A wife helps her husband with Alzheimer's walk with his cane. His figure is transparent, while hers begins to disappear

My Fear Of Losing Mom To Dad’s Alzheimer’s

I believe the person with Alzheimer’s feels fear as they are losing their grip on what is happening to them. I believe that the caregiver also feels fear, mainly, watching their loved one leave and not knowing what the future may hold. My dad had Alzheimer’s. My mom was the one who lived day in and day out with Dad. She was so fearful of losing him and knowing she couldn’t stop it from happening. As the daughter in all of this, my fear was similar in some aspects to Mom’s but also very different.

Dad’s Alzheimer’s journey started back about 10 years ago. Dad was in his late 70s, as was Mom. Dad passed away last year at 87 years of age. Mom was also 87 at that time. When I came to grips with what was happening to Dad, it was apparent, I was going to lose him. I knew the loss was down the line but still I knew I would lose him to this disease. Neither of my parents were old for their age. Basically, for two people in their 80s, they were both physically quite healthy. They had a couple of medications each for the age-related medical issues but both were healthy.

Mom turned down my help

What I didn't expect was the sheer terror I felt in feeling like the stress of looking after Dad was going to kill my Mom. I cannot tell you how I worried about her. In an attempt to help, I tried multiple times to put services in place only to have Mom turn them down at the door. Initially, her response to any suggestion I would make would be, “Ok, I’ll think about it.” After a few more attempts, mostly gentle, to talk about what could help her and Dad, Mom would agree to the suggestion I would make. I’d call the agency or service, give them the information and then receive a call back that Mom had turned down the help. Mom would tell me they didn’t need them or Dad said “No”. Mom was getting no caregiver relief, by choice, not by lack of availability. Mom knew what I was trying to do but didn’t want to tell me she didn’t want the help.

Could I lose my mom too?

That’s when it really hit me. I could lose Mom at the same time I was losing Dad. I didn’t know how I was going to cope if that happened, especially if it could have been avoided. I was watching Mom from a distance go downhill. We, their family, all live out of town so it wasn’t like we could jump in the car and drive a couple of minutes to get to them. I knew she was sleeping on the couch instead of in bed for a variety of reasons. I knew she was exhausted. I was pretty sure she was not eating well either because Mom usually avoided answering any direct questions I asked. She was making sure Dad ate, but I suspect she was snacking more than eating. Mom has osteoporosis so she has been at risk of broken bones for years. Dad had been having multiple falls, sometimes daily. Instinctively, you’d try to stop a fall while it’s happening to someone. I worried Mom was going to try to stop Dad from falling which could result in a poor outcome for her. Mom was becoming housebound along with Dad because either he was too agitated to go out or because he would wander off while they were and he’d get angry if she followed him. Consequently, the errands she went out to do, never got done. Even with all of this, Mom refused to let others help them at home.

Feeling helpless

I had a difficult time trying to cope with the thought that I could lose both my parents at the same time. I spent many many moments in tears feeling helpless not knowing how else to try and help. It took a very long time before Mom would let us assist them in one way or another. The toll it took on Mom was awful and heartbreaking to watch especially when it didn’t need to be that way.

In the end, Mom did it her way

Thankfully, I didn’t lose mom to all the stress of dealing with Dad’s illness alone. I’m not sure I’ll ever truly understand some of the decisions Mom made. In the end, Mom did it her way. I guess she needed to. I’m glad it gave her peace.

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