This is the third installment of a series of articles published by Methow Valley resident Don Reddington which will explore the issues of living with Alzheimer’s disease. The articles were written in collaboration with Raligh Bowden, M.D., and Methow Valley News reporter Laurelle Walsh and originally published in theMethow Valley News.
I was concerned about an upcoming visit to our grandchildren in Colorado. I assumed our two daughters, Shawna and Becky, had told our grandchildren that Papa Don had a serious illness. I did not know what had been told and I wasn’t going to ask. I felt that I was responsible for giving our grandchildren an explanation of the changes in Papa Don’s life.
Before I left on the trip, I decided to approach Room One, the social services agency in Twisp. At the front desk, I approached Maureen and asked if she had any articles on explaining Alzheimer’s to children. The answer was “no,” but she felt that it was a good idea. She took the time to find several on the Internet. I was so thankful to Maureen.
Once we got on the airplane, I began writing a short but helpful article for my grandkids.
At the same time, I began this new chapter of Living with Alzheimer’s. I felt that other Papas and Grandmas with AD could benefit as well from reading “Explaining Alzheimer’s to Children.”
My explanation of my change in life to our grandchildren follows:
“Papa Don is having a change of life that I want to share with you. I am having a problem with loss of memory. Thus, I want you to understand how this loss will change our relationship. We have shared many wonderful times together. As I age, my memory has aged as well. We will have a change in our relationship. For example, I may forget your name, or have problems talking to you; it might be that I don’t understand your questions or comments. I will still love you as much as the first day that I laid eyes on you! Therefore, I will need your help with remembering and thinking. I love you and want to continue to see you.
As days and years go by, I might get sicker over time. I promise that I or Grandma Ginger will explain those symptoms and how to handle them with Papa Don.
With love to you! God bless, Papa Don.
p.s. Please remember me in your prayers to God Our Father and Ann, my guardian angel, who are watching over me.”
Prior to meeting with the grandchildren, I had the parents of the two families review my presentation. One family has two boys, ages 5 to 9 and the other family has a girl, 14, and four boys, ages 2 to 12. The children were great! There were questions but they seemed to have received enough information. The best result was grandchildren that were very caring to Papa Don and tried to help in any way possible. It was a great experience for all of us. They will always be in my memories! I may forget their names but I will always remember my grandchildren: Trinity, Jadon, Gabriel, Silas and Marcus Scarpella; and Tieg and Skogan Wachter.
Our thoughts are with you,
Don Reddington and Jerry Bristol – AD League