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Fading Away

You can listen to this week’s Devotional here

Author: Nancy Wade

Toward the end of his 80’s my father-in-law began repeating himself, telling the same three or four life stories in great detail. We did what loving family members do: we listened each time he retold a story. We understood that with age comes a certain level of deterioration of the mind and body and he told the stories with enough color and humor that we were entertained with each re-telling. We always ate Sunday brunch with him at his independent living facility and as the months went by, the challenge became to appear interested when he told the same stories for the umpteenth time.

Other symptoms of dementia appeared. We noticed that he was sometimes unable to track conversations or remember the names of other residents. He had typically been good natured and easygoing but started exhibiting impatience and agitation when faced with routine tasks. Over time, this normally gregarious man fell silent as the disease robbed him of many of his language skills. Although his repetitive story telling had been mildly annoying, I found his silence to be heartbreaking. We loved this man. We missed the person he had been: an outgoing and confident man who made friends easily, diligently practiced playing the saxophone every afternoon, loved model railroading, and who doted on his Bichon Frise’, Stubby.

Eventually, we moved him to an assisted living facility where he lived for over a year before falling and breaking a hip. He underwent surgery but died a few days later. He was 92. We were sad, but mostly relieved, and grateful for the full life that he had lived and for the many memories we had made together.

Looking back at his final days, I feel fortunate that my father-in-law’s dementia did not progress any further. At the end of his life, he still took pleasure in ordinary things and he always recognized us when we came to visit.

A report published by the Alzheimer’s Association reveals that more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia and that it kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Additionally, over 11 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

The Ministry of Last Things will present two dementia-related sessions in October: October 8th, Dr. Thomas Blumenthal will speak on the topic of Dementia: What We Know and What We Don’t Know and October 15th, Small Group Conversations and Q & A about the challenges of caring for Alzheimer’s patients. Keep an eye on the Weekly Announcements for more information about these important and timely presentations.

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