By Lisa Garner – Instagram: lisag2450

My Dad’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis hit me and my family hard in 2014. My son was born and a few weeks later Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I found myself in what I thought was the darkest place of my life.

I remember sitting in the dark at three am giving my son a bottle silently crying in the dark. I looked at his newness, his youth and perfection, and I mourned my Dad’s youth. How he used to run and see if I could beat him (which I never could) he was always so fit and healthy and looked so young.

As the months turned into years, Dad became more confused and less engaged. We tried to keep our life the same and follow the same routines but eventually the horrible disease started to take more and more of Dad.

When we visited Mam and Dad, my husband would go to the pub with Dad and they would get the chippy. Eventually I had to come to to help get him in and out of the car and then one day we couldn’t get him in the car. He tried to sit on the floor instead of the car and was angry when we tried to get him in the car. That was the last time, as we just couldn’t do it anymore. Everything you give up feels like the end of an era.

Fortunately for us he was lovely and gentle unlike some others who can get caught in anger or distress. Mam struggled to keep him at home for so long (too long) but eventually a care home was the only option.

We hit a very low point guilt and worry. You hear terrible stories about vulnerable adults in care. The first care home was manic, scary, he was not clean and he was scared. The second one was full of angels, clean and prioritised dignity.

Each stage of this process feels hard and then you get used to it, and then you are hit with another awful stage.

One day I decided to visit Dad on my own, just him and me. I sang a song that he loved. It was a vein song “oh lord it’s hard to humble when you are perfect in every way, each day when I look in the mirror I get better looking each day”, my Dad loved that song and it made him laugh but today, nothing. Glazed eyes, blank stare and then something new…nothing, no recognition, no love… No love, oh no, no, no. He stood up and walked away and when I followed he tried to get away from me. I was a stranger and he wanted to get away from me.

I left, I walked out of the care home and sat in my car crying silent tears just salty water pouring down my face and into my top. Real painful tears that give you a headache, the sort of crying that makes you feel almost relieved like a release. The type of crying I had only seen in a movie that seemed to fake.

My little fragile heart that was on the edge broke that day, crack, I felt it. No amount of tears could change that look from my Dad. I said out loud in my car in the cold “he doesn’t love me anymore, my Dad doesn’t love me anymore“. I then proceeded to cry until I realised that other people were in cars around me, looking at me.

I drove home and told my Mam. He doesn’t love me anymore.  Mam said all the matters is that you love him. The real him loves you so much and you loving him keeps that alive.

This was good advice not to give up on love because the person you love has forgotten. It’s not their fault that they have forgotten so keep loving them for the both of you. When you turn up the recognition is gone so you make up for it be happy and upbeat and pleased to see them. I found telling him stories about the family and my life was therapeutic to me and him.  The relationship changes but I found if I acted really pleased to see him it would lead to him sometimes mirroring me just out of habit from his past memories. He didn’t know who I was but my enthusiasm and my mood would create that emotion in him. Try it if you are in this situation, I promise that it helps. When he copied my mood I felt better and so did he. He would then try to talk and I would pretend that it made perfect sense and that would light him up just for a fleeting moment. Take those tiny wins those fleeting moments of enthusiasm of a tiny flicker of a smile and bring them emotion. It is so true the saying that they will not remember what you say but they will remember how you made them feel. If you are reading this and your heart hurts as you are going through this journey. Know this, I hear you, I feel you and you are not alone. Seek out others who are where you are in your journey their acknowledgment and their story will help you on your way. Sending you love and light.

We absolutely LOVE this piece, kindly written by Lisa Garner. Lisa is on Instagram at @lisag2450