It's hard to describe how things were when my dad first got sick. It was so gradual and strange. We Bozarth guys are kind of eccentric and goofy just by default, so when Dad started doing strange things it was difficult to identify and point my finger on what exactly was going on. It wasn't that he was doing things so outside the scope of normal, it's that, he had no judgment on when to stop doing certain things. Contrary to what alot of his former students may know or think, my dad was always extremely goofy. When he started having symptoms, the symptoms were just a more strange type of goofiness and with each passing day he lost more and more of his judgement and ability to read people and situations...something he was always really great at doing.
Now when he would preach, he would preach way too long and not realize it was time to wrap up. Maybe that's a problem most preachers have, but with dad, it was markedly different. Now he would shake someone's hand and swing it back and forth in a strange way that was almost scary to the person he was shaking hands with. Now he was hiding behind pillars in public places acting like a 5 year old. When people first hear the word Alzheimer's or Dementia they immediately think, "oh, he doesn't remember where his keys are anymore," not a big deal right? No, that characterization couldn't be further from the truth. I can only speak to Dementia and not Alzheimer's in general, but my dad's symptoms were not just simply forgetting little things here and there. His judgement was deteriorating. He thought certain things were OK to do that were not OK.
Talk about role reversal and life flipping upside down. My dad used to be the one telling me I was talking too loud. My parents were pastors when I was a kid so I often went out to eat with them and some leader from somewhere. I remember in the car on our way to eat my dad would always tell me to be "calm, cool and collected." Now it was me telling my dad to be "calm, cool and collected," only he was a 6' 4", 235 lbs person who wouldn't always listen to my admonition. I wasn't looking to discipline my dad, just somehow make already awkward situations less awkward and escape somehow. I can't express how much anxiety these situations caused my mom, my family and me. It was especially difficult before we got an official diagnosis, because we really didn't know what was going on. I didn't know what to say to people. Something was obviously wrong, but what could I tell people? I had nothing. I would just blame it on stress, or a mid-life crisis. Who knows what I came up with? Looking back, I have no idea how we made it through some of those days.
The picture at the top was taken on our last international mission's trip together in 2008. My dad and I went to Romania to speak at a Pastor's conference. What a stressful trip that was. My dad was acting so strange. I mentioned hiding behind pillars. Well imagine a setting, surrounded by a bunch of Romanian leaders who have come to listen to my dad talk about leadership, and he his acting goofy hiding behind pillars in the lunch room and acting so strange. You may ask me why we let him go on such a trip. We probably shouldn't have, but we still didn't know what was wrong. We thought maybe he was just stressed or something and maybe getting out of the country like he used to do could help him snap out of whatever he was dealing with. Yeah, for awhile there we hoped he would just snap out of it. He never did. -Chad Bozarth
Three things I learned that could help you: