Alzheimer's Moments: Searching for Answers
My Mom has told me many times, "You do the best you can with what you've got at the time." Never was that statement more true than during my conversation with Dad yesterday afternoon. The phone rings and I see on the caller ID that it's my parents. I pick up the phone and my Mom says that Dad wants to talk to me and that he's probably having "an Alzheimer's Moment." And then my Dad is on the line.
For the next 10 minutes or so, I was listening and thinking so hard, smoke should have been pouring out of my ears.
At this stage, Dad is still sometimes aware that he has Alzheimer's. I suppose this is a good thing, but I actually have no idea. During our conversation he tells me that he's probably having an Alzheimer's moment, but he doesn't know (or in Dad speak, it’s maybe 90% Alzheimer's and 10% him or vice versa). He just knows that something feels wrong, and he is asking me to “walk him out” of this. (image credit)
My mind and heart scrabbled around for some kind of answer, for a way to fix this.
What was weird, funny, and surreal, is that this felt like a phone call from one of my clients, asking for my help and insights. As a self-employed consultant for 10+ years, I'm paid to answer questions and solve problems.
I’ve also mentioned before that my dad was a highly successful technology entrepreneur. Similar to me (well actually a lot like me as everyone in my family knows) Dad and I both prefer to answer, not ask the questions.
Both of us are also accustomed to running our own ships. So when you had us in the same house we would often not pass like ships in the night, we would run right into each other.
So, now my Dad's deliberate, and yet hesitant voice is on the line seeking my help, in some unfathomable way reminding me of the role I play every day. And part of what goes through my mind is from an article I just read from another blogger. He said we can't fix those with Alzheimer's but we can help them.
No, I can't solve his problem, and I can help him and realize that helping him has meaning.
So given the situation and his self-awareness, what do I say??
When he asked for my help, part of what I said is "Dad you have more experience than I do on this" and "This is new territory for me Dad, and we will have to figure this out together." I also tell him that even though he may feel lost, that the way that he talks to me, tells me he is still my Dad.
I have learned that revisiting good memories and reminding him of the great dad that he's been does seem to help. So I talked about that…What still makes me laugh is while he may not know who he is sometimes, he is still capable of giving advice.
And unlike the past I don't butt heads. I listen because I no longer take these conversations for granted.