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Posted at 5:30 PM ET, 01/19/2011

Maria Shriver heartbroken over father's Alzheimer's

By Stephen Lowman

shriver.jpgMaria Shriver was devastated watching the effects of Alzheimer's consume her father Sargent Shriver, who died Tuesday at age 95. Shriver, a journalist and former first lady of California, writes of the disease's personal toll in a forthcoming book, "Alzheimer's in America: The Shriver Report on Women and Alzheimer's," which she produced in collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Association.

Shriver recalls visiting her father, the Peace Corps’s founding director and brother-in-law to John F. Kennedy, at his assisted living facility in Washington:

“When I went to visit my father recently in Washington, I took him outside. There we were, three people sitting quietly on a park bench—his caregiver and me, with my dad in the middle. After a while, my father put his head down on the caregiver’s shoulder and nuzzled him, just like a kid. It was a sweet moment, looking as he did like a child seeking and getting comfort. But not from me. It was as if I, his only daughter, weren’t there at all. I could have been a bystander. Actually, I was a bystander. That blew my mind and broke my heart."

She goes on to write about how she will choose to remember her father:

"I watch my dad in the facility’s day room, playing with the same puzzles and alphabet blocks my kids had when they were 5 years old. Doing the same things we used to do in Mommy ‘n’ Me classes. I can’t even describe what I feel when I see that.

"If I want to remember Sargent Shriver, the smartest person I ever knew, the World War II naval hero, the editor of the Yale newspaper, the devoted husband and father, the brilliant and successful public servant with the dazzling intellect—that Sargent Shriver, my dad, is in the pictures on the wall in his room”

"Alzheimer's in America" examines the effects of the disease on those who suffer from it and the toll it takes on caregivers. It was first published as an e-book in October. Free Press will release it as a paperback in March.

By Stephen Lowman  | January 19, 2011; 5:30 PM ET
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Your Dad's presence needn't be restricted by the pictures on the wall..his warmth, humor and generous heart were clearly evident in his loving behavior towards his caretaker. He was there, even then. All Alzheimer patients are not the same, some, like your Dad, were particularly precious and empathetic because they were still able to be... PLEASE do not overlook what remains, even as his executive abilities faded.

Posted by: ahoffinger | January 20, 2011 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Ms Shriver for sharing those most personal insights so as to help others cope, learn and grow.
Wishing you peace and comfort.

Posted by: onthejourney | January 21, 2011 5:51 PM | Report abuse

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