Alzheimer’s Disease is Hard on Everyone in a Family, Not Just the Patient!

My father passed away from Alzheimer’s Disease in January 2013 after suffering the effects as early as the late 1990s. The effects were subtle and no one in my family really noticed but me, because I worked with him every day. Those of you who have relatives or friends that suffer from this insidious disease know that some people get very good at covering up their dementia, at least in the beginning.

James J. Culotta circa 1963

He was a tremendously vibrant man who was self-taught and self-made, not knowing how to slow down except on the weekends when he would suddenly become Jimmy the fisherman. I have some amazing, funny and slightly embarrassing stories about his fishing escapades. But one thing he didn’t do was tell tall tales about the one that got away!

My mother only a few months before her stroke in 2001.

Anyway, after suffering for two years from the effects of a devastating stroke that left her paralyzed on one side of her body and requiring care 24/7, my mother passed away in June 2003 and my dad went downhill really fast. Thank the Lord that my father had been able to build an amazing family business with income that allowed us to have nursing assistants to care for her in her own home where she felt as comfortable as she could be under the circumstances.

I think the hardest thing I ever had to do was to tell my dad that my mother had passed away. She had been in the hospital at the time and it was the first morning that he had not gone to visit her. I will write about that story another time because it is compelling.

He and my mother had been married for over 61 years and she had been his primary caregiver. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Hurricane Katrina hit and destroyed their home two years later in August 2005.

Before and after photo of my parents’ home on Treasure Isle on Lake Pontchartrain, Slidell, LA after Hurricane Katrina destroyed it in August 2005. This house was my Dad’s dream home. He was a builder and it was nearly 6,000 s.f. living area and 10,000 s.f. under roof.

At that point, my sister and I had no choice but to put my dad in assisted living because he was simply unable to care for himself, but the nearest facility that had an available room that was decent was over 200 miles away in Alexandria, LA, so we moved him there with nothing but the clothes he had been able to take with him before evacuating.  Continue reading “Alzheimer’s Disease is Hard on Everyone in a Family, Not Just the Patient!”