In talking to people and reading stories about Alzheimer’s disease (AD), I am struck by how many times I hear or read that the person with AD “isn’t the person they used to be.” So often, they are described as having a different personality – angrier, meaner, gentler… more or less than what used to be.
While Dad went through an angry period (it is my understanding that this happens as they are beginning to realize something is wrong but can’t quite put their finger on it), and was even a little bit mean at times (although never towards me), he has returned to the gentle person he always was. As the disease progresses, I don’t see him as being a different person – he is still my Dad. He just has a different cognitive level.
While it saddens me that he doesn’t understand the news on TV or that he “reads” the paper by flipping from above the fold to below without really “getting” what he is looking at, I still think of him as the same person. He was always one of the smartest people I knew. He still is – just with limited ability to process the present. He still seems concerned that I have gotten a good education, that I have a good job, that I have a car that runs, and that I am doing well. He still offers to help, whether it is to drive me home or to do something for me while I am gone, and when I do something for him, he still graciously says thank you.
This week is going to be a hard one for me. While we, as a family, decided to move Dad into assisted living near my house a year ago, my mother, who lives about 900 miles away from me, has decided she wants to move Dad to a location nearer to her. I have had such a gift this past year, being able to see Dad several times a week, dropping by on my way home from work just to say hi, or spending Friday night having dinner with him and visiting in his room. But that is about to end. This weekend, Mom, Dad and I are flying to the East Coast and moving Dad into a new Assisted Living residence.
I am sure this place is nice – and that they will take good care of him – although I have never been there. Mom wouldn’t settle for anything less. But having his routine changed is going to be hard on him. Having my routine changed will be hard on me too. I don’t know how often I will get to see him – it is hard for me to get away unless school is on a break. I will miss the way his face lights up when I come to see him – he is always so glad to see me! For now, he remembers me – my name, my profession, my status as his daughter. I just hope that whenever I do get to visit him, he will still know me and still light up when I walk in the room. I’ll miss you, Dad. I’ll never forget the man who considers me “Unforgettable”.