Living with Alzheimer’s

Living+with+Alzheimer%27s

Stephanie Lee

Stephanie Lee and her father Greg Lee on the monorail at the California State Fair in July 2012

Stephanie Lee and Stephanie Lee

There is nothing special about my father. However, he is a very special person to me and is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, which according to the Center for Disease Control is the sixth most leading cause of death in the United States.

Early in January 2011 my family and I got the diagnosis we had been waiting for the past three years. It’s something that I had heard about, but didn’t really know what it was exactly. Simply put, Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that affects thoughts, memories and language.

In 2012 alone, 5.4 million Americans will have suffered from Alzheimer’s, 5.2 million of those being 65 years of age or older. My father is only 52-years-old.

Growing up I was always a daddy’s girl, doing all the boyish things with him like playing sports. He was my football coach, my basketball coach, taught me how to fish and even drive. He is a focal point of my strongest and fondest memories.

When we got the diagnosis, I shut myself off from the very same person I had grown so close to as a child. It’s not that I didn’t love him anymore, because I do. It was just hard to communicate.

I have a very short temper. And with my father, even knowing that he won’t remember how to do something, I find myself getting so frustrated with his inability to do something right. I can’t help it and neither can he. I feel like there’s something wrong with me that I can’t find the balance to just let things go with him. There are times where I will do my best to get out of a situation or space he is in because I can feel my irritability peeking.

It’s not all his memory loss that keeps me from doing more things with my dad. Knowing that he is one day going to forget about me, and that he won’t be there to walk me down the aisle when I get married, or get to know the kids that I will have is what hurts more then anything else. I cry myself to sleep some nights just thinking that I’ll be sitting in class one day and get the phone call that he’s gone. Each day provides a little hope when he remembers a small memory.