Just like the Doctor Ordered

Dementia hurts…

It was three years ago that we heard those words. Words that seemed to have no connection to our lively, personable, on the ball, highly intelligent and perceptive 56 year old father. Dementia? Impossible. But yet the signs were there.  We knew Ezer Mizion had a full program for young dementia patients but we didn’t want our father to be young dementia patient. We ran from doctor to doctor, desperate for a cure. Something to erase the words we were hearing, to make them go away.  The doctors were kind. Each one had a different idea. They ranged from sessions in a pressure chamber to brain surgery. Then came the sixth doctor, who maybe was actually the seventh, the eighth, or the ninth, who’s counting?

Let’s speak about managing. Let’s look at the resources you are willing to put in for the hoped-for solution, and let’s quantify all the time, money, and physical and emotional energies that will be needed for each of the solutions suggested until now. Let’s take all that will and resources and make these years as good and happy as possible. What does “good and happy” mean? You are the only ones who know how to answer that question. But put into it everything you would have put into treatments: time, money, feeling, planning. This is the best physical and emotional therapy for your father and for you. He passed the scepter of management from the doctor’s hands to the hands of Abba and us, together with a great, new clarity regarding our role within this darkness.

And since then, we did not neglect the medical and functional aspect but our focus, as a family, has been on life experiences. We raised the volume. We do the same things we liked to do before, but more of it — singing, playing music, dancing. Behind it all are the supportive arms of Ezer Mizion.

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For the last three years, Abba and Ima, my inspiration, together with varying groups from the family — girls, boys, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, grandchildren — traveled to Ethiopia, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan, Uman, Romania, Spain, Jordan, Georgia, and I must have forgotten a destination or two.  Breathtaking views, real experiences — rafting, bike riding, motorcycles, climbing, running, family exercise, morning swims in lakes and rivers. Discussions about the world, society, finance. Encounters and conversations with the smiling and friendly locals.

And it was also complex. There were embarrassing and funny moments, among them, Abba’s need to hug every stranger on the streets of Uganda with a hearty  “Git Shabbos,” which left quite a few people stunned. There were frustrating moments of disorientation and communication difficulties but we also experienced moments of sensitivity and human closeness.

We hiked whole trails, hand in hand, singing. We kept eye and hand contact all the time. We took a lot of pictures, because Abba likes being photographed.

It hasn’t been easy. We need support. There are times when we’re down, times that we cry, times when we feel we can’t do it any longer. But we’re not alone. Ezer Mizion has held our hand every step of the way and given us strength to start again, smile again, look Abba in the eye again and dance. Ezer Mizion has given us the strength to make these years good and happy, just like the doctor ordered. 

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