Rewriting Life Plans When Your Dad Has Alzheimer’s

Below is a message from Jennifer Costello, YPAA Secretary…
 
When I first starting telling friends that my dad has Alzheimer’s, I would often hear the standard response of “my grandparent has it too.”  Alzheimer’s is all too familiar in the elderly community.  But my dad was not elderly when he was diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s Disease.  In fact, my dad was still working more than full-time and was even helping to take care of his own father who suffered from Alzheimer’s when we recognized something was wrong.
 
Like any bad news, hearing your father has Alzheimer’s is life changing. But being a young adult child, the bad news meant I had to completely rewrite my life plans. In a time of my life where life should be exciting as I establish my own life with my own house, a career, and a husband, I had to change my priorities and be a support system for my mom and take the time to help care for him.

I got engaged in December 2013 to a man who reminds me of my dad: strong, supportive, hard working; the kind of man who cleans the snow off your car before you even get out of the shower. But the joy was overcast by heavy sorrow. Like most girls, I had always dreamed of having my dad walk me down the aisle, give me away to my husband, and share in the father-daughter dance at our reception. While my dad is still physically here, the person that I know was and is so quickly going away. The look in his striking blur eyes is now blank and he is no longer strong, supportive, hard working, nor can he clean the snow off of my moms car anymore.

We had to act fast and plan fast. We were able to plan our wedding for November 2014. I pick up my dad from senior day care at least once a week, and each day I picked him up, I saw less and less of then dad I knew. Each day as the wedding approached, I had to accept the fact that on the day of our wedding, there was a possibility that he may or may not be able to walk me down the aisle, give me away, or join in our father-daughter dance. It was a reality that I had to face.

Because of our quick wedding planning, strong extended family support, and patient, kind wedding coordinators and vendors, we made it down the aisle and even shared our father-daughter dance. He may not have been fully aware of what was going on, but he knew it was a special day for me. I am so grateful for these memories that I was able to make with my dad.

I joined the YPAA because I hope for a day when no little girl will have to question whether her father will not just physically make it down the aisle on her big day, but also mentally and emotionally. At the YPAA, I have made wonderfully supportive connections and friends for life. We work hard raising not just money for the cause, but awareness of Alzheimer’s. I hope that we can show the world that Alzheimer’s Disease doesn’t just affect the elderly, but it affects everyone of all ages who have to change their lives in support of loved ones suffering with the disease.
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