Living With Alzheimer's
by Dr. Gonzalo Garza
An excerpt from Dr. Garza's book, Living with Alzheimer's, Dorrance Publishing Co. Inc., 2010
September 25, 2008
Today was a bad morning for Dolores. She was very irritable and
feisty. Although she recognized me, she couldn't say Gonzalo Garza. I
asked her several times, "What's my name? Who am I? What's your name?"
She would look dazed and keep staring but could not respond. When she
did respond, she would say, "Get the hell out of here." That's very
much out of character for Dolores....She never used curse words and was
always the perfect lady....
Dolores was a very devoted wife, a loving mother and
grandmother. She was a school teacher for 32 years. She was a very
religious and caring person. She had the heart of gold, always pulling
for the underdog.
We were married for 55 years and we had five children and eleven
grandchildren. During this time, Dolores was a very healthy and active
person. She was very careful about her diet and was always very
energetic and active. In fact, her nickname was "lightening" because
she was so quick in doing things.
We both retired after serving as public school educators, helping
the children of Texas. It was a devastating experience for me, finding
my wife beginning to succumb to this horrendous disease "Alzheimer's."
Dolores had always been a very healthy person and to see her wearing a
diaper and in a wheelchair, just crushed me.
For one year, I faithfully chronicled Dolores' assisted living
experience. I painfully saw changes—physical, mental, and emotional—as
they built up to the flood that washed away her ability, her
personality and eventually, her life.
I went to see her every day, sometimes twice a day, driving 18 miles
and then later seven miles, to see her wither away before my very eyes. The
lessons I learned were painful, but in the long run, helped me to
understand and cope with a disease, "Alzheimer's", that I knew nothing
about. This experience prompted me to write a book, Living With
In my book, I offer information and recommendations for others who may
be living through the trials and tribulations of having someone
suffering from Alzheimer's. I walk through the different stages of this
horrible disease, trying to offer answers to many questions
About Dr. Garza:
Dr. Garza, who lost his wife in 2009, spent more than three decades traveling across the state of Texas serving as a school superintendent for more than a dozen school districts before he retired as superintendent of the Austin Independence School District.
He is the namesake for Gonzalo Garza Independence High School in Austin and holds a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Texas at Austin (1976) and an honorary doctor of humane letters from Houston-Tillotson College (1992). Dr. Garza also holds an honorary commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.
In the following video, Dr. Garza discusses his life as a veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and Alzheimer's disease.
Read more caregiver stories.