It had finally arrived, the dreaded question, a variant of “who are you?” I had just made 55 and my dad asked me if he has any children. I explained that I was his son and that he had a daughter also. That same question, with slight variations, came up another 3 or 4 times in our two-hour conversation.
About five minutes later, my Dad looked at me and asked “do I have any children?”
Imagine your father or mother looking at you and not knowing who you are. Even worse, he can’t easily remember his late wife of 61 years, who had passed away 5 years earlier.
This is the tragedy of Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. It gets worse over time and it is fatal. There is no cure at the present time, although there are some current medications that can lessen the symptoms and slow down its progression.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association:
• As many as 5.3 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s.
• Alzheimer’s and dementia triple healthcare costs for Americans age 65 and older.
• Every 70 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s.
• The direct and indirect costs of Alzheimer’s and other dementias to Medicare, Medicaid, and businesses amount to more than $148 billion each year.
Please visit the Alzheimer’s Association website and find out valuable information that can help you or a loved-one that is at-risk for this stealth killer. There is a wealth of information here about new treatments that are available, how to spot signs of the disease, tips for caregivers and other valuable information. Please consider donating to help further scientific research that could make this disease one that no one remembers.
That conversation occurred April 2009 and happened only a few more times, thank God. I don’t know what happened, but my dad somehow recovered his ability to recognize me after we were able to move him closer to us when a new assisted living facility opened up in Metairie, LA a few years later. (I first wrote this in April 2009, but it is just as vivid now to me as it was then.)
Treasure the moments you have with your loved ones, especially your parents, because you never know when something will happen that changes the opportunity to communicate with them or even that they are suddenly gone from this earth.