That was the longest day of my life! Admit it; we’ve all said it at one time or another. Thankfully for most of us, those days are the exception and not the rule.
Yet, for those living with Alzheimer’s and for their caregivers, every day is The Longest Day! I can remember one of the many long days that I faced as I journeyed with my dad through the world of Alzheimer’s.
I was sitting on the couch doing some school work when my phone rang. I looked down and saw that it was from Mom and Dad, which now always meant, it was Mom calling. Dad had long forgotten how to use the phone. So needless to say, I was surprised when it was Dad on the other end.
In my most cheerful voice, I said, “Well hi; how are you doing today?” There was no cheerful reply though. Dad sounded distraught.
He said, “I’m not doing very well; I sure wish I could see you.”
I told him I would come right away, but wanted to make him understand that I was four hours away, so it would take me awhile to get there. He seemed to understand. Just as he always did, he told me to drive careful. I was concerned though considering he sounded so upset, and the fact that it was him on the phone and not Mom had me worried.
I asked him where Mom was at, and he said he didn’t know where she was at; my worry meter just hit the red zone! This of course was before we learned a helpful tip from the Alzheimer’s Association that it might be less confusing for him if we stopped referring to our mom – his wife – as “Mom.” The rationale being that when we talked about “Mom,” he may have been thinking of his mom not his wife. Looking back, this makes sense.
So, I told him I was leaving right away, and I would see him soon. I then immediately called my older sister who lived nearby and explained the situation, and she headed to their house to find out where Mom was at and to check on Dad.
As I began the four-hour drive, I got a call from my sister; all was well with Mom and Dad. Mom was right there with Dad when my sister arrived. It had actually been Mom who dialed the phone for Dad when he said he wanted to talk to me. He just didn’t know who she was. In fact, that is how their morning had begun that day.
Mom had fixed breakfast for them as usual, but she said she could tell something was bothering him, but she couldn’t get him to talk. Then as she was clearing the table, he reached out and took hold of her arm, and said something that we all knew was going to happen someday.
Dad looked up at Mom and said, “I don’t know who you are, but this is my house, and I want you to leave.”
No matter how much your head knows about this horrible disease, nothing can prepare your heart for the first time when someone you have loved for 50+ years no longer knows who you are. Mom was heartbroken…and scared. There were a lot of tears, and then he had asked her to call me.
So as I was driving, I called the Alzheimer’s Association’s helpline. I needed advice as I had no idea what I might be walking into. The disease had progressed significantly, and I was worried and scared. This was new territory for us; I needed help. I needed encouragement. I just needed the emotional support. I cried a lot as I talked with the hotline representative. I remember her advising me to just pull over for a few minutes as she was concerned about me driving under such distress. I did.
She gave me a lot of advice and tips on how to handle varying situations that I might face when I arrived home. It helped. I felt more at ease and a bit more confident. I was soon back on the road.
When I walked in the door at my parents’ home, my mom and sister were sitting in the living room. Dad was in the bedroom. When I went in to see him, he immediately sat up on the bed and said, “I am so glad to see you.” I gave him a big hug and kiss and told him I was glad to see him too. He then leaned over next to me and pointed out into the living room and said, “I don’t know who those people are out there.”
We spent the day and evening together looking at old pictures and sharing stories of times he remembered and seemed to enjoy talking about. He seemed a bit more at ease.
That was a long day…the first of many long days.
As Dad’s Alzheimer’s progressed, we often thought he was seeing me as his wife in younger years. He would even point to old pictures of Mom, and when I would ask him who that was, he would say, “That’s you.”
That was ok too. Over the course of the last two years of his battle with Alzheimer’s he would sometimes call me his wife, his daughter – even his girlfriend! That one still makes me smile because when he told me that, he was so giddy about it and had such a big grin on his face.
We had good days and bad days, but I know the good far outweighed the bad because of the resources and support I gained from the Alzheimer’s Association. That’s why I support The Longest Day and the Walk to END Alzheimer’s and other Alzheimer’s Association awareness and fundraising initiatives.
If you are facing this journey, thanks to the Alzheimer’s Association, you will have many good days with your loved one. The good days will encourage you; the good days will strengthen you, and the good days will become treasured memories. Because of the Alzheimer’s Association, I can look back on many happy days with Dad. It’s a gift I will always cherish.
Please support me in raising funds for the Alzheimer’s Association by purchasing an item from my Pampered Chef party or making an online donation here. Together we can put an end to the long days and #ENDALZ. Donate today. Thank you.