Reflecting on our Son’s Visit

Since I first informed our son, Kevin, and our daughter, Jesse, of Kate’s diagnosis five years ago, Kevin has made a point of visiting us for long weekends several times a year. I am sure that he has benefitted by making the most of his time with Kate. It has also given me a lift and provided Kate with much pleasure as well.

During his recent visits, her memory of him has faded. That means she hasn’t had the pleasure that accompanies the anticipation of his coming. She does, however, enjoy his presence and connects with him as though she recognizes him as her son in the same way that she relates to me when she doesn’t remember that I’m her husband. She is very at ease with him.

During each visit there are special moments. Their time together on the afternoon of his arrival was one of those. They spent about two hours looking through one of her family photo books. It was the kind of experience I had hoped might occur after I informed both children about Kate’s diagnosis five years ago. I went to the grocery store when they first started. When I returned home, I let them continue this personal time to themselves but joined them a little later.

Of course, life isn’t a constant stream of such moments. Our lives consist of many routine activities that, by themselves, don’t mean anything special. When they are shared with people you love, however,  they are special in their own way. Kevin’s visit was a good example of that. He was here for his high school class reunion, so that was a highlight for him. His time with us, however, was spent going through our activities of daily living.

As Kate’s care partner and Kevin’s father, I am glad that he was able to catch a glimpse of what our lives are like. Since he lives almost 1200 miles from us, it’s hard to know what is really going on. He actively reads this blog, but I felt even that might not fully convey what living with Alzheimer’s means for us.

You might ask why this matters to me. It goes back to the time when my father was caring for my mother who had dementia. The last eight years of my mom’s life, my parents lived right here in town. I was with them a lot, but I didn’t know as much as I should have. I have only realized that as I have cared for Kate. Dad never shared much about his life as a caregiver or Mom’s as a person with dementia. I want our children to have a better understanding of our lives. That was a major factor in my starting the journal that eventually became this blog.

In addition, our son is a care manager. His whole career has involved caregiving. It seems appropriate that he should be fully informed about his parents’ situation. Not surprisingly, he has taken a genuine interest in staying in touch as Kate’s Alzheimer’s has progressed.

Although not in a career that deals specifically with caregiving, our daughter, Jesse, works a lot with seniors and takes a great interest in their lives. I also want her to know about us.

That said, Kevin’s visit was an especially good one because he got to see a very representative snapshot of how Kate is doing and the way in which I care for her. During past visits, her symptoms were much less noticeable. She has changed significantly since he was last here in March. He saw how much her memory has faded. He also was here when she didn’t want to get up in the morning and her desire to rest in the afternoon. What is more important to me is that he could tell how much we still enjoy life and each other.

Because Kate slept late while he was here, he and I had an opportunity to talk about our mutual observations. I am often concerned that my blog posts don’t adequately express what our lives are like. I was pleased to hear him say that he thought there was a pretty good match between what he had read and what he observed for himself.

Since his career is in eldercare, I was eager to hear how he thought our own experience compares to that of other couples living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. My personal impression is that we have been exceedingly fortunate compared to most others. He confirmed my impression.

We were also able to talk about the future. We discussed my plans for a move to a continuing care retirement community in another year and a half. I also told him my own desire to work closely with him as well as Jesse as I get older. My exposure to the caregiving memoirs of children caring for the parents has sensitized me to the problems that can arise. In particular, parents often share very little about things their children will need to know when the parents require help. I would like our relationship to be a smooth one with as few surprises as possible.

Considering all these things, Kevin’s visit was a very good one. His attentiveness both in phone calls and visits has strengthened our relationship and set the stage for a bright future.

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