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: