I met Kristine and Cary in 2016; they held an event at a small restaurant on Newark Ave and provided the opportunity to those who were dealing with family regarding Alzheimer’s disease. It was the first time I got to speak my thoughts in public.
Tonight is the first time I am actually speaking about how Alzheimer's affected my family. It was very challenging how powerless I felt over the 3 years I watched it affect my stepdad and my mom. Here was a guy who was in the military, fought in the war, was on the Jersey City Police Department for 31 years, was involved in a shootout, took down the shooter, and was promoted to Gold Shield Detective. In other words, he was a pretty tough guy. It started gradually with his memory loss, and I could see how frustrated he would get. Then, it progressed to where he did not know what day of the week it was.
My mom became his caretaker and dedicated her time to him. I could not get her to leave the house or take a ride as she did not want to leave his side. I noticed my mom now falling into forgetfulness patterns and slowing herself down, which was hard to watch. I would visit them frequently to help out, and when I would leave, I would sit in my car for a while before getting on the road to head home. I would feel sad and upset that there was not much I could do, knowing there is no cure for Alzheimer's.
My stepdad got really bad, to the point he could not control his bodily functions and was off balance. In August 2014, he fell and was taken to the hospital, where he passed away a few days later. It was so hard to watch my mom at his bedside while he was in the hospital, as she would mention she couldn’t wait until Bob came back home, all while he had no idea who any of us were. After he passed away my mom pretty much checked out of life, not wanting to do anything, or eat. I hired a live-in which my mom was not receptive to, and I was on the verge of getting her into an assisted living facility as she no longer was taking care of herself.
I checked in on her every day after Bob passed away. Then, on Tuesday, January 15th, 2015, I rang, as I would normally call her during the day and go see her in the evening, but the phone was not answered after many attempts. I left work, got to her house, and found her passed away in her bed five months after her husband had passed away.
I’m not sure what words I could use to exactly describe this experience other than frustrating. I would think every day about what I could do to solve this situation for my mom and stepdad when in reality there was not much I could really do but be there for them. I am grateful for my wonderful friends who were there for me and would check in on me to see how I was doing while taking care of my mom and stepdad, and who were there for me even more after they had both passed away.