Sandi Boudreau

Dad, Mom, Alzheimer’s & Love

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Today I talked to my Mom. We facetimed so I could see Dad. He rocked back and forth and she told me he’d had a rough week. This means he fell a few times, and is weakening overall. Luckily, Dad’s always been a slow mover, so I think his falls are somehow in slow-motion. <smile> But truly, I think that’s kept him from breaking any bones.

I realized something obvious today. The Alzheimer’s battle isn’t really his anymore. It’s hers. She cleans, leads, makes tough decisions, and has had to learn how to manage someone who used to be strong, but is now like a 10-month-old baby. Best guess. This means there’s not much control on his side, and there are lots of messes and fits.

He rests well and he isn’t in pain. Mom somehow maintains his health with amazing food and nutrition…and he’s able to rest at night and avoid sickness. I cannot imagine her having to deal with a stomach flu (or any other sickness) on top of his Alzheimer’s. Grateful he’s healthy in that regard.

I sometimes wonder what people think about Alzheimer’s, if they haven’t dealt with it in their own family. And I’ve had to deal with a sliver of resentment when people say, “I understand, my grandmother had it” or “My great-aunt has it – I know how you feel.” I’m not belittling anyone’s experience, or maybe I am, and I apologize for doing that. Because it’s just so hard, no matter who you know who has it. The resentment is there because I don’t know that they can truly understand and relate. Because when it’s your Dad, it’s just different.

This is the man who taught me to read. I remember running to the door when I was about 5 to greet him when he got home from work. I wanted to show him I could tie my shoes. I wanted his praise. He gave it often. All my life. Except the times he caught me sneaking out of my room at night in high school. Those weren’t his best moments. haha!

Dad is also the man who taught me how to sing, love, laugh, tease, look at things differently.

He took us four (all daughters) camping (without Mom! hello crazy vacations!), and each trip deserved its own medal. He timed us each time we set up the tent. Thank you Dad for building my competitive nature. It’s worked very well for me. Except when I’ve lost anything.

When he first was diagnosed, about 9 years ago in 2004, he struggled with frustration and facing the future. He didn’t research it much, to my knowledge at least, maybe because that was too painful for him to face. I get that. He’d already dealt with suffering and pain and I think it was just hard to face. Normally a man with a great sense of humor, this wasn’t something he knew how to joke about very well. That’s how I knew he was probably fearful of the future. He could usually handle anything with his fun outlook. He did make a few jokes, but he usually didn’t want to talk about it. He did compensate very well with his humor. As he started to forget names, we didn’t know it. I remember the day I realized he didn’t know my name. He knew I was a daughter, but not which one. That was a painful slap. A life with Alzheimer’s is a life with many painful slaps and stabs.

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Sandi Boudreau