Dementia: Caring For Parents With Alzheimer’s And Coping With Grief

Author Lee Woodruff, writing for the Huffington Post, describes what it’s like to watch one parent succumb to Alzheimer’s while the other copes with grief:

…genetics is a sneaky thief. The dementia that had claimed my grandmother and her mother before her began to make its presence known in a long, loopy slow dance with my father that tried to trick us at every corner — a walk through a funhouse mirror. My mother had watched my father’s slide with a complicated grief, the kind that accompanies the creeping, terrible erasure by Alzheimer’s — the meanest junkyard dog of incurable diseases. For a loved one, it is death by a thousand nicks.

What would it feel like for my mother, I wondered, to know that my father was physically so close?  He was living in a room down a long corridor adjacent to her independent living facility. But he was not really present. He was no longer the strong, robust, affable, alpha male who had supported and provided for her. But now she had reached the end of her physical and emotional abilities to care for him. That abdication carried with it a self-criticism, some shame and a whiff of failure on her part. I hated witnessing her sorrow. But I knew that she would protect us from the depth of her emotions. She is our mother, still, and always. And proper mothering in that generation required a dignity, the things you do and don’t share with your child. Even in her darkest moments she will instinctively shield us from the harder things…

Read more of Lee’s story:


About UWF Center on Aging

The Center on Aging at the University of West Florida was established in the Fall of 2010 when the School of Psychological and Behavioral Sciences faculty along with assistance from Sponsored Research submitted a grant to the State University System Board of Governors in support of aging initiatives for Northwest Florida. Its mission is to improve the quality of life of aging adults through the application of science to address challenges associated with aging and to promote healthy aging, with an emphasis on prevention. This will be accomplished through inter-disciplinary and inter-professional efforts of basic and applied research, consultation, and partnerships with community agencies. Education and training, direct services to the aging population, and public awareness and understanding of the contributions and needs of elders will be primary objectives.
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