We just came back from visiting with my dad for a week. He has been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for four or five years now. He is living with my brother and sister-in-law who do an amazing job caring for him. It is exhausting, of course, especially since they both work full time. My hubby and I went out to give them a little break. I really enjoyed watching and listening to Dad. Even though he has regressed significantly, even since last summer, he still has so much to teach me.
- Smile. Choose to be cheerful. He was always smiling and laughing. I could see that it was frustrating for him when he couldn’t articulate his thoughts, but he still was cheerful and a joy to be around.
- Wave. As we went for our daily walks, he made sure that he waved at every car that drove by. He was always excited when someone waved back. You could tell that there were some regulars that watched out for him and even slowed down or paused at the corner to smile and wave back.
- Be friendly. Don’t be afraid to talk to people. Several neighbors took time to chat for a minute or two and encourage him. One made a point of saying how encouraged he was by Dad’s diligence.
- Be responsible. They planted a little vegetable garden for him to take care of. He goes out every day to give each plant personal attention. Even when it rains, he insists he must take care of the plants. He still makes his own bed. He daily brings in the mail. He dresses himself even though he frequently puts his clothes on backwards. The point is he keeps trying to do his share.
- Be gentle and kind. He no longer understand that plants need water at the roots, which is okay because they are already watered automatically. Instead he takes time to cradle each flower, each tomato, and each melon and give them a little gentle bath. Then he plucks off every leaf that is turning brown.
- Be diligent. Do what you can do and don’t give up. He can no longer take normal steps. Instead each step only propels him forward 8 or 10 inches. But he still goes for a mile walk every day. During his normal routine, his granddaughter or her friend come to walk with him. While we were there we gave them a break and enjoyed that time with him. He knows every house that has a dog and he loves to get them barking! He also likes to watch the school buses unload.
- Trust the people who love you. My brother and his wife take very good care of him and try to allow him to be as independent as possible. Sometimes he doesn’t understand why they ask him to do something. He may puzzle over it for a while, but in the end even though he’s “the big man” (the elder/father), he does what “the Boss” (his son) asks.
- Give people attention. He cheerfully talks to anyone who will take the time to listen. Numbers are very important to him, even if he no longer understands their meanings. He loves to tell people he is “a hundred miles old plus thirty.” He nods to indicate that he is serious. I stood behind him and gave a little wink at the listener.
- Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. He knows he is not using all of the correct words, but he shrugs and chuckles and tries anyway.
- Maintain a sense of wonder. We went to Starbucks once a day to collect our email. Each time he looked around in wonder. “I’ve never been here before,” he would comment. “It’s nice.” Then he sat there quietly looking at people while we read email. Every once in a while I reached over and gave him a little poke. He made a silly noise and laughed. He loves to laugh! He still has a sense of humor and tries to make little jokes.
One other fond little incidence. While we were there, he saw me hand quilting the Cosmic Jewels quilt. Of course, the batting is hanging out, and I was using a needle at the time. He asked “What is that?” I told him it was a quilt. Then he asked in a very concerned voice, “Is it broken?”
Years ago, his homespun wisdom was the inspiration behind my quilt, “Always Establish Who’s At Fault.” Even with Alzheimer’s, he continues to be a man I respect and learn from. I am so thankful for this treasure God has given me.