A man with Alzheimers with a distorted face stands in a doorway talking to another man who is offering him a clipboard and pen to sign a contract.

The Start of My Dad's Journey with Alzheimer's

My dad had dementia. We lost him to it 7 months ago. His journey with it was a long and hard one. It was even longer and harder for my mom. Mom never told us, my brothers and I, about what was changing in dad. She saw those changes but always felt that since we were all grown up, married, had our own families and lived hours away that we didn’t need to be concerned about what was going on with her and dad. She always meant it with kindness. In the long run, it wasn’t the best decision. It would leave her with a lot of worry, fear, and loneliness as dad was changing.

It would be good to understand that mom and dad had what I would call a ‘traditional’ marriage. A marriage from a different generation than today. Although mom was always aware of the important decisions that needed to be made in their lives, ultimately it was dad who made most of them and mom went along with what dad decided.

How it all started

My daughter was attending her first year of University in the city where mom and dad lived. I dropped her off at school and went for a visit with mom and dad before I headed back out of town. Somehow during our visit, we got onto the topic of household gas companies. In the area where they lived, there was one main company but smaller upstarts were popping up and going door to door selling their services. Mom casually mentioned to me that dad had signed a new contract for their gas needs at the front door but they were still under contract with the original company. Dad looked at her in disbelief and said no he hadn’t. Mom went and got the new contract and handed it to dad. He was shocked. It was his signature on this contract. He didn’t remember signing it. While he dealt with the shock and embarrassment he felt, and mom was concerned about what two contracts meant, all I could think was “Oh no. This isn’t good...for dad. I have a feeling I know where this is going.” Unfortunately, I was right. Over time, the way mom and dad made decisions would be a massive obstacle in getting them help. He was their decision maker. Dad was the one with Alzheimer’s.

The beginning of the end

This was the start of my dad’s very long journey through a disease that would rob him of his memories, who he is, who he was, the life he built with mom, with us, and our families. It takes the person but leaves their shell behind. It is a devastating disease for all who love the one who has it. I watched the pain it caused mom knowing there wasn’t anything I could do to ease it. Although I didn’t know a lot about dementia, of which Alzheimer’s is one type, I knew it was scary. I didn’t know just how sad and long the journey would be.

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