“We moved Dad to an assisted living facility a year and a half ago. Someone suggested that we place him in memory care but I wouldn’t hear of it.” Shanice told me.” I figured Dad would be mortified if I placed him in a place like that. After all, this was my Dad. I just couldn’t do that to him.”
The Stigma is Still There
With all the education around Alzheimer’s Disease and other types of dementia, you would think the stigma would be gone. But somehow it isn’t. We accept that our legs or our heart or our eyes may not function as well when we age. But when it comes to our mind we are not as forgiving.
The Thought Of Putting Dad In Memory Care Was Too Much
This was especially hard for Shanice. Her Dad, Robert, was a CEO for a large company. He had a P.H.D.! And he was the family rock. Robert always provided well for his family. This couldn’t be happening to him. There had to be something else going on. But the truth was, it was happening. Robert had Alzheimer’s Disease. And Shanice was having an especially hard time.
In the early stages, Robert knew something was wrong. He tried really hard to keep his fears from his children. Parents often do this. Robert wanted to protect Shanice. And he knew that she was upset. He tried hard to do everything right and to remember what Shanice wanted him to remember. But it became overwhelming and frustrating. It seemed the more he tried to make Shanice happy the worse things got.
And They Began This Dance
And so, father and daughter did this dance with each other trying desperately to please one another. But the truth is they were both miserable. As the disease progressed it became harder and harder for Robert to please his daughter. It seemed that no matter what he did it wasn’t right or not good enough.
“I just wanted to help him regain his memory. Believe me, I know it sounds crazy now. But I think somehow, I thought I could keep this dreadful disease from stealing the father I loved and admired. I made him do puzzles and word games until we were both blue in the face from exhaustion. I would get angry when he couldn’t find the right piece for the puzzle. Furthermore,I insisted that he eat blueberries and other foods that might help. And, he didn’t like the taste of some of these foods. So, it became a real struggle”
I told Shanice this behavior was a lot more common than she realized. Shanice was simply in denial of Roberts diagnosis. It is part of the grieving process. Everyone goes through it and some people get stuck in this stage for a while.
And We Never Considered the Fact We Were Grieving
In our society grieving is for someone who has passed away. But when someone is diagnosed with any type of fatal disease, the grieving process begins. With Alzheimer’s and dementia, families must grieve the loss of the person they once knew. It is only then that they will be able to embrace the new person. Then they can move into the acceptance phase. But this grieving process can literally last for years. As an Alzheimer’s patient moves from one stage of the disease to another the grieving process starts again.
Once Sharon understood this she was able to grieve and let go. Dad would never be the grandfather Shanice wanted for her young son. The trip across the southwest they planned to take would never happen. And furthermore, Dad was no longer able to navigate the large beautiful assisted living facility Shanice had moved him to.
Life had changed.
So, Shanice decided to take charge of her life. She poured herself into learning all she could about Alzheimer’s Disease. Likewise, she attended conferences offered by the Alzheimer’s Association. She joined a caregiver support group. And Shanice changed too.
Realizing that her dad was uncomfortable, frightened and unhappy at the assisted living home Shanice decided it was time for a move.
But This Time She Focused on What Was Important
And that was the care. Having people around who understood Alzheimer’s made all the difference. Shanice decided on a Residential Care Home specializing in Alzheimer’s Disease. It was a regular house much like the one she grew up in. There were no fancy chandeliers and everyone ate together at the dining room table. Just like at home. Dad had his own private bedroom. But the place was much smaller than the large assisted living facility he had been living in. With only 16 residents the home was large enough for Dad to move around. Yet it was small enough for him to easily navigate. Robert slid into his new home and new life with ease.
What Made It Easy?
He was in a comfortable environment that felt like home. And received great care.
Shanice accepted him just the way he was now.
The disease was progressing and Robert did not always know who Shanice was. But he always knew that this lady cared about him. And that was comforting. As for Shanice, her acceptance didn’t take away all of the pain.
“I still want my Dad back the way he used to be sometimes” Shanice confessed. But now I am also able to find the joy in helping him navigate this new world he is living in.
Father and daughter are still doing that dance together. But this time it is a slow, gentle, accepting dance.