In June 2011, our beloved father, Randy Bodenhamer, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's at the age of 56. He passed away September 29, 2014. He was only 59 years old. Our family heard all too often the question, "so, does he just forget things?" To be totally honest, many people often think this is what all Alzheimer's is... "just an old-timer's disease," right? Boy, were we ever wrong to think that. Yes, the disease affected his memory, but most of all it took away his dignity and his pride.
Our Dad was the hardest working man we have ever known. His success as a Landman and being able to provide for his family meant the world to him. The frustration he endured in the early stages because of the cognitive and physical limitations he was experiencing, were disconcerting. The plans and hopes of retiring to a cabin by the lake one day with our Mom were crushed. Knowing he would never get to walk our baby sister down the aisle or see his grandchildren grow up took an emotional toll. To watch a man who at the young age of 8 years old, had lost his own father and had to take over as the man of the house, who was physically fit and active his entire life, a coach and inspiration to many... become so ill, so fast, just did not seem possible. We denied how bad he was until reality struck around Halloween 2012. We received a call from our Mom in the early hours of the morning that Dad had endured a grand mal seizure. After that, his physical health changed rapidly. He was limited to a wheelchair and needed around the clock care. His speech and memory became impaired and the physical demands of dressing and showering became too difficult for us to do alone. We had to make one of the hardest decisions of our lives, to put him into a 24-hour memory care facility. The middle stages of the disease had its ups and downs. Some mornings and days his mind were more lucid and he seemed to recognize who we were and could joke and laugh like his old self again. Sundowners would strike some nights and the frustration and depression would rear its ugly head. Dad had a hard time feeding himself, so family and close friends took turns visiting at meal times. During the later stages, he'd become restless and look uneasy though he could not express his feelings. Sometimes a tear would fall from his eye or he would twitch or grimace when he was uncomfortable. The end stages were the hardest of all. He had seizures more frequently causing him to sleep more. During the times he was awake, he was mostly mute and would often stare off into the distance, unable to recognize anyone around him.
The helplessness of watching a loved one go through this horrific disease is what drives our family to educate and empower those who also may find themselves on this difficult journey. We know what it's like to feel alone in the fight with early onset, the hope we have in our future for a cure and faith that soon we will live in a world without Alzheimer's drives us to keep raising support.
Thank you for letting us be honest with you, and thank you for your support and contributions to Randy's Alzstars and the Alzheimer Association. We look forward to seeing you at the walk this year!
As Dad would always say....
See ya Saturdee! :-)
Thank you for helping us advance Alzheimer's support, care and research!
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