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Memories of Memory Care

Dad loved his family more than anything. I think we talked more about family after we moved him into memory care than anything else. I would tell him about his grandkids and great-grandkids and also about his sister and brothers. He was thrilled when his sister came to visit him in late January 2020. I made sure his room had pictures of family, both older pictures and new ones. There was one collage picture frame that he had me label with the names of everyone on there for him so he would make sure to know who was who, especially when it came to his granddaughters since they are twins.

While he was there I made a couple of photo books for him, one was focused on the entire family and I made sure to put names with the pictures for him and any caregiver that may look through the book with him. The second one I made for him was his story from birth to present. His caregivers told me that he would look through those books over and over. When they would point to him as a young boy and ask who that was, he remembered. There was also a picture of the house he was born in which was in Alamo, Texas and when they pointed to that house and asked where that house was, they told me he said it was "The Alamo". I laughed and told them that he probably said it was "In Alamo" because of the name of the town he was born in and they agreed I was probably right. It's amazing and cruel at the same time that dementia, Alzheimer's and related diseases can strip away so much from someone, in my case my father's short term memory. I consider myself lucky that right up to the very end he never completely forgot who I was. There were times that he didn't remember but I early on found a way to bring him back to me. He had a picture cube that had a picture of mom holding me as a baby on one side, a couple more pictures of me at different ages, and then one of my parents wedding photos with both sets of my grandparents in the picture. I would tell him that I was definitely his daughter because I could name every single person in that picture by first middle and last name (including maiden name), give their dates of birth and place of birth and who else besides his daughter would be able to do that without looking it up. He would get a smile on his face and say something along the lines of "You're right, you are my daughter."

There were several things that tugged at my heart strings when he was in memory care. He was always wanting to go home, which is normal but it doesn't make it any easier. At first I wasn't sure what to say and just told him mom was away and he was staying there for a little while. Then I came up with the story after talking with someone at the Alzheimer's Association and being told that it was really okay to not tell him the truth about why he couldn't go home. They said that yes, it is great that I don't want to lie to my father but to think of it as a therapeutic fib. Therapeutic for me and him, especially if he accepts it. The fib that I came up with was that a pipe burst in the bathroom of his house and it was a major repair that was being fixed and he was staying where he was and mom was in Montana taking care of her brother who had relapsed. I had to tell that story over and over but he accepted it. Then came question of when he could talk to mom on the phone. I was finally able to get around that one by telling him that she was okay where she was and that if he remembered there wasn't great cell phone reception at the cabin my uncle lived in and the only time mom would be where there was better reception was when I was at work. That was a time I was thankful his long term memory was there because he remembered my uncle having cancer and living in a cabin in the mountains previously. My uncle thankfully has not relapsed and is no longer living in a cabin in the mountains, he is living in a condo!

This all worked for a while but then he started to question mom being gone so long. I came up with an idea and then ran it by the director of the facility and the memory care director to get their thoughts on it and they both thought it was a great idea. I typed up a letter to dad from mom and then signed her name. I got pretty good at signing her name when I was younger, who knew it would pay off later in life! I made it sound like her as best I could and even took a slight jab at myself in the letter. I read the letter to dad and I must have done pretty well at sounding like her because he believed it. I left the letter with him and even though he really didn't read his books anymore he had one with him most of the time and now that letter was his bookmark. The next time I was there for a visit one of his caregivers told me they had read the letter that I wrote and they thought it was a great thing for me to do and it made them cry.

#missmydad #memories #griefsupport #untilwemeetagain #dementiasucks #endalz #grief #alzsucks


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