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As I have mentioned, our trip to visit our son was wrought with a myriad of mixed emotions. I went seeking what many of you have written you desire – validation that your spouse; the parent of your child, is indeed mentally disabled. We want our children to emerge from the fog of denial; to see clearly what is happening to their AD afflicted parent; to see the strain and stress it is causing us, the caregiver. We want them to offer ; actual physical support if they live nearby. We want them to spend time with their AD parent because time doesn’t lend itself to “do overs”. We want them to surface from their busy lives and self-absorption and give back just a little of the love, devotion, and time that we gave to them as youngsters. Just a little. It doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request.

My son has always been an observer of life. He says little; stands in the background, and quietly absorbs every overt and subliminal word, action, and body language of those around him. During each of our last four yearly visits, he has watched us both carefully, and had concluded that his Dad had some memory problems and his Mom was over reacting as he feels she does to everything.

This visit was different. His powers of observation were acute. He not only saw what I had been talking about; he saw more. He saw Sid’s confusion; his immaturity of language; his slow processing; his rambling conversation. I touched upon this in my first Blog from San Francisco – that Joel’s validation was a knife through my heart. The pain was a combination of my having forgotten how Sid used to be; the fact that now that someone else could see Sid’s decline meant the disease was advancing; that Joel was losing his Dad as I was losing my husband. It was crushing to me. I got my wish, and I was sick to my stomach from it.

That was not the end of the conflicting emotions. Sid has significant physical disabilities due to the diabetes and neuropathy. It is extremely difficult for him to walk – he is off balance, and he tires easily. As I stood on Fisherman’s Wharf, watching my son run up and down stairs looking for a handicapped access to a bathroom for his father, my heart swelled with pride. But as I watched him help Sid up the stairs and escort him to the bathroom, a deep depression overwhelmed me. I was watching the son helping the father as the father had helped the son so many years before – but it was much too soon for that. Sid is only 64 years old. This should not be happening now. My daughter-in-law was standing with me, and told me she thought I was holding up well emotionally. I don’t know if I am or not; I just know that all of these contradictory emotions are wearing me out.

Both my son and daughter-in-law fully comprehend the gravity of the situation. Joel knows that Sid cannot make another trip across the country to California. He will come to visit us in Florida next year, even though he equates flying with physical torture. He wants to see his Dad as often as he can. They have assured me that if I die before Sid, they will come to get him, and place him in a nursing facility in California where they can monitor his care. I am thankful to have such understanding and support.

I am not so naïve as to expect that if Sid needed their assistance at this stage of the disease that they would be able to provide it – they live in a small apartment in the city; both of them work; and Barbara goes to school almost full time. It would be impossible for them to care for Sid under those conditions. So we’ll just hope I don’t die until Sid is ready for nursing home care. (Seriously, I will work on an alternate plan in case of my untimely death.)

But what about those of you who have written to express heartache and dismay over the denial, indifference, and emotional distancing of your adult children? There are many reasons for their actions. As long as they are in denial, they don’t have to face the disease; As long as they are emotionally distant, they don’t have to feel the pain of watching their parent’s decline; As long as they use their busy schedules as an excuse for their indifference, they don’t have to disrupt their own lives to face stress, emotional pain, and upheaval.  I know because during my last two years of college, and the first two months of my marriage, my mother was dying from lung cancer, and I ran from it. I just could not deal with it. My father and younger sister lived with it, and bore the burden of it. Shame on me. Perhaps that is what is going on with those of you whose children seemed to have turned their back on their mother/father’s Alzheimer’s Disease.

Drop your spouse off at their house for a weekend. That is a sure-fire attitude adjuster. A friend of mine did just that – she sent her AD husband up to Massachusetts to spend 10 days with his children.

My hope is that you are able to relate to the emotions I have expressed, and that you have been helped in understanding your own children’s motivations. 

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©Copyright 2007 Joan Gershman

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