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Oklahoma caregiver feels “burden and blessing” over two parents with Alzheimer’s disease

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TULSA, Okla. --Music has amazing power, especially for people with Alzheimer's disease.

Even after 89-year-old James Dooman stopped recognizing names and faces, he could still identify with lyrics.

His daughter, Cyndi Hayes, said, "Even though he could no longer speak, when they would have a gentleman come and play the piano, my dad could still sing. And he would wheel my dad right up next to the piano, and play and Dad would just sing his heart out. That was really wonderful to be able to see."

It was one of the very few bright spots for Cindi Hayes. She lost her father - a WWII veteran - last April after a 6 year battle with Alzheimer's.

And now, Cyndi is taking the same painful journey again with her mom. Joyce Dooman lives in a Tulsa assisted living center.

Cyndi makes it feel as close to home as possible, as she has decorated the room with pictures and momentos that were once meaningful.

"She just wants to go home. And her life is reduced to this little space. 10 by 10 room. Yeah. It's hard," Hayes said.

There are millions of people in the U.S. -- mostly women like Cyndi - who have chosen to take care of a loved one with Alzheimer's disease.

"The toll physically, but mostly emotionally. It's a very heavy thing to carry, another person's life."

The demands affect her health, job, finances and family -- including siblings who sometimes see things differently.

Cyndi Hayes recommends caregivers establish a power of attorney, advanced health care directive, and keep a detailed journal. Her diary is now 600 pages thick.

"That's come in so very handy when I go to a new doctor, I can give them an exact date of progression of events of episodes. I have it all recorded," Hayes said.

Cyndi says it's important for anyone in the sandwich generation to educate themselves and learn about the disease and the process.

Taking care of someone with Alzheimer's could become the toughest job you ever have. It's a burden for some, but Cyndi Hayes considers it a blessing.

Tearfully, she said, "When mom will have a moment and says thank you, thank you for all you've done, I tell her, I know you'd do the same for me. It makes it easier to hang on another day."

Someday, Cyndi Hayes knows she may require the same love and compassion.

Click here to sign up for the KFOR Alzheimer's walk team. 

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