With my father's death on June 25th, memories are all I have left now of both my parents. (My mother had been dead for nearly 11 years.) Ironically in the end for both I was their memory, for they had probable Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer's slowly robs a person of their memory and the essence of who they are. It is slightly different for each person and is a slow death; agonizing for their caregivers and others around them. You mourn as the person you know slowly dies one bit at a time.
My first stage of mourning was the loss of their memory and their independence. Both were frightened and saddened by this. My mother, who always had a good memory, was more accepting of this loss, making things much easier on herself and me. I was allowed to mourn with her. My father, who always had a poor memory, STRONGLY resisted, making things much harder on both of us. I could not mourn.
Next came the introduction of outside help. With my mother it was a counsellor from the Alzheimer Society, homecare and a nurse. With my father it was a counsellor, homecare, the senior day program and respite.
My next stage of mourning came when they finally had to be placed inb a nursing home. It was like running a van into a brick wall at full speed. My parents were suddenly no longer physically present at home. I had a chance to mourn the loss of who whey once were. The counsellor stopped, the homecare stopped, the nurse stopped, the day program stopped and the respite stopped. While it was for the best I was able to get my life back to normal, I felt very lonely and I grieved. It took me many months to work through this.
The last stage of mourning came with their physical death. It too was like running a van into a brick wall, only this time at a much slower speed. The person was dead and I once again felt/feel the loss of the person they were. Once again I felt lonely as the visits to the nursing home stopped, as did the phone calls telling me what medications they've been put on and any incidents that happened to them.
My care giving is over now. While it has been very draining, in a way it has been very easy too. Emotionally I'm glad to have had mounring in stages rather than all at once, as is the case with a sudden death. Yet, in one way, I'm still waiting for that phone call that will tell me of my father's death, even though that phone call has already come. I will miss them both.