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Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month Caregiver Stories

Living With Alzheimer's

by Dr. Gonzalo Garza

Gonzalo and Dolores Garza

An excerpt from Dr. Garza's book, Living with Alzheimer's, Dorrance Publishing Co. Inc., 2010

September 25, 2008

10:30 a.m.

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 Alzheimer’s.

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.


 


Last Review: 04/15/14

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