My beloved father, Randy Bodenhamer, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's at the age of 56. He passed away in the fall of 2014. He was only 59. I heard all too often the question, "so, does he just forget things?" To be totally frank with you, I think many people often think this is all Alzheimer's is... " just an old-timer's disease", right? Was I ever wrong to think that. Yes, it affected his memory, but most of all it took away his dignity and his pride.
My dad was the hardest working man I 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 my mom were crushed. Knowing he would not get to walk my younger sister down the aisle or see his granddaughters grow up took an emotional toll. To watch a man who at the early age of 8 years old lost his own father and had to take over as the man of the house, who was physically fit and active his whole life, a coach and inspiration to many, become so ill, so fast, did not seem possible. I myself denied how bad he was until reality struck around Halloween 2012 when we got a call from 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 Dad became 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 was more lucid and he seemed to recognize who we were and be able to joke and laugh like his old self again. Sun downers would strike some nights and the frustration and depression reared its ugly head. Dad had a hard time feeding himself so family and close friends took turns going up for meal times. During the later stages, dad would become very restless and look uneasy though he could not express in any other way his feelings. Sometimes a tear would fall from his eye or he would twitch or grimace when uncomfortable. The end stages were the hardest of all. He had seizures more frequently causing him to sleep more. During his wake time he was mostly mute and would often stare off into the distance and become unable to recognize anyone around him.
The helplessness of watching a loved one go through this horrific disease is what drives us to educate and empower those family and friends who too may find themselves on this difficult journey. We know what it is 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 me be honest with you, and thank you for your contributions to Randy's Alzstars and the Alzheimer Association. We look forward to seeing you at the walk this year.
Thank you for helping us advance Alzheimer's support, care and research!
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