Honoring a dad with Alzheimer’s Disease

Karla’s dad has Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s stinks (I’m tempted to use a stronger expletive, but my mom would probably wash my mouth out with soap as soon as I stepped through the Pearly Gates if I did).

Alzheimer’s occasionally has robbed Arling of his sweet gentle spirit and has robbed Karla and her family of the intelligent and innovative man they once knew. All of us want to age with grace and dignity, Alzheimer’s is robbing him of that ability. We all want to know and be known; Alzheimer’s has robbed him of that too. Alzheimer’s is a dirty rotten thief (See the above soapy comments on my reluctance to use stronger adjectives).

I’ve been around a lot of sick folks through my years, and I can tell you there are not many diseases worse than Alzheimer’s. It’s horrible. If you have had a loved one with this terrible illness you know what I am saying is true.

Tuesday night, following our church board meeting and a long day, as soon as I arrived home, the memory care home where my father-in-law stays called to say he was being taken to the hospital. There had been an incident at the facility and he needed to see a doctor.

The ambulance and Karla and I arrived at the hospital at the same time. At this point, Arling was back to his “normal” state. It was late. Everybody was tired. The crowded, noisy emergency room was not a happy place. But tests needed to be run to make sure all was “normal” before he could return to the care facility. Nearly four hours later, the emergency room docs concluded that Arling’s behavior was the effects of Alzheimer’s. We already knew that.

Here’s what I didn’t know (well I knew it, but I was reminded again): I watched with a renewed appreciation and admiration as I saw Karla care for her dad. She was patient and kind. She tried to explain the happenings even when her dad didn’t always comprehend the explanations or the procedures. She was respectful and considerate. I saw her living into the words of the Ten Commandments to “Honor your father and mother.” I wish my boys could have witnessed their mom caring so tenderly for her dad. I wish you could have too.

It is easy to honor one’s parents when everything is great and all are blessed by them; it’s a totally other commitment to honor your father and mother when you aren’t always sure that they even know your name. I was thankful to witness Karla living and loving into Jesus command: As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34). My parents are in heaven (my mom with her bar of soap), but if your parents are on the sunny side of the grave don’t reduce honoring them to Mother and Fathers’ days. Treat them with dignity even if the situation is less than perfect. Karla taught me that important lesson again this week!Al

2 thoughts on “Honoring a dad with Alzheimer’s Disease

  1. Lynn Yantz

    What love and compassion your wife has shown! Truly a woman after God’s own heart. Thank you for sharing your heartbreak so that others can see Christ’s love lived out. May God be with you, Karla and her Dad and grant you comfort and peace. Praying for God’s mighty healing for her Dad.

  2. Connie

    Thanks for sharing a picture that no one wants to experience yet is all too often inevitable. Karla is loving to the max just like Jesus taught us to. Your boys will see this, it will be a lesson that they learn from watching and hearing your stories. It changes people. To love in tough times is hard to do but everyone is better for it. God is using you both.


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