I'm sorry to report that my father Dean passed away Saturday morning (18 November 2017) from Alzheimer's complications.
As many of you know, Dad first noticed his dementia symptoms in 2008 (at age 74) and was in a care facility since 2011. His cognition steadily declined but he recovered from more health crises than I care to remember. He was a tough guy.
Dad reached late-stage Alzheimer's symptoms a few months ago, but he'd spent years in each of the stages and we expected more of the same. He no longer went out for walks around the grounds, let alone for a Sunday lunch at a nearby restaurant. He was quite happy to stay in his room and work on jigsaw puzzles. He was losing his vocabulary and his speech, and he was eating much more slowly, but he was coping.
Last week we were all surprised when his coordination rapidly declined. He was shambling, stumbling, and nearly falling. His blood pressure was very low but medications did not seem to be the issue. We discussed a hospital visit for additional testing but (on the advice of the doctor) we decided to avoid hospital delirium. Friday morning the memory care facility recommended hospice, although we all agreed that Dad might easily recover.
On Friday evening hospice saw his symptoms take a turn for the worse and we arranged for 24-hour nursing care. The hospice doctor mentioned that Dad might be closer to death than we thought, but even the doctor was thinking in terms of days or weeks. Morphine helped relieve Dad's stress and he slept through the night. He never woke up, and then his heart stopped.
Some neuropsychologists claim that Alzheimer's makes you more of what you already are. Rather than feeling sad, I'd like to note that for the last nine years Dad has been mostly happier than I've ever known him. He finally freed himself of all his cares and burdens. I didn't enjoy his journey but I'm glad we could be there to help and to spend the time with him.
Dad's directions are straightforward: cremation, no flowers, no funeral, no memorial service, and instead donate to charity. As usual, he didn't want a fuss. We plan to cremate his body whenever the crematorium is ready. We'll scatter his ashes at one of his favorite hiking spots where he's spent so much time over the years. Personally, I favor donating to an Alzheimer's organization like this forum or the Alzheimer's Association, or to the National Park Foundation.
My conservator appointment has technically ended. My brother is the executor of Dad's estate (he lives in Denver in the same district as the Probate Court) but I'll probably be the administrator for him. We're going to start that conversation with the lawyer tomorrow, and I'll occasionally update this thread with the details of settling Dad's affairs..
I've included the photo from the first page of this thread: Dad in late 2009 at the overlook of the Visitor Center at Colorado National Monument Park outside of Grand Junction. He was in early-stage Alzheimer's at this point, still living independently and driving and hiking. (He used to joke about hiking into the Rockies with his "slipping memory" until he couldn't remember how to get back to his car.) He was notoriously camera-shy for his whole life, almost always behind the lens instead of in front. I had to sneak this one in before he moved back out of the frame.
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Author of "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement". All royalties are donated to military charities.
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