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I am Dan Willaford

I am Dan Willaford

In Sunday’s post I mentioned a Facebook group called Memory People, a network of patients, caregivers, family members, and advocates who have been touched by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. One of my new friends is Linda Wilkins, and she is caring for her daddy Dan Willaford. She recently had a conversation with him about what was going on in his mind. Following is the heart-wrenching account of that conversation:

Oh my heart, I do not think I have felt this much emotional pain ever. There are no words as so many of you know. Tears are flowing uncontrollably. Shaking my head and holding breath, is hard to breathe.

In a moment of clarity, Daddy spoke from his heart tonight. The first time ever to express what is happening to him. He is such a warrior, always has been. It went something like this.

“I have done something I have never done before, and I don’t know how it happened. I am not sure how to change it, but somehow I have to. Baby, I don’t know how to tell you this, but I am not the man I use to be. I am not me anymore. I have never known anyone who has ever done this before. I am Dan Willaford.”

“I know who you are, you are my daddy, and Larry and Lora Ann’s daddy, and we love you just the way you are.”

“But I am not me anymore. I am Dan Willaford, but that’s not who I am. I changed and I got to figure out how to get back. I don’t

Dan Willaford

Dan Willaford

like it. I need to go to sleep, and when I wake up tomorrow maybe everything will be alright. I have to figure out how to get back. How can I tell people I am Dan Willaford if I am not the man I use to be? I don’t know how I did it. I don’t like it.”

“Daddy, you will always be Dan Willaford. We all change, we are never the same person each day, but the man within the spirit is still you.”

“I need to go to bed. I have never known this to happen to anyone before. How did this happen? When I wake up tomorrow maybe I will be Dan Willaford again.”

“Okay, Daddy. Let’s get you to bed.”

The words dementia would not come out of my mouth. It was like burning coals on my lips. I was thinking if I say that word maybe it would help him understand what was happening to him. The word would not escape my lips.

Mr. Dan loved to play poker, now he will not look at a deck of cards; loved music, now he cannot pick up his guitar and amuse himself or his family; loved writing songs, a pen he can no longer master; loved playing the keyboard, now no longer remembers how to turn it on.

My heart is so broken because I know deep within so is his. But he is still Dan Willaford, a warrior, my hero, and the tallest man I

Linda Wilkins and her husband Jack.

Linda Wilkins and her husband Jack.

know. I am his biggest fan. He still sings, still loves music, hums all day. Sometimes when he thinks he is talking to me he is humming. Sometimes when he talks to me he breaks out in a melody of what he is saying. My dad’s world is not comfortable for him He let me know this tonight. If you wish to share this with anyone, please do. It is another window to the world of dementia.

God bless you, Linda Wilkins, as you walk this road with your daddy, Dan Willaford.

For more information about Alzheimer’s and related dementias, call 1-800-272-3900 or go to www.alz.org.



Comments on: "How Dementia Looks from the Inside: I Am Dan Willaford" (9)

  1. Karen Hanson said:

    God Bless you and your family Linda. My brother, also my mother’s caregiver told me about what was going on when my mom was going through this change. My mom would sit on the front porch and cry because her precious memories and who she was , was being robbed from her, she was so confused. My brother knew she was scared and she started writing peoples names down in a notebook. When I heard this I wish I could have held her hand and comforted her and told her something to take away the fear. I really don’t know what. I just would of spoke from my heart. My mom just started receiving Hospice Care this week. I’m praying before she passes, God gives her that gift when we all are around her that she remembers all of us and she is happy again, and when I say ” I love you” she understands me.

    • Karen, thanks for your sweet comment. I passed it on to Linda Wilkins.

      I believe the love lingers on even when the mind has gone. Toward the end, even when Mom usually didn’t recognize anyone, if I said “I love you,” she would always respond with “I love you, too.”

      Regardless of how tangled her mind becomes, your mom is still in there somewhere, and she knows that you love her.

      Blessings as you and your family walk this difficult road.

      Linda Brendle

  2. Linda, My grandma had dementia and it was heartbreaking for me. I hope that they find a cure for these kind of brain problems some day. I always hoped that she could feel our love as she was slipping away and I hated that scared feeling she seemed to have. I was actually happy for her when she went home to her Savior.

  3. My heart is breaking for you and you dad. My mom is 91 and has Dementia and has been in a nursing home for about 3 yrs. The past 2 month it has been getting every bad. She doesn’t understand why this is happening to her. It’s so sad to see her this way from the person she was before. Many times she crys out for her babies that she lost them and is looking all over for them, we tell her that her babies are all grown up. Put she still remember us as her babies, no getting her out of that. It breaks my heart to see her slipping away like this, this is not the way we want to remember her. I pray for everyone that has this going on their familys. All I can say is be their for them when ever you can, they still need us! God Bless You All!

    • Antonia, thank you for your heartfelt comment. I will pass it on to Linda Wilkins. Regarding your mom crying for her babies, if you haven’t already tried this, get her a baby doll. Mom had a big teddy bear she held on to, and it seemed to be some comfort to her. Thoughts and prayers as you care for her.
      Linda Brendle

  4. Linda, I’d be interested in a correspondence with Linda Wilkins. Daniel looks like he’s a father of my brother Haywood (Bill) from what I can remember of my trips to his family’s home in my early days, he’s the older spitting image of the Uncle Danny i remember. Just knowing he has Alzheimers is enough, but i’d like to verify and check a couple of other things if she would be so kind. I would greatly appreciate as I can empathize. I quit a career to take care of my mother at this time who suffers Agent Orange related Parkinsons and severe arthritis, this has been about 10 years now of her diseases and 4 years of my full time caregiving. I can’t seem to locate her on Facebook as I tried that Memory People group but no members are listed and her name isn’t coming up in search.
    Can you send me a private message on FB if that becomes possible?
    Thank You. John Willaford.

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