For those who have been following my blog for a while, you might have noticed that I haven’t really been keeping up with it. I suspect one reason is because I’ve been wanting to write this, but didn’t really know how to.

Disclaimer: This probably isn’t going to be my better written pieces. It might not be as organized as I would generally like it to be, but that’s how I am choosing to do this.

“Tash, Dad has dementia.”

This is how it started. My mom told me this in 2014. My mom had known this was the case though. She was protecting me. I know this. In fact, I’m sure she didn’t want to tell me this at that moment, as I was getting ready to graduate with my second master’s at the time and she didn’t want to put more stress on me. Little did I know what she had been dealing with at home.

It seems as if as soon as those words came out of her mouth, Dad started declining.  We were continually told his diagnosis was dementia, but that just didn’t make sense. We decided to change his doctor and neurology team, and in December of 2015, we got the official diagnosis. Alzheimer’s Disease. And it was progressing. Rapidly.

My mom and I had decided to spend Christmas with his family that year (this decision happened earlier in the year), because both of us knew what was coming. The writing was on the wall. So instead of doing our traditional Christmas, we traveled to North Carolina. That went well, but it also exposed his declining condition.

Christmas in Greensboro, NC. We’re outside of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. My dad is behind me, his sister is beside me, my dad’s cousin is next to him, and my cousin (my dad and aunt’s nephew) is next to my aunt.

When we got back, we went through the typical steps that people with any experience with Alzheimer’s have been through.

Noticing the increase in damage of his truck.

Noticing how he repeated the same thing over and over again.

Lost items.

Having to make him stop driving.

Mom not sleeping because now he’s staying up all night.

Mom sometimes waking up to him moving things outside in the backyard.

Dad walking out of the house. Mom and other family circling the neighborhood. I get in my car and drive everywhere I can within a 5 mile radius. Me finally finding Dad in a random parking lot just standing there. Begging him to get in the car because I’m by myself, it’s dark, and we aren’t in the safest place and there are men walking toward us. It was after midnight. (By the way, we called the police for help with this situation – they did nothing.)

Finally, in 2017, it was time to make some difficult decisions in his care. My mom did an amazing job. She did all she could do to care for him on her own. But, and again, with anyone who has experienced this, it was simply too much for her. It was starting to take a toll on her health, and I explained that I REALLY needed her to take care of herself. I know this, all of this, has torn her up. I long to be able to help her feel better, but I know there’s nothing I can do. I know that this is her reality. Learning how to shift from sharing the responsibility of everything – financially and otherwise, to doing it on herself. Her husband of almost 40 years is here, but isn’t at the same time. There’s no way to prepare for this. I wish I could make it better.

Alzheimer’s care is EXPENSIVE. Imagine having your bills now. Now imagine adding $4,000 – $5,000 to that. Every month.

My dad is a veteran. The VA has not helped. At all. The veteran’s advocacy groups have not helped. At all. My dad served this country, and now that he needs assistance, he doesn’t qualify for ANYTHING. Not $100 a month. Not $50. Not $20. Not a single red cent. I don’t care about the reason. That’s messed up. And it isn’t fair. Middle finger to the whole organization.

Here is when I will say that God has been good. He has provided. But still.

My mom is handling it as best as she can. But it’s TOUGH on her. Her husband of 37 years is essentially gone…is dying…and she’s having to watch his decline. She did the absolute best she could to care for him. I never ever want her to feel as if she didn’t. I am in awe of her. She smiles and she’s kept her life going – but I know she is hurting.

How do I handle it? Well, a lot of it is avoidance. I own that. There have been some REALLY good things that have been happening in my life, but at times it seems like it’s impossible to be fully happy because of this. It’s always there. I’m watching my dad decline/die. He still recognizes me for the most part. There have been times he hasn’t. The first time it happened was….something. He looked at me as if I was a stranger, and talked to me as such. That’s when I realized he, at that moment, didn’t know who I was. He then asked me, “Where is your husband?” I was like, okay so look – what we AREN’T gonna do is not recognize me AND throw shade at my singleness okay? LOL.

I think one of the moments when it really *hit* me was a few weeks ago. We had to take Dad to the emergency room because one of his caretakers thought he was having a heart attack. It turned out that he wasn’t, and it was nothing serious, but Dad wasn’t able to tell us anything. Thank God for nurses and doctors, because he literally could not tell us what was wrong.

I work full time. I am in a PhD program. Yes, I have thought about quitting, but (1) Dad was SO happy when I told him of my acceptance and (2) my Mom absolutely would not have it. But it has been tough. Around the time when we had to make some decisions, I remember sitting down to write a paper and do other work, and realizing I had just been sitting there staring at my laptop. I couldn’t concentrate. There were many days like this. It was hard. It IS hard. I’m also a licensed professional counselor – intern and work through a private practice. The distractions are there, and that’s good for me. But it all causes me to have to be *on* all the time. So, as much as it hurts to get all the way in my feelings, I embrace those times when I break down. And trust me, there have been times when I’ve just said, “Okay – nothing else is happening today except for crying. So let’s do this.” I have my moments and sometimes those moments turn into days.

Other times, I handle it logically. I try to do my best to keep it together. One time my mom told me she was actually happy to see me cry about it. That’s because I try not to around her. I know she is having her own struggle and I try to be as logical and understanding and calm as possible for her. But if you see her, an encouraging word would do her really good. A hug even, if you know her like that.

It’s hard.

Alzheimer’s Disease sucks.

I don’t really know how to end this. It’s not going to get better. My mom and I both know this. We both know what’s coming. So I’ll just ask that you keep us in your prayers. Thank you to those of you who have read this far.


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