DIMENSIONS Autumn 1997

AN OPEN LETTER TO CAREGIVERS

Note: Each issue of Dimensions features a contribution from one of the Alzheimer's groups in Washington. This article is reprinted with permission from Outlooks, the newsletter of the Alzheimer's Association, Eastern Washington Chapter. It was written by chapter member Kathie Allen.

I watched my mother deal with Alzheimer's for almost ten years, but I was 2000 miles away. My parents lived in a small community in Illinois for 63 years where my father was a physician and my mother a homemaker. Three children resulted from this marriage and all had moved away. When the disease became apparent with Mother, we all managed to go home often. Going home for me meant four to five times yearly as the disease progressed. My father kept my mother home as there were no care centers in the area, and he could not bear to place her elsewhere.

I would cry on visits when she would not know me, got angry at "that woman" (me), and when she called Daddy her father. This was an educated, gifted, kind, loving supportive wife, mother and grandmother. She often said to me in the early stages of the disease that "losing your mind is the worst thing one can imagine." My reply was always, be happy that you can travel, have family who love and worship you and that you don't have a body that does not function with a mind that does. This was little compensation to her, I am sure.

Nightly, my prayers would always be to "Please bless and protect and keep them safe and well."

On a visit to Illinois to watch a nephew graduate from Veterinary School in Wisconsin, we three children found our father very sick. Ten days later we buried our father. He had hidden his cancerous condition from all of us for over three years.

Even the brothers who are physicians were shocked with this knowledge. I brought my dear mother to Spokane after this and she was like a frightened bird. She seldom knew me, but knew that Daddy was not there caring for her. She did not eat after his death and was dead four months later. She had good care, love and support from children and grandchildren, but I could not help but change my nightly prayers from "Please watch over and protect" to "Please let her go in peace." My father believed that God would not make her be without him for long and predicted that they would be together within three months. He was one month and one day off. Mother did not speak the last week of her life until Last Rites were performed and she sat up in her chair and recited The Lord's Prayer perfectly. The small wonder of the mind.

My prayers now are "Thank you for letting them be together and suffer no more." Bless each of you who is still dealing with this heartwrenching disease. Changing your prayers is really okay.


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