Alzheimer’s and My Dad

This blog is tough for me as for the past few years my dad has suffered from Alzheimer’s and a few weeks ago we placed him in a Memory Care unit.  No, I am not going about to bore you with stats about this devastating and debilitating disease.. I believe that any family that has suffered or is suffering understands the pain and tough decisions that have to be made. As an EMS provider, I have cared for numerous Alzheimer’s patients and have traveled to the Memory Care Units.  I just returned back from my hometown of Pittsburgh, visiting the my dad and I will tell you it was tough and I look at Memory Care in a different light. This blog is to talk about my dad and mom and how the visit went.  Oh by the way if it was not for my dad, I sure would not be writing this blog or definity not have the success I have achieved in EMS. I am feeling guilty that I never told him that that directly.

Listen my dad and I were different from the start, my dad asked the Obstetrician when I was born if he was sure I was boy. He wanted a girl. He had a son already, my brother Jeff. Now Jeff and my dad are very much alike and shared the same views on money, sports, had similar personalities and were able to sale anything to anyone. Me, I was and still closer to my mom.  I like sports (I was not good, but my brother was good at any sport he played), but I was shy and did want sale anything. My dad and I had a good relationship and he loves me. As I learned as I grew up his bark was worse than his bite. Both my parents taught me how to be a gentleman and treat people with respect. One trait he taught me was to be kind to strangers. My dad world talk to anyone and become friends with anyone. He would invite strangers for dinner and some of the strangers became family and long time friends.  There is one trait that I can state that I got from my dad.

My dad is a retired pharmacist and his medical knowledge and brain was always sharp. He loves kids. He pinches cheeks, talks in funny voices and always got them to smile. My dad had a special place for those kids that were mentally challenged. There was a school in Pittsburgh called the Allegheny Valley School for Exceptional Children. My dad was a big part of this school as a volunteer.  My dad taught them how to play baseball and actually they kids played Little League. Remember my dad could talk and sell anything. Bob Prince (Pittsburgh Pirates Broadcaster, known for creating the phrases “by a gnat’s eyelash and a can of corn”) and Steve Blass  (winner of game 7 of the 1971 World Series) got involved with the school because of my dad.  Me I have a knack with kids, talk in funny voices and volunteered with Special Olympics and I am still volunteering with Make A Wish. My mom is a retired school teacher and that is where I got the knack to always want to teach.

I have spoken to my dad and have made frequent visits back home over the years.  Recently during those visits I started to see my dad change. My parents were living independently and my dad mostly knew who I was and what I did. Over the last few months when we talked via phone he did not know me. It took a few minutes for him to recall or my mom had to tell him who I was. I started to pep my brother and my mom that maybe dad needs to be in a Memory Care facility. This took about 2 years.  My mom had to make this difficult decision and she was not ready.  When she finally made the decision, she told me it was after one of our talks.

My wife and I arrived in Pittsburgh and we picked up my mom and it was off to see my dad. The facility is clean and the staff is engaging. My dad did not recognize me or my wife, but knew my mom.  He looks good and his mobility is much better than the last time I saw him. Our conversation started with an introduction. I told him I was his son. This was tough for me as I started to tear up, but I got it together.  I showed him pictures of his grandchildren, work pictures and our dog Mandy. Everyday that I was there to visit, he would ask how our dog was? We participated together in trivia, exercise and we took a few walks during my visits. My wife said I fit right in. He did not know me until the the last day. When I arrived, he said hi Steven. A few minutes later though, he did not know me. It is tough on me, but my mom has it tougher. She no longer has her husband of 60 years at home with her, her life has changed and she may never adjust. My mom is tough, she will do ok. My mom and I had great quality time together talking about this, eating, and making a trip to her favorite place; a casino.

I mentioned earlier I owe my career to my dad. He had a heart attack way back when, his technician in the hospital was an EMT and he introduced me to him and the rest is history. I do miss talking to my dad about EMS, he always wanted to know everything I did when I was in the field full time and my duties as the chief.  I hope maybe one day soon we can talk EMS again and tell him thanks.

Erin, Mom and Me

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