognitive and physical abilities DROPPED significantly for 2-10 days. Then he’d slowly get better, but he has never gotten back to where he was functioning before. Since March he has started to need a walker for out of the house. He moves a lot slower and unsteady, we typically leave 5min or so earlier now to get to where we want to go.  We recently saw his neurologist who we love (it was great when Mom asked if she could ask unrelated questions. He said wait till the end, Mom pouted and was about to argue. She said she is a teacher and used to getting her way, his response. “You’re in my hood now!” I was laughing so hard). He believes they were most likely seizures. Which he is more prone to now, something I did not know! 
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Enjoying the fireworks

Overall Dad is following the “typical Alzheimer’s path” accept one thing. There is somethings about Fred that Alzheimer’s has not robbed us of. His smile. His pure love. His sense of humor.

Many persons with Alzheimer’s become agitated and hard to deal with. Constantly yelling or arguing. Not Fred. He laughs, he gives you a big smile when he sees you, he’ll ask how are you. He is still the same easy-going Fred.

Now don’t get me wrong, he isn’t always compliant. He recently got dismissed for a day group, why? He wasn’t following directions. Part of it is probably comprehension. But the other part is Fred doesn’t want to go sit and do arts and crafts. He recently just walked out of the house, Mom was yelling his name and he just waved and kept on walking. Don’t tell me that’s because he didn’t understand!

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But again, he waved and basically said “peace out suckers!” versus the yelling and screaming that many other families see.
See why it can be so much easier to just say “fine.”?

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The longest day of the year is also Alzheimer’s Awareness Day. The longest day is about love, love for the persons that are fighting or have fought this incurable disease. I made a couple of facebook posts thinking people would be like “oh that’s cool.” Hit the like button and continue to scroll. I was surprised how many people wore purple (Alzheimer’s color) and a few even donated to research.

Alzheimer's disease locks all the doors and exits. There is no reprieve, no escape.
Patti Davis

The love and support from family and friends has been amazing. People have come to hang out with Dad so we can run a quick errand or simply just have a break.

To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.
Tia Walker

So if you ask me “how is your Dad?” and I pause, know this is all going through my head. And know that if I do say “fine” it is because I want to check off that social etiquette box and leave it at that. 

The thing about Alzheimer's is that it's it's sort of like all these little, small deaths along the way, before they actually physically die.     
Lucinda Williams


  1. My grandpa died of Alzheimer's when I was in middle school. He was in his late 70s. But I felt like I lost him much earlier than that, because he didn't know who I was, and he was angry whenever I was with him. You're right that it's dying before dying, or a thousand little deaths of personality traits and memories. It's so sad. I'm far away, but I think of you. I got to see your dad and mom a few months ago. They were at my chapel in Arlington. You're right about your dad's smile. He still has it.

  2. Julz~~the journey of life and it's many paths is such a study in patience, fears, anger and sometimes sheer exhaustion as we deal with the what's next. It's also full of happy, excitement and new experiences. Thank you for letting us go on your journey with you and in being in ours. Love you guys and love Fred.