When FOF Liz Vogel’s father got Alzheimer's, she became his caretaker. Most would be devastated, here’s why she feels “lucky.”
[Editor's note: The essay below, by FOF Liz Vogel, is part of a series of personal blogs from our readers. Have your own story to tell? Email your idea to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
I have come to realize I am one of the lucky ones. I am the primary caregiver for my father. He lives two miles away in an independent living community, but I see him, or am in touch with him, every day. We lost my Mom three years ago, and since that time I’ve had the true pleasure of getting to know my Dad.
He has navigated his way, with amazing grace, from Mild Cognitive Impairment/Dementia to Alzheimer's over the last three years. When he needed help writing checks, because his handwriting was getting worse, he asked for it. When his balance was declining and I felt his safety was at risk, he was gracious about letting me get a walker for him. When I thought a safety pendant for emergencies was prudent, he agreed. When I told him he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, he looked at me, winked, smiled and said, "It is what it is, right? The good news is I probably won't remember tomorrow!"
Not everyone has this experience. Dementia and Alzheimer's can rob us of the person we once knew and replace him or her with a stranger. The man I have come to know in these last few years is filled with compassion, wonderfully dry humor, curiosity, sincere interest in participating with his community, and a deep appreciation for the beauty of the natural world. I suspect I may be seeing the essence of the man versus the father.
As a physician, my father spent his life caring for others. In fact, I think the last three years have been an opportunity for him to take a well deserved rest. But, perhaps because he provided so much to others for years, he understands the role of caregiver and provides me with the freedom to help him when he needs it.
I am learning: I don't know what it is like to be 86, but I suspect it's not that much different than being any other age. You want a life filled with opportunities and choices and to be treated as an equal. Every day, my father teaches me how to live and behave with grace, and I hope I do him proud as I wander through these next years.
Liz Vogel is President & CEO of Dots, Inc., and on-line service that connects the dots between the people, communities and information involved in healthy aging and caregiving. See more at www.trustdots.com.