Maria Shriver heartbroken over father's Alzheimer's
Maria 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.
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