Second Chances with Alzheimer’s Disease

Like something in the Westchester sky, this geriatric care manager saw it happen once between a father and his son. It was a random occurrence I thought. When it happened again, between a mother and her two children, I acknowledged it was more than random.

What am I talking about?  You will understand if you had difficulty relating to the Brady Bunch on television.  That was not your family. Now, fifty or sixty years later, you are faced with the behaviors that come with a diagnosis of dementia. The disease has just made those historically familiar traits more intense. But wait, such is not always the case. Despite the dubious triumph of the disease, having the relationship with a parent that you wished for could happen. I just don’t why.

 The first citing. Dick was a published author. His relationship with his father had him out of the house shortly after he graduated high school.  Some ten years later he published a semi-autobiographical novel based on his time growing up. A pretty story it wasn’t.  Fast forward sixty years. Alzheimer’s disease had started its march, eroding his father’s being but also bringing a personality lift.  Gone was the critical, demeaning father. Enter a father who lit up when he saw his son. Gradually, Dick was able to let go of the father he once knew and embrace the father this disease had created.  In the four years that followed, Dick was able to make up for decades of lost time.

Citing two. According to her daughter, it was a childhood of her mother caring more if she broke a fingernail than if she, the daughter, broke a bone. Her words, not mine. Enter dementia. The disease caused the self-centered mother to disappear. The pathology reinvented her mother.  She longed to hold her adult children’s hands. She wanted to know about her grandchildren. She always wished them a safe trip home. They too, were given that second chance. The opportunity to respond to kindness with kindness. But like Dick, Paul and Denise had to let go of a painful history.

Second chances with Alzheimer’s disease. They are there for the taking. You just have to be willing to accept the past and appreciate the present, the now. Let this robbing disease give you just one gift. It can be everlasting.