ALZHEIMER'S JOURNEY IS PERSONAL
Pictured is Beth Hohfeler, Caring With Grace Care Manager, with her dad, Wayne Lindsey, at Easter in 2018.
One of the hardest parts of my father’s journey with Alzheimer’s was the toll it took on my mother. My family is not unique in this aspect; the burden of caregiving is well known and documented. However, it became personal when I witnessed its effects firsthand.
This was a second marriage for my parents, after both lost their first spouse early in life to cancer. Because they had experienced such tragic loss so young, they cherished each other, and time together, with a deep gratitude and appreciation for the other. My mother is an intelligent, vibrant woman who had a career she loved and who intended to work if she was physically able. However, as the reality of Dad’s dementia diagnosis set in and his needs increased, she retired from the job she loved to spend time with him while, as she put it, “He still knows I’m with him. “
As my father’s Alzheimer’s disease progressed, his behavior became more difficult and agitated. The mild mannered and gracious Southern gentleman became increasingly confused and angry. My mother struggled to care for him and began to neglect her own needs. Neither I nor my siblings live in the same city as our parents, so our ability to help was limited by distance. Even though we came to believe moving my father would be best for both my parents, my mother viewed that step as a breaking of her marriage vows, “in sickness and in health”. We had watched her sacrifice her beloved career for him, and now as she sacrificed her health too. It took many, many months and her own medical crises to finally convince her a move was necessary.
We moved Dad into a memory care community two months before the pandemic hit; shortly after his facility entered lockdown. Dad began a quick decline in his health that we did not fully realize, since we were not able to visit and our only contact with him was by phone. He died 3 months later. Although COVID did not end his life, it did rob us of the last months of it - as it did for countless other families around the world. However, we are grateful that we were able to be with him the last few days and even the moment of his passing. We are grateful for his life, and the legacy of love and service to others he leaves.
Pictured is Angela Thomas' brother, John Fielder, with their dad, Richard Fielder.
Angela Thomas, president of Caring With Grace, shares her dad’s story:
My dad, Richard Fielder, was a pioneering TV and screenwriter. Like so many of his generation he served in WWII. He was in the OSS and worked as a decoder at Bletchley Park. He was blessed to live to 95 years old but the last years were hard as Alzheimer's disease took more of his abilities and memories. He remained, however, a "happy camper" as he liked to say. My brother lovingly cared for him until it was no longer possible for him to be cared for at home. We moved him to Dallas to be near me and live in a residential care home that he really enjoyed for about 3 months before his condition weakened and he died on July 22nd. I experienced what so many families in our country have experienced due to the COVID restrictions and the pain of separation even though my dad did not die from COVID-19. I am focusing on the blessings. I was unconditionally loved by my dad all my life and learned so much for him. What more could a daughter ask for? He was truly my hero!
Caring with Grace is hosting a team this year for the annual Alzheimer's Walk to raise funds for the fight against Alzheimer's. We will be walking in our neighborhoods or favorite trail to maintain social distancing on October 3rd at 9:30 AM. This year our team will be honoring 2 of our fathers that died in 2020 from Alzheimer's. If you would like to support our team please click here.
The Dallas Walk to End Alzheimer’s is on October 3rd, and it will look a little different than before. This year the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is EVERYWHERE! For everyone’s safety, we are not gathering in mass, but we will be walking in our neighborhoods, trails, and parks – wherever you can safely socially distance. What about the opening ceremony? We got that covered! The morning of the Walk, you will log in to the Main Stage App for the Promise Garden Ceremony and walk count-down. Then, you will grab your Walk flags (that will be mailed to you when you register!) and head out to Walk. What about connecting with other walkers? We have that covered, too! You will also be able to connect with other Walkers through the App and share your pictures on our national mosaic. How about all the great resources that we offer at the event each year? You can access those through the online platform as well.
Alzheimer’s disease does not stop due to the pandemic, and neither does our relentless pursuit of an effective treatment and cure. The goal for this year’s Dallas Walk is $900,000, and your support will make a difference. If you have not had a chance to register, visit alz.org/walk, or simply text ALZWALK to the number 51555. We are excited to “see” everyone on October 3rd, and while you may not be walking in a crowd, you will not be walking alone!
To learn more about this topic or individualized care for your loved one, please contact us at Caring With Grace to speak with one of our compassionate experts in family caregiving.