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!”

Whatever Happened To Keeping One’s Word Because It Is The Right Thing To Do?

Whatever happened to keeping one’s word, simply because it is the right thing to do?

In today’s climate of trashy television, When Calls The Heart on the Hallmark Channel is a very refreshing show and last Sunday’s episode centered around the railroad’s refusal to honor its contract to construct a depot in Hope Valley because it did not seem to be a profitable investment.

Well, after the mayor and townspeople made their case, the railroad representative wasn’t convinced until one of the young people made a convincing argument at the end. It was heartwarming and genuine, based on principles and honor, not money and profit.

Sometimes it is hard to do the right thing and it costs some serious money and requires hard sacrifices to do so.

A young builder and his partner wanted to get a start building new homes for sale in a really hot market in the early 1980s in an exclusive development that featured a beautiful golf course, clubhouse, condos, and luxury single-family homes in a gated community.

They bought a lot, the young builder designed the home and drew the plans himself, the partner put up the cash (about $35,000) and they got a local bank to fund the construction loan. The home was beautiful and everyone thought it would sell before it was even finished like most of the houses had in that location. However, right before they closed on the lot, someone suggested they buy another lot on the golf course and not the one they had previously been shown. Everyone agreed this was the right thing to do. The only problem was that no one realized at the time the design was wrong for a home that backed up to the golf course.

Only after the house was sold did anyone ever point out that the great-room should have overlooked the golf course, which makes sense of course, but the original lot backed up to woods and that is why the design had the master bedroom and breakfast room in the rear.

The young builder worked very hard to make sure that everything was done just right and every day, he drove over an hour to get to work and over an hour to get home after supervising the various subcontractors.

He even did some of the work himself, including all the finish carpentry. But after the house was nearly finished there were no buyers and the interest payments were beginning to get hard to make because there were some cost overruns due to some changes that were suggested by the real estate agent. Keep in mind that this was during the time of super-inflation and interest rates were around 14% or more.

Soon the cash reserves were almost gone and the bank became very concerned because the construction loan term was about to end and there were no prospects. Things looked very bleak and it looked like it was going to cost another $30,000+ to finish the house, so work was basically stopped. The house was built, just not 100% finished.

Months went by and it appeared bankruptcy was the only option until one day about a week before Christmas the banker called the young builder and said he had a buyer for the house. The builder was thrilled! But it wasn’t good news because the price was for what the bank was owed, which meant the partners would lose their investment plus the amount of money needed to complete the house and pay all the remaining bills, a total of about $65,000 LOSS!

The young builder was very worried. He had only recently been married and had a new baby and did not have anywhere close to that amount of money in savings. Most of the subcontractors and suppliers that he used were companies and people that he had known for many years, some for decades since some were personal friends as well, and he was afraid of damaging those relationships. Another thing that complicated this was that he also worked with and for his father, who was a builder/developer with an excellent reputation.

The banker insisted that the partners accept this offer, threatening to foreclose if they did not. But since the house still needed some work to be finished and bills to be paid, if there were any liens filed by subcontractors or suppliers, the sale could be delayed.

So the young builder decided to contact all the people he owed money to and promised each and everyone that if they would help him and allow the sale to go through without any liens, he would personally guarantee payment, no matter what. Because he had a good relationship with all these people, they agreed and the sale went through.

The young builder had a rough time though and it took over two years to finally pay off all the subs and suppliers, but he did and he continued to do business with all of them for many years afterward.

This might sound like a fictional story, but I assure you, it is not because I am that young builder, and my partner was my brother-in-law. And I have not retold this story to try and build myself up, but to tell you that when you treat people honestly and keep your word, they will do the same.

There was no way that I could knowingly or willingly damage the relationships with subcontractors and suppliers that my father had with some people, that in some cases had existed for decades. Those people trusted my word because of the past relationship I had with them and I was not about to let them down.

I don’t know how I did it. Well, actually I do. It was God and only God that kept me going.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.”—Isaiah 40:28–31 ESV