From my journal…
I continued to work in geriatrics for the remainder of my career and cared for many patients with Dementia. This is “a general term for symptoms of mental decline that interfere with a person’s daily life. It is not a normal part of aging. The symptoms can include problems with memory, communication, and thinking. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s begin slowly and get worse over time.” (Web MD)
When my dear Dad came to help me after I had cataract surgery, I noticed that he was having trouble remembering things and driving me to appointments. I asked him if he was willing to go to the geriatric assessment center where I worked and have his memory checked? He willingly agreed since he recalled how his mother died of dementia, and he had to place her in a nursing home the final year of her life. Dr. R., my boss who was also the director of the geriatric assessment center, did a full 4-hour assessment with the team including a CT scan of my Dad’s brain.
Since my dad was an inventor and probably at the genius level, Dr. R. said it was difficult to assess his memory because he was so good at covering up his deficits. Their conclusion was that Dad had Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) which means it could stay at that level or progress to dementia. Dr. R. did not recommend starting my Dad on Aricept or Namenda as they were not recommended to prevent dementia. These two medications are often given to slow the progression of dementia.
As the years passed, my dad’s condition progressed to Alzheimer’s dementia. He had to stop driving and moved to a retirement center with his wife to be closer to my sister. My stepmother became his caregiver. Sometimes he wandered around the large building or got lost walking to the dining room. He stopped reading and slept for most of the day. He needed a home health aide to help him with his shower.
When I went through old letters, I discovered that Dad sent me two different Christmas notes in 2012 that he managed to type on the computer. The first read, “After a lot of efforts, I’ve finally learned how to operate my computer so I can write and print again. (in color even). I can’t write well any more so recovering this ability makes our letters much easier to read. Hope this finds you in good health still.”
Apparently, he forgot he sent me that letter, so the next week he sent me another one. “Every time I get this letter to type I have to start over. Finally the system works. Microsoft is a long way from a type writer. I’m a long way from being skillful with my brain not working well too.”
“I hope you are never afflicted like this but there are a lot of worse things which can happen to victims of old age. We can still talk to friends on the telephone and listen to their replies. We enjoy most of the things that arrive at our dinner table to eat.” He told about the visit of his wife’s son and concluded with, “We hope you have much in your life to enjoy too.”
My tears still flow when I read, “I hope you are never afflicted like this…” He grew up during the Great Depression in the 1930s and survived World War 2 as an Army private in Europe. As a member of the Greatest Generation, he always minimized his difficulties and looked at the glass as half full rather than half empty. He rarely complained. Nancy Reagan said about President Reagan after he was diagnosed with dementia, “It’s the long goodbye.” How true.
After Christmas he sent me a thank you note for the photo book I sent him of the area where he lived near the Adirondack mountains. He added, “I had a couple falls which did no damage a couple of weeks ago but that many causes the nurses here to request a visit to my doctor today. As I expected, no health problem was discovered. Hope you have some special enjoyment in 2013.” This was his final letter to me.
After his wife broke her hip In November 2013 and had to go to rehab, she could no longer care for him so Dad had to be transferred to the nursing home. He began having trouble swallowing which is common with dementia patients, and food went into his lungs and caused pneumonia. In January 2014 he died quietly alone at the age of 89, nine years after he was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment. I was sad to see such a brilliant man slowly lose his memory.
Dear Reader, I pray you will receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior now, while you still have your mental capacities. In light of the COVID 19 pandemic, we all realize that no one knows how many days he has left here on earth. The 29-year-old son of one of my doctors suddenly passed on in his sleep from the flu. Thankfully, he had received Christ as his Savior and is now rejoicing in God’s presence. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if I can help you further understand God’s wonderful plan of salvation.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:16-17