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The Alzheimer's Care Journey: When Do You Say Goodbye?

Reflections & Leadership

AlzheimersGoodbyeCaring for someone with Alzheimer's disease or dementia can be a long and emotional journey. According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 5 million Americans are living with the disease. This number is reported to increase rapidly in the coming years.

Caregivers of those with Alzheimer's face many challenges. Whether you're in the early, middle, or late stage of the disease, coping can be hard. Where do you go from here? When do you say goodbye? It's important to remember every moment you spend with your loved one is precious. Try to find meaning and pleasure in the time given because every caregiver knows the day will eventually come when you have to say goodbye.

Below is a poem written by Jeralyn Fenstermacher. Her husband, Rodney Fenstermacher, is Corporate Director of Construction and Plant Assets at Presbyterian Senior Living in Dillsburg PA. Jeralyn wrote this poem for her mother, Grace Way Jones. It was originally published in LeadingAge magazine. As you read this poem, may you find strength and encouragement for your journey.

When Do I Say Goodbye

When do I say goodbye to the
mother who means so much?
The mother I knew is fading,
but still, she is here to touch.

Should I have said goodbye to her
when first it seemed to me,
she could no longer live alone,
it wasn’t meant to be.

Or maybe when her clothes wore spots
and often she forgot,
or when the same few outfits
she would seem to wear a lot.

Should I have said a long goodbye
and tell her how I feel,
when Alzheimer’s was diagnosed
so cruel and so unreal?

When she entered Landis Homes
and to China we did fly,
would that have been the time
to say a tender “twice” good-bye?

Rummy Cube with Amos
gave both of them much pleasure.
When she could not play the game
is really hard to measure.

Family, friends and memories
are fading more each day.
Things that meant so much to her
Rettew-Jones and Way.*

When do I say goodbye,
the progression is so slow.
Before I’m just a stranger,
I really want to know.

I have her hand to hold.
I have her face to see.
I can still evoke a smile
with a joke or memory.

So I’ll be satisfied,
I never need to cry,
because I say I love her
every time I say goodbye.

*Grace Way Jones’ three surnames.

Are you caring for someone with Alzheimer's Disease or other forms of dementia? Don't know where to turn? We can help.

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About Presbyterian Senior Living

Presbyterian Senior Living is a not-for-profit organization, fulfilling its charitable purpose and mission by providing high quality retirement choices, healthcare services and affordable residential living options for people 55 and older for more than 85 years. Headquartered in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, Presbyterian Senior Living provides services to approximately 6,000 seniors in 30 locations in the mid-Atlantic region of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and Delaware.