An Alzheimer’s Love Letter I wish I had sent to my Dad

If I’d have known then what I know now, I’d have sent this Alzheimer’s Love Letter to my Dad.

 

Dear Dad,

Thank you for sharing the news that Mom has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This means that today Mom is the best she will ever be. We should enjoy every moment we have together.
We also need to prepare for what is ahead.

While Alzheimer’s is different in each person, there are common patterns that families with a Loved One with Alzheimer’s share.

Since we would all like Mom to live at home as long as possible, it means that every member of the family will need to lend a hand in Mom’s care. And we will need a lot of outside help too.

The scariest thing I’ve heard is that Alzheimer’s Caregivers usually pass before their Loved One with the disease. The strain of caregiving coupled with normal aging is significant. Given your excellent health today, I agree this sounds unlikely to happen to us.  Yet I’ve heard from adult children who’ve seen their parents go through it. They say that Alzheimer’s care-needs are like an avalanche leaving the Caregiver buried at the bottom.

Research shows that whatever the caregiver’s plan is at the beginning, at some point during Alzheimer’s, an adult daughter or daughter-in-law shoulders some caregiving duties. I know you plan to care for Mom to the end by yourself.  What I’m saying is that since adult children often end up providing care, I want you to keep me in the loop from the start.

Please share Mom’s behaviors as they change.  Keep me in the loop as you take on new chores.  Different from hearing it as complaining, I promise to hear it as an honest barometer of the progress of Mom’s Alzheimer’s.

Let’s start with little steps.  I need to have complete medical histories for you and Mom, and the names and addresses of your doctors.  I need you to sign HIPPA releases allowing me access to your medical records.

Something else I’ve learned.  This is a biggie.  I’ve been advised that since I live two-hours from you, it’s going to be easy for me to be in denial about Mom’s condition. Apparently, the less I see Mom, the less in-tune I’ll be with the progression of her disease.  It will be very easy for me to imagine that the disease is yet to progress.  Especially if I hear very little from you.
Help me make career and life choices for the next decade with complete and current information about you and Mom.

This carries a real risk. If I’m in denial, I may do something counterproductive.  I may take on a work role that requires more time in the office, or more travel time away from you.  I may say yes to an overseas assignment. Each and every one of these times, I need to remember that in the decade to come, I’ll appreciate every aspect of my life that makes me available to you. My flexible schedule. Money in the bank. My work benefits.

Consider the alternative. I could wait for a crisis, then jump in with both feet.  At that point my learning curve will be so steep it will be like the anvil that falls on Wyle E. Coyote’s head in the old Road Runner cartoons.  I’ll be laying on the ground, with stars and bird spinning over my head just when you are most ready to accept my help.

There is one goal we can both aim for.  If you and I do this right, you can survive Mom’s Alzheimer’s.   That’s what I want. I hope it’s what you want too.

Can you support me in these?

Other big picture things we need to address:

  • Updating your wills
  • Putting a Health-care Power of Attorney in place for you both
  • Reviewing your Long-Term-Care Insurance coverage

Next week, we can start talking about you two living closer to me.

I love you Dad,

Barbara

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