When a Dementia Diagnosis Brings Family Closer to Each Other

A dementia diagnosis is devastating. Pure and simple. But it’s what happens after the diagnosis that can change someone’s life for better or … not. Sarah O. and her father had not been very close when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. But that changed as she became his primary care partner by default.

Sarah and Dick lean close together as Dick points towards an artwork

“Funny thing is that I feel like this whole experience has really been my father taking care of me because it has connected me to so many wonderful people (like you) and taught me more than I ever could have imagined. My father may not have the same memory he used to, but he certainly is still filled with an extensive amount of wisdom. I think he has been more of a father to me this past year than in the other 33 years of my life. So I think we both get caretaker designations in our situation.

Dick holds forth an artwork he created

It’s quite amazing to see the difference during your programs. And I have such a great time as well. I look forward to these days as much as my dad. I know I’ve said this before, but I have never appreciated art so much (and I even went to school for graphic design for a little while!). I honestly feel that it’s the entire group that make the experience so wonderful. Those with the “memory impairments” only enhance my experience and I feel so lucky to be able to participate in these programs alongside everyone. I’ve learned so much from the entire group that I am continuously blown away by the experience.

I have told members of our support group that these are some of the best memories I have with my father – not just since his diagnosis, but from my entire life.”

POSTSCRIPT: Sarah’s father now lives outside of Pennsylvania, so after participating with him in ARTZ Philadelphia programs for nearly two years, Sarah is no longer able to do that. She continues to take part in our programs on her own when she can, and volunteers with us as a way of continuing to engage with the community of people with dementia whom she has come to value so greatly.