It has been some time since I have had the opportunity to check in here at our blog. Since that time, my Dad declined in a heart-breaking spiral which can be typical in the last stages of Alzheimer’s, and we said good-bye to him on August 22, 2015. Over the last months, we wrestled with the pain of watching Dad lose function and mobility day by day, and toggled between spending our time savoring what we knew to be our final days with him and making frantic attempts to prevent him from slipping away. In that short time, Dad’s care needs began to exceed what even our own Aegis caregivers could safely provide in the home, so we hastily arranged for his transition to a skilled nursing facility nearby. The “paper” transition was smooth, but the Dad transition was not.
At every turn, we tried to handle the demands of our own families and the challenges that came with Dad’s confusion and frustration in his new environment. We experienced the gnawing second-guessing of whether we had done the right thing (there was no other choice, was there?), and the guilt (newness and unfamiliarity had to be the worst possible thing for a person with dementia, didn’t it?), but also gained a small measure of peace that Mom (87) was finally getting a full night’s sleep, and not pushing herself to the brink of a major health crash. Dad was also going to have more access to more comprehensive services that a facility could provide to try to preserve as much of his functioning as possible. Yet, it was still wrenching to see my parents physically separated for the very first time after 64 years of marriage. They had always shared that same bed, and the thought of Dad calling my mom’s name when we weren’t there, even for just a few hours, was devastating.
We are so grateful that Dad’s needs were well-served and he received professional and compassionate care until his death. And I am grateful, too, that our out of town family members bore the news of the advancing changes with understanding. No shaming. No resentment. Just a collective wistfulness and profoundly joyful appreciation for the life of a man who by many would be called a quiet hero. I know it’s what he was and continues to be for me and our family–an example of deep faith and integrity.
For each person, for each family, the path takes it own kind of turn, but it is never easy. On a routine basis we expertly transition families or help families enable their loved ones to age in place with abundant support. Yet because we have had to weather these very storms ourselves, we get it. We never take for granted that although it might look smooth on the outside, families will still need support to cope with deeply intimate challenges. It is our promise that we are here to provide it.