My dad developed Alzheimer’s Disease.
I remember when President Reagan shared with America the sad news,
“I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease.” He was eloquent, “I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life,” and honest, “the family often bears a heavy burden.” He’s right.
Alzheimer’s Disease is terrible, and because it’s a burden on those I love, I’m doing what I’m told will fight against the disease. I’m staying physically active. Starbucks is a four-mile round trip. I like my morning coffee, and it’s worth the walk. I also pulled my bicycle out of storage and I’m riding it. It gets great gas mileage!
All of you in Luv’n Liv’n, you’re doing exactly the right thing! I’m eating smarter, more fruits and vegetables and mixed nuts, fish and poultry. Herbs and spices and oils, instead of salt.
I’m keeping friends and family a priority. I’m an introvert, but that just means I recharge best by myself. Humans are social creatures. We don’t thrive in isolation, and neither do our brains.
I’m putting down the remote and picking up the Kindle. I read and do puzzles. I’m learning Spanish. I’m taking the road less traveled, which simply means, I take new routes, explore new ways, keep trying new things.
I’m following Ben Franklin’s advice, “early to bed, early to rise.” He’s right; it’s good for me.
These things help, truly help, delay Alzheimer’s Disease. But you and I still may get the disease, so I want to tell you about my dad, and my grandmother, and my Aunt Mildred and Uncle Roy. Because each of them were diagnosed with – Alzheimer’s Disease.
My grandma, my mom’s mom, was diagnosed in 1979, before most people knew anything of the disease. Her journey into the sunset was chronicled in a national magazine describing what, at the time was, a little known affliction. I was a 21 year old college student, living at home, and we brought her into our home to care for her. She was shuttled back and forth; one month with my mom and dad, one month in Redding to my aunt and uncle’s home. Grandma would be shuttled back and forth for almost three years – until she went to her final home with our Lord. It was hard on Grandma, and harder on Mom and her sister. I learned a lot about Grandma and Alzheimer’s. I learned a great deal more about family love and care and the character of my mom and dad.
Alzheimer’s Disease struck my Aunt Mildred before my Uncle Roy, so she was put in a care facility. There was a man who took a liking to Aunt Mildred – Uncle Roy nicknamed him “Loverboy.”
Uncle Roy didn’t like Loverboy very much…
Alzheimer’s Disease was becoming more apparent in Uncle Roy and on one occasion he caught Loverboy flirting with Aunt Mildred – so, he one-punch-decked him. One punch! Uncle Roy was protecting his girl, the girl he loved and married until death, not disease, do us part. Through it all it was their daughter who was there to care for Uncle Roy.
And then Alzheimer’s Disease struck my dad.
Dad still knew me and my brother, and he adored my mom up until the day he passed over into Glory. He didn’t know what day it is, what month it was, what season or year it was, or where he was. But he knew us, and we talked about memories. Who cares if we would talk about the same things again tomorrow?
It’s a burden, but hidden within there is a blessing. Suffering teaches a love that can be learned by no other means, it is an enduring love, it lasts through better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and health. The Bible says,
“the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
I’m not glad my family gets Alzheimer’s Disease. But there is something I am thankful for. I’ve had the opportunity to watch my family, in love and grace, truly care for one another.
I now have a roadmap – and I will follow it to care for other afflicted with this disease and for their families.
Loads of luv’n