In 2004, my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s-related dementia and a few months later, my mother with Alzheimer’s disease. That was the year I became a caregiver. While my parents didn’t reside with me, I was still intimately involved in their daily care for the next 4 and 5 years. Traveling down that rabbit hole of dementia with my parents was difficult and sad. I watched helplessly as this disease steadily and ruthlessly chipped away at their brains, one memory at a time. That said, it was also a time of considerable personal growth for me. I learned to parent my parents with patience and compassion, caring for them much as they’d cared for me as a child so many years before. Interspersed with the challenges were times of fleeting lucidity, as well as moments of poignant tenderness, which I still remember and cherish, even today. These are moments I would have missed forever, had I not been a family caregiver.
It was the weekend of our family reunion and almost everyone was gathered together at my parent’s condo to celebrate a milestone. Our patriarch, my dad, was turning 90. When the front doorbell rang, Mom opened the door, took one look at her oldest granddaughter and asked in a perplexed tone of voice, “Who are you?” After a moment of silence, we all laughed a little uncomfortably, but brushed it off, rationalizing the comment as a manifestation of Mom’s stress in caring for Dad, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. It was not mentioned again.
Our family continued to somehow normalize or overlook the ever-increasing signs that Continue reading