By Elizabeth A. Bonnett Elizabeth attended the Alzheimer’s Association annual Advocacy Day February 12, 2016 for the Washington State Plan to Address Alzheimer’s and Dementia Announcement.
My father, a leader and teacher in our community, taught from high school to elementary throughout his 33-year career. He was a leader in our church, and he worked with Boy Scouts of America. However, during the last 10 years of his life, we saw a different person evolve. He began requiring constant care.
My mother transitioned from wife to full-time caregiver. She gave up hobbies, outside activities and independence. Luckily, they had purchased in-home, long-term care insurance, but even that was not enough to give her all the help she needed. We visited as often as possible, but with each visit, his recognition of my children and me decreased. I didn’t let that bother me, but my brother, living in the same town as my parents, couldn’t handle his father not knowing who he was. He rarely visited.
During the last fourteen months of his life, my husband and I moved from Arizona to Washington to assist in his care. I watched him lose the ability to plan and participate in family decisions and activities. One day, Dad left to walk the dog. His favorite mode of transportation was walking, but this time, he got lost. A lady called saying that she found the dog at her home. Mom franticly asked if there was a white haired man with him. Thankfully, Dad was following the dog, but didn’t know what town he was in. No more walking the dog!
A security system was installed in the house–not to let Mom know that someone was entering–but to let her know if Dad exited. Latches were installed on the yard gates to keep Dad from wandering. He felt extremely frustrated when he could not undo a simple latch.
For months, I went to their home in the morning to help change wet pajamas, wet pads in the bed and to shower my father so that he could be presentable for the day. He was in diapers day and night. He felt humiliated that someone was doing such personal care. Later, we had to move him to a locked memory care facility—just six weeks before he died. He couldn’t eat or swallow.
My story is just one example of the current lack of support for families. We need legislative support to address the needs of our aging population who built a foundation for our state.
I now facilitate a support group for caregivers who face these daily quandaries, seeking solutions and support to help them manage life as a caregiver. Washington residents need the implementation of the Washington State Plan to Address Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias to provide assistance for their continuing needs. Perhaps now, people like me, my mom and husband will see a light in the future.