I began working with a man named "George" in April of last year. He was in his last stages of Alzheimer's disease, leaving him relatively unable to communicate. George was a people person in every sense of the word. After serving a long career in public service, he retired. Not long into retirement he lost his wife. He was heartbroken. To do something with his time he started volunteering. Not surprisingly, he fully dedicated himself to it and became a full-time volunteer. He loved it. As his Alzheimer's continued to progress, he lost the ability to drive. He started taking the bus to volunteer. Eventually he started to get lost on the bus route and was transitioned into an assisted living. His needs for more support slowly increased and he was eventually moved into a nursing home. His children moved back to the area to be with him more.
During my visits with George I would often wheel him outside to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Eventually the very few words he was able to say began to sound more like mumbling. George's daughter visited him frequently though he didn't remember this and would frequently ask her "Where have you been?!" This was frustrating for her as she had been there. It just felt like it was never enough. On the day he passed I went to the facility and met with his daughter, through the tears she said she felt like she lost her dad years ago to Alzheimers. She said she wasn't sure what was worse, the Alzheimer's taking him then or actually losing him now. She shared how special her dad was to her and wished she could have him back.
Although I could never bring her dad back to her, I talked with her about how thankful her dad would have been that she honored his wishes. He didn't have to spend his last days in the hospital. He spent them at home, surrounded by his family until the very end.