April 22, 2014
There were few indications at first. Dad sat back in his chair and asked me, “Tommy where were we going today?”
I answered - “we’re taking Sarah to get some clothes before she goes back to Radford tomorrow.” Dad responded, “Oh that’s right - I forgot, just getting old I guess.” Months passed, most without any obvious signs - but then, little by little the signs became more obvious. For dad, the present seemed difficult to hold on to - the past and I mean events from his youth some 78 years past - played out as if they took place yesterday.
Dad’s doctors, after realizing that he wasn’t “simply getting old and forgetful,” told us that they were quite sure Dad had Alzheimer’s Disease and would, as in most cases they have seen, simply continue to forget the present and experience memory lost rolling back in time. “How far back?” I asked. dad’s doctor looked at me and said “until most of his memory is gone - sadly, even his memory of you will be simply lost.” I thought to myself, “That’ll never happen. Dad loves me too much, I am after all - ‘his son’”.
We were told that one of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Other signs that your loved one might have the onset of Alzheimer’s include forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same information over and over, and increasingly needing to rely on memory aids such as reminder notes or relying on family members for things they used to handle on their own. We learned quickly that Alzheimer’s starts out slowly and then dashes towards the finish line of life, although “life” may linger on - life as they knew it will slowly slip away.
Dad’s daily life became difficult, most difficult was watching him lose the ability of completing daily tasks such as shaving with a razor, washing clothes, and at times struggling with tying his shoes. We did as much as we could to simplify those tasks, buying him slip on shoes, an electric shaver, and simply telling him that, “we’ll take care of the wash.”
We quickly learned that people with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete simple daily tasks. Alzheimer’s caused dad to lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time, Christmas, Easter, and even birthdays carried little meaning. Dad often had trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately, sometimes he forget where he was or how he got there. His “remembered” life was slipping away.
I sat at his bedside, was just minutes after I arrived at the nursing home. As I held his hand a loud groan came from a distant room.Dad looked towards the hallway, and then looking up at me he said “that was my son crying out, I hope he’s alright!” It was then, with dread in my heart and tears in my eyes, that I realized for my dearest Dad I was simply lost in time. I hope very few of you will ever have to look into the eyes of a parent and find yourself simply lost.