Karen Croley is an author and daughter of a newly diagnosed father with Alzheimer’s.
Learn more from her writing about the disease in “Letting Go, Because Achieving is No Longer Needed.”
Letting Go, Because Achieving is No Longer Needed
It wasn’t always like this.
I greet my Dad and I am received with a great big hug. He’s wearing a gigantic smile and brand new Vans my Mom bought him because she was tired of looking at his old shoes. Now he’s got a spring in his step. Not that he didn’t ever. It’s just more playful-like now. Before, it was an effort and sometimes forced. Can you force playfulness? Not really. It just felt that way when he was “happy.”
Later I would learn in life, that I had the same inclination, that living requires an effort. Especially when it came to feeling happy and playful.
My father was intense and uptight by default so it seemed. Work was his whole life. One of my early memories as a little girl is getting handed his bourbon with a cherry to deliver to him sitting on the couch. “Give this to your father,” my mother would order me with a deep sigh. Now that he was home, we could work on getting him relaxed. We tried to put his mind at ease. Though those wheels inside his head were always turning… My father has always been a high achiever type of man. Always thinking, always trying to make things better — everything better.
I can see clearly now, that it was his way of contributing to the world. It made him feel useful, made him feel powerful to voice his correction or concern.
I know that now, because as he slips into the deeper stages of having Alzheimer’s disease these traits are more intense. Right now he feels a fierce need to fix how his living facility presents its monthly bill. It’s not done right! Numerous emails have been sent to management and nobody responds. Threats are made to sue and bring in the Veteran’s Association. The Mayor should be notified because it’s too hard to see the stop signs on the corner of Chorro Street. There could be some real trouble if this is not addressed! Letting go of forcing his will on others is a tough task at the age of eighty-five. Never mind Alzheimer’s. What does he do with his need to achieve? Now that he has trouble putting an email letter together, it’s completely frustrating not to be able to voice his concern. The written word was his main instrument; with bill collectors, newspaper columnists, mayors, governors… you name it.
Today, my brothers and I received advice from the head of a memory care residential facility. “Don’t argue with him. Instead, agree with everything he says. You won’t get anywhere trying to use reason. Tell him “white lies” to make him happy. If he gets upset when he goes to drive the car but can’t find it. Tell him it’s in the shop. He will say okay and then forget about it.”
Dory from the movie, “Finding Dory/Finding Nemo” comes to mind. With short term memory loss, you can make up things to tell that person because in the long run it doesn’t matter. Seems a far cry from doing his life like everything matters. Today, he showed me the line of masking tape he had put on the carpet.
“Watch this,” he says, as he proceeds to show me how he can balance walking on the line. One foot carefully placed before the other. Happily walking forward, completely mindful of every step.
About the Author
Karen Croley, M.A. is a life coach, published author, psychology instructor and mother of three boys. She is the daughter of a newly diagnosed father with Alzheimer’s disease. She lives on the Central Coast of California where she rents out the bottom half of her home to AirBnB guests, practices yoga, hikes, and loves spending time at the nearby beaches. Her company, A New Leaf 4 You helps people starting over after divorce/break-ups or loss of loved ones. She teaches and guides them with the 12 spiritual truths that helped her after her divorce ten years ago.
Do you have any other suggestions for letting go during this time with the disease? Share your Alzheimer’s stories with us in the comments below.