"Caring for Dad Is Destroying Us"

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Her Turn, continued

"The man I knew was elegant and charismatic, a brilliant educator who either worked with or knew some of the most prominent public figures of our time. And now he couldn't scramble an egg. I couldn't believe John had let the situation deteriorate to such a state. We had a huge fight, Tom and I spent countless hours straightening out my dad's finances -- we no longer speak to John. 

"After Tom and I got Dad out of jail, we took him to the doctor. Tests showed that he had this accelerated, early-onset form of Alzheimer's that tends to make sufferers more volatile. And no one could tell us whether we were facing two years or 20. What they did tell us was that Dad couldn't live alone. So we brought him home and moved him into our extra bedroom. It was the only way for us. Tom has clients in the healthcare industry and he insists that even the best nursing homes are horrible.

"Dad's behavior is so erratic that he needs constant care. But he won't tolerate outside caregivers; we've run through several. We tried adult daycare but were asked not to bring him back because he harassed other clients. So I had to quit a job I love to stay home with him. I told myself it was just a temporary detour, that I would resume my career as soon as the situation was under control. But who knows when, or if, that will happen?

"Dad gets up at 4 a.m., marches into our bedroom and insists we take him for a car ride. We return, I give him breakfast, and then he wants to go out again. He knows who we are but not what he is saying or doing. One day at a store, he opened a can of motor oil and started drinking it. We had to drag him screaming from the place. If I ask him to stay inside on a cold day, he'll call me vile names, push me aside, and go out with no coat. Last week he shoved me so hard that I bruised my legs -- a fact I didn't disclose to Tom.

"Kelsey has been wonderful, and in some ways her helping me with Dad has brought us closer. But she'll be off to college soon -- I resent the time I've missed with my daughter because of my own filial obligations. Yet I feel guilty saying that, too!

"The Situation With My Dad is Tearing Us Apart"

"Before Dad got sick, Tom and I had a wonderful marriage. We met when we both worked for a daytime talk show in New York. I moved to the city from Baltimore when I was 18 for college; after graduation, I got a job at a TV station. The hours were long and the pressure intense, but I loved every minute. Tom was executive producer of a pilot the station was trying to sell. I had no intention of getting romantically involved with a colleague, but he was persistent. Finally I agreed to dinner.

"That was all it took; I fell madly in love with Tom's passion, intelligence, and spirituality. We were married within six months. For a long time, life was good. But now the situation with my dad is tearing us apart."

Continued on page 3:  His Turn


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