Archive for the Dementia Category

The Alzheimer’s Abyss

Posted in Abyss, Alzheimer's, Alzheimer's Disease, Barbara Brooks, Barbara J Brooks, Dementia with tags , , , , on 13 November 2012 by Barbara J. Brooks

I want to scream at Alzheimer’s to “LET MY DADDY GO!” When I look into his eyes now, there is nothing there. My grief process has begun. In the early stages, I unscientifically measured the progression of his condition by the number of good days versus the bad days he experienced. There are no more good days. It is agonizingly clear that the memories that anchor me to the working class upbringing that he provided for my mother, sister, and me are no longer shared with him. Two years ago I brought him to my home for a visit. He looked wistfully at childhood pictures of my sister and me and proudly stated, “I took good care of those kids.” “You sure did, Daddy,” I agreed. “Oh, you were there?” he asked. Back then, I laughed a lot to keep from crying. Now, humor gives way to sadness for him. Dementia’s grip is firm and unrelenting—it seems to quicken its pace day by day. Its final campaign might take ten years, or one week, or one hour, but it is certain. He has descended into an abyss from which he will not emerge.

I fear that to him, I am quickly losing my identity. He stares at me sometimes as if he wonders who I am. Already, I have no relationship to the newborn he lovingly cared for when my mother was too sick after we both nearly died during delivery. He does not recognize that I am the little girl he over-indulged. As a young adult I shared his militancy, which became the touchstone of our relationship. But all of that is now lost to him, and when I stand before him I am only a part of his “right now.” I am becoming Anybody. Still, he holds the presence of my sister and me dear. “You talked to Cyn?” he asks me repeatedly. “You talked to Barbara?” he asks her. Those are merely our names, though. He is no match for oblivion.

This hideous ailment has violated our relationship. His love for me has always been deep and abiding. I have never questioned it, although it has never, ever been spoken. It transcends the words that men of his generation often find too difficult to utter. Now, he feels, but he has lost the meaning for the words that would articulate those feelings. When I leave his presence I always say, “See ya later, Daddy. I love you.” I thought he may not know what I meant, but his eyes water. He feels.

I remember when another relative was dying of a smoking-related cancer nearly thirty years ago. I quit that filthy habit as I watched his demise because I feared contracting a similar illness. It was one of those positive outworkings of fear that motivates one to change for the better. A few months ago in a moment of self-pity, I told God that I would rather die where I was sitting than live one day with Alzheimer’s. I know that it was fear that was speaking, but I don’t know how to outrun this disease. There is nothing definitive to quit or do proactively. I simply trust God to keep me. My maternal grandmother lived to be ninety-eight years old. At the age of eighty-four, the age my father is now, she spoke boldly: “As long as God keeps me on this Earth, He’s going to keep me in my right mind.” He did. Every morning I wake up and praise God and make the same bold declaration. But I must confess, it is more of a plea.

To that, I add my prayer for research that leads to more effective prevention, treatment, and ultimately, a cure. Please add yours.