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Forgetful Not Forgotten II
Early Onset Alzheimer's: Dad Leaves Home

The painful decision to place dad in a nursing home.

Video summary
In the second of this two-part video which follows John Wynn on his journey of Early Onset Alzheimer's disease, he moves to a nursing home, deteriorates relatively quickly and dies within six or eight months.

In the opening scene, John's son Chris acknowledges that they all realized they would eventually have to move John to a nursing home, but he doesn't immediately say why. A little later he notes that at some point the caregiver's health takes priority over the health of the person with dementia. To preserve his mother's health, they put their father's name on a waiting list, but when the call comes that there is an opening, it is still hard for her to accept. She describes herself as being in shock and not knowing how to handle it. She didn't want to tell her husband that he was moving permanently away. Eventually, they tell him that Mom needs a break, and he would only be going for a little while.

Although in his facial expressions John looks lost, his good nature remains, and he seems to have no obvious problem adjusting to the change. It is harder on his wife, who at first spends all day of each day at the nursing home and then returns to an empty house and an empty bed. There are scenes in which his son lies on John's bed while John rolls back and forth in a wheel chair, chatting incoherently, and a scene in which John, lying in bed, hugs his son close to his chest. His son feels that his father was happy and that they had become closer friends through his father's illness.

But after a few months, John's health quickly deteriorates and after arriving in winter, he dies in September. In the last scene his son speaks to the camera and says, "I love you, Dad, and I always will." He describes him as an amazing person even with Alzheimer's diseases and says, "I can't believe it's over."

Applying the video to your situation

This second video is partly about mourning – making hard decisions, losing a parent/spouse, having to move on – and partly a lovely tribute to what remains of the person even when Alzheimer's disease has ravaged the person's brain.

Have you had to make any of these same hard decisions? Describe your experiences.

John's wife found it impossible to tell him that she was moving him into a nursing home permanently, and it isn't clear how much John understood about what was happening to him. If you have ever faced a similar situation, what did you say and how did it go?

At first, John's wife spent her days at the nursing home – caring for her husband in ways that were not all that different from when he had been at home. She wasn't really getting a break, but she also didn't know what else to do with her time. If you have placed a loved one in residential care, how did you make the adjustment of continuing to be involved in that person's life while also creating a new life of your own?

John's family seems to have expected that he would live a long time in the nursing home and felt some guilt when he deteriorated quickly, thinking that perhaps the move itself had something to do with his declining health. What would you have said to John's wife about this?

It is not easy to watch a loved one's decline, and his son says there are moments he doesn't want to remember, and other moments he hopes he will never forget. Do you have any memories of your loved one, even near the end, that you never want to forget? Talk about them.

The most uplifting message of this video is that his son saw John's "amazing" characteristics even when Alzheimer's disease had nearly destroyed him. Have you had a similar experience? Share it.

At the end, John's son speaks to the camera and tells his Dad he loves him, although obviously his father can't hear him. It's his way of leaving an enduring message for his father. In a similar position, what would you say to the camera?

Adapted from Forgetful Not Forgotten, A film by Chris Wynn, Produced in association with TVO Canada.

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Beyond the Video

John's wife found it impossible to tell him that she was moving him into a nursing home permanently, and it isn't clear how much John understood about what was happening to him.