This was written in April of 2009, just two months before my mother went to be with the Lord.  My parents were together at the at the end of my mothers life in Denver.  My father does not remember she has passed away.  He lives in Denver near my brother and his family.  I rejoice that he does still know who I am and He is still am awsome man of God.

To be honest with you, this is a sad story, but is scattered with love, hope, and encouragement.  I pray my story is a blessing to you and if you have found yourself in a similar situation, I also pray it brings you comfort, wisdom and strength.

For the last five years, we watched the slow decay of my parents.  Alzheimer’s was our foe.  At times, for me, it was like watching through a foggy window and staring into someones else’s home.  I would think… this can’t be happening to us, to these amazing people.  At first slowly, and then very quickly, the disease caught up with them and also with us.  I am one of thousands of women that have found themselves in what is being called the sandwich generation.   We are among those who are caring for their young families and now have the responsiblity of caring for their parents, too.   It is sadly, being sandwiched  between two worlds.   At first, it was hard to grasp, as my brother and I do not live near our parents.  Because of the distance between us, we only saw them maybe twice a year.

Each trip brought new subtle hints that things were not quite right.  My father was the master of explaining away these troubling  issues.  Dad would not remember holidays or birthdays.  He began to hide things and forgot to pay bills.  There were big bills, like home insurance and car insurance and heating bills which resulted in neglect.  The red flags just kept coming, but these things were so unlike the man I knew who was always on top of everything.   He was the go-to man.  He was always able to help with just about anything.  He was the primary caregiver for our mother.  We have since learned that it is often the caregiver who is impacted as severely as the patient.

We knew my mother had been declining for about five years.  It grew harder and harder for her to even get up and to get dressed.  She quit painting, then quit driving and was cooking less and less.  As time passed, even communicating became more and more difficult.  I realize that I had  been dealing with the loss of my mother for years.  Though painful, this is the reality. Seeing  my father  begin to suffer mentally at the same time, was simply incomprehensible.  When we realized that, we had to step in.  We tried everything  to assist them without disrupting their lives and dignity.  This was to no avail.

We hired home healthcare nurses who would work for a day or so before being dismissed by my father.  You see, my father’s problem is that he lost all short-term memory.  He was “hard-wired”  as the doctors said, about things he had done all his life.  He could drive, he could shop, he could operate on animals at his veterinary practice, but he could not remember a conversation from an hour ago.  He could not even remember when we were there visiting.   My dad could remember his grandkids’ names, but not that he had lunch with them two hours before.

The nurses would come.  He would get angry and ask why they were there?  He would fire them and then get upset when we told him that was not an option.  He thought my mom was fine.  He was convinced that she was doing  the cleaning, washing , vacuuming and daily taking her pills.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t  and couldn’t do any of those things.  We spent most of the summer of 2008, at their home, trying to help sort everything out and attempt to help them get everything medically and financially in order.  Our problem was, we could not convince my dad that HE was having problems, or that mom needed help other that him.  He would finally agree to accept help and then unfortunately, he would forget that entire conversation within an hour.  We  would be  back to square one.

In September of 2008, we decided to step in and take control.  My dad could not take care of mom, whom we knew needed full-time care.  The disease had altered my father’s personality and he became very paranoid.  My brother went to court and took emergency guardianship. Later, we appeared in court and my brother was granted full and permanent guardianship.  Alzheimer’s left me feeling as if I had been initiated into some type of bizarre club!  It had become necessary to place both my parents in an assisted living facility.    What are the odds of losing both parents to this horrible disease at the same time?

In less than two weeks, we basically dismantled their lives.  Their lives, as they knew it, no longer existed.  We shut down my dad’s fifty-five year veterinary practice that been his pride and joy. We took my mother out of her home and away from all her prized possessions.

It has been one of the saddest experiences of my life.  I realized  that Christmas, Easter and summer vacations would never be the same.  The mere conversations that I once took for granted would now no longer occur.  The simple stuff in life was not so simple anymore.  It is tragic to comprehend that my children will no longer experience their grandparents outside of the nursing home walls.  I have spent the better part of a year holding back the tears that so easily want to come.  Some days, I feel like I’m holding on by a thread.  Thank God, the thread remains strong!

The sons of Thunder have been quick to ask if I am crying.  Even if I just have the sniffles from a cold, they are concerned.  Unfortunately, they have grown used to seeing tears and they know that does not make one weak.  Fortunately,they are quick to give comforting hugs and kisses.  They know things are different, too.  I have tried to shield them from this experience but it really is impossible to do.   My brother and I have had to spend hours on the phone dealing with their care and it always seems to be at the worst times.  The boys have been awesome putting up with this.  My husband has been unbelievable.  He is truly a rock.

My mother has now lost her ability to speak, but her smile and sweet gentle touch remain. She still knows me.  At least she knew me at Christmas ,which was the last time I spent time with her.  We originally had them together, but found it was necessary to put them on separate wards.  See, my dad kept thinking they were at some hotel and wanted to check out and get back to work.  He has no idea what is going on until the nurse “redirects him” as they call it.  My dad continues to have problems accepting what is going on.  He often thinks he is at a meeting or a speaking engagement, which really is just fine with me.  My mom seems content with where she is, and I think she realized what was happening.

It’s been incredibly hard to separate them.  This is not the kind of thing you want for your parents as they approach their 50th wedding anniversary.  They are allowed see each other once or twice a week.  I continue to remind myself they are safe and well cared for where they are.

They are still the most loving people I have ever known.  My mother was a gifted artist and an amazing prayer warrior.  Everyone went to mom to be prayed for.  She knew no stranger. Dad even had a small church for about 6 years.  They were funny, outgoing and awesome parents.  They loved to entertain, dance and travel.  Our home was always open to friends and family.  The person I am today I attribute to my faith in Jesus, and to their love, encouragement and instruction.  They never failed to instill in me the faith that I could accomplish anything I wanted to do.

I try to look back without regret on the choices we’ve made.  My only regret was we did not intervene sooner.  We were so concerned about not making them angry with us.  We were their children.  They were our parents, but I should not have worried so much about making them mad or intruding on their privacy.  I should have focused more on the fact that they no longer could truly care for themselves.  I would have talked to them much sooner about their health care choices and all the legal issues we have now have had to face.

Although I am a counselor, one of the best decisions I made was to see a counselor myself. There comes a time when family and friends need a break from your sad story.  A trained professional can bring support, perspective and insight.  Ironically, my counselor happened to be living through the same experience with her parents.  Of course, I know that it was no mere accident, but perfectly ordained by the Lord, to put me with just the right person at just the right time.

There are days that I laugh at the fact that I am out sharing this message of Extraordinary Living when I know people may look at my life, with all its heartache, and wonder if the two are incongruent.   I still believe we are called to Live the Extraordinary Life, even in the midst of extraordinary pain.  I know, for certain, that God has a great and mighty plan for each one of us, even in the midst of our suffering.  My parents have had an Extraordinary Life, but that life was taken away by disease.  The spirit of God, however, is still alive and well inside them.  My husband and I remember the wonderful life we have, our precious and wildly wonderful Sons of Thunders, our health, and family.  I firmly believe we should live our lives, right now, today, this minute, this very second.  This very moment deserves our full attention and it should be savored, because it will be gone before we know it.

I thank God for my friends, who have walked this journey with me and have never tired of my story and my pain.  I am grateful for the amazing women in the bible study I lead for two years. The women were, and are, incredible women of God.  I am blessed to have such amazing Godly women friends that have been with me all the way through this. You know who you are!  Words cannot thank you enough for your love prayers and support. 

I am also so thankful for these matriarchal women that I must name, like Carol, Laverne and Sue, who have stepped in to love me as my mother would have if she could have.  These childhood friends’ mothers have been unbelievably supportive.  Carol let me stay with her for three weeks during an emergency trip back and even helped to move my parents to new living quarters with help from my maid of honor, Anna, while Sue and Laverne kept mom occupied.  These are true friends, the ones you can call and who show up at the drop of a hat.  The friends who will even turn the car around in the middle of the raod to go right where you need them to go.  I thank God for my parents’ friends, who visit them faithfully.  They have supported me through encouraging words and have reminded me that my parents would have done this for them. They remind me I am doing the best I can for them and that helps alleviate some of my pain. We should all be so blessed to have those kinds of friends. I am thankful, too, for my husband’s parents who have always treated me more like a daughter than a daughter-in-law. I am truly blessed and so grateful. They provided endless support and words of encouragment that came at such a critical times as well.

I have hung on to the fact that God says that all things work together for good…… God does not say that all things are good, but that He will work them together for good.  There is good in the midst of all of this.  I pray you can see that just as I have come to see it.  My parents are safe, loved, and well cared for.  My mother loves on the nurses with her sweet and gentle spirit and is being enjoyed by those she is around.  My Dad prays for the others in the home and shares Jesus with them.

For me, I have reconnected with so many dear friends throughout this ordeal.  We are now returning to our home state to be closer to my parents and my husband’s family.  This will allow us to be more involved in their care.  My marriage and family is strong. My brother and his family are strong.  We are united together as a family and in our faith.   Best of all, at least for today, my Mom and Dad still know who I am.  So I continue to believe God is still working all things together for His good!

One Comment

  1. 3-23-2010

    Margorie, Thanks so much for stopping by my site. I am so pleased you enjoyed it. Thank you for your comments, you sure blessed me! Be inspired and encouraged! Bless you, Corby