America Needs Alzheimer’s Funding Now
The morning after my father took a mirror off the wall because he thought the man in the reflection was trying to attack him, my mother and I drove him to a hospital for review. It was about a seven-hour wait that day, behind a long line of other people with other troubles. During that time, my father, oblivious to why we were there, restlessly tried to get up and leave, continuously getting in the way of other patients passing on gurneys and pulling angrily away from me each time I asked him to come sit back down. Following a brief examination, a nurse suggested we check my father in for further review. We did not know as we left that night that it would be more than six months before he came home again, or that he would never be the same.
I have written before about the complications of my father’s Alzheimer’s, but now that he has passed, after six years of slow digression, all I can think about are the other ways it could have gone. We were lucky that my mom was willing and able to care for him so that he could spend his last years at home, but at various points along the way, due to the classification and handling of Alzheimer’s in this country, it looked like a very different range of fates awaited him and my family.
Shortly after my father’s initial diagnosis, he was admitted to Wesley Woods, a local—and supposedly reputable—hospital for adult and geriatric care in Atlanta. We realized very quickly that things were changing faster than they should. Most days when we visited him he would be propped in a wheelchair, sometimes blocked off in such a way he couldn’t move the chair, and on so much medication he was drooling, hallucinating. This, of course, did not seem right, and yet the doctor we were told to ask about the medication he was receiving magically never seemed to be on site. My mother said she once saw him leaving through a back door after she’d waited several hours for him to come and talk to her.