Vanessa Luther is the author of “A Life Stolen,” the gripping account of the devastating, but inspiring journey that she and her father traveled through Alzheimer’s.
In 2011, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia and severe Sundowners Syndrome. I became his primary caregiver and cared for him to the best of my ability. To say that he ever had a fighting chance would be to minimize the impact that this devastating disease had on him. Not only did it destroy him, but it did so in a very vicious manner, stripping away every ounce of his dignity. It was relentless and didn’t stop until it had completely taken away my father’s life.
When I first started down this path with my dad, I found myself thrust into a world that I knew nothing about. I didn’t always do the right thing or say the correct words. Looking back, I may not have always made the right decisions. I was clearly in over my head, but I had no choice. Those were the cards we had been dealt. I knew that I couldn’t change his path, so my only option was to educate myself to better care for him. I found unlimited sources of information on Alzheimer’s. What I was really looking for, though, was a feeling of support within the pages of a book. Throughout this journey with my dad, I oftentimes felt so alone and overwhelmed, desperately needing the support of someone that had already travelled this road before me. I was stretched too thin to seek the help of a support group, so I had to rely on books.
Two years after my father passed, I still was no closer to finding something positive from all of his anguish. I decided then that I didn’t want anyone else to ever go through what I had endured. Caring for someone with this disease was hard enough, but making mistakes along the way because of a lack of knowledge was something that I found to be unacceptable and avoidable. The thought that his tragedy could somehow help others led me to share his story.
I am not a doctor, nor am I in the medical field. I am simply a daughter that woke up one day to find herself caring for her father who had been afflicted with this terrible disease. My ultimate goal is for my dad’s story to provide guidance to others caring for a loved one with this terrible affliction. I hope and pray that something good can come from all of my dad’s suffering. Deep inside, I have to believe there was a purpose for his tragic journey. It broke his heart to watch what this disease did to him and his loved ones. He wouldn’t want that for anyone else.
I hope that the reader will understand that all of the disturbing behavior in the book was the disease. It was always the disease, causing people to act out in ways completely uncharacteristic of themselves. It makes them strangers. In his right mind, my dad would have never said or done some of the things that he did. In fact, he would have been deeply ashamed of them. My dad never mistreated anyone in his entire life. It just wasn’t within him to do so. He was the kindest gentleman you could ever imagine, with the biggest heart out of anyone I’ve ever known. My hope is that when you strip away all of the ugliness of Alzheimer’s, you will see my father for the loving, caring, generous man that he truly was. If I had known the information in this book during our journey together, I am convinced that things would have turned out much differently for my father. I truly hope that our story will make a difference in the lives of everyone who reads it. My purpose is to bring about a much needed awareness to this devastating disease that seems to be taking over. Most importantly, my hope is that it will make the road for others an easier one to travel. To everyone dealing with this horrible affliction, you are not alone.
Pick up a copy of Vanessa Luther’s book, “A Life Stolen: My Father’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s” and let us know what you think in the comments below.
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