Finding purpose: A family’s story of a son caring for his dad with dementia

When Dan Saligner’s dad, Ed, started showing signs of cognitive impairment, Dan and his siblings stepped up to take care of him. It was at around this same time, that Dan suffered a heart attack. After his recovery, Dan found a new perspective on life and took on the duties of caring for his dad full time. Now, Dan shares his caregiving stories on social media and uses his voice to raise awareness and funds for The Longest Day®.

Ed before dementia and his youngest son Josh
Ed and his youngest son Josh

Spending time with Dad

Ed Salinger was a Podiatrist by profession, but his passion has always been his family. In his younger days, Ed loved to travel in his motorhome but while at home, his top priority was always his kids. On his days off, Ed loved to grab one of his kids and take them to look at motorhomes or watch planes take off and land at the airport. Dan was often conscripted to tag along on these outings. “I always hated looking at the motorhomes but loved to go to the airport,” said Dan. “We would have lunch at the airport café, The Red Barron. Those are some of my fondest memories about growing up with my Dad.”

Even as his six children became adults, he would make the drive every day to see them. “When I say every day, I mean every day,” said Dan. “After my dad lost his second wife to lung cancer, he would drive 45 minutes every single day to have lunch with the three of us kids who lived and worked in the area. If he came to visit and we weren’t home, he would let himself in and wait. We would come home from wherever we were, and his car would be in the driveway.”

The signs

A little over 10 years ago, Ed seemed to showing signs of normal aging, like mixing up his children’s names. But as time went on, it became clear to Dan and his siblings that this was more than normal aging.

There are 10 early signs of dementia. Dan shares the three big signs that made it clear Ed had dementia:

Difficulty completing familiar tasks

Despite making the trip to Dan’s house every day, Ed began to have a hard time remembering the route. “I could watch him on my phone,” said Dan. “At a major intersection, he’d start turning the wrong way. It [started happening] more often. I could see the car stop on a busy road and make a U-turn. I’m thinking to myself, ‘Oh my God!’”

Confusion with time or place

After the long trip to visit Dan, and the fact that he was, at that time, in his 80s, Ed was understandably tired. He would frequently take a nap in Dan’s video room to help recharge for the rest of the day before the long drive home. One day, Ed forgot this room existed. “[My dad] walked down to the front of the room and was like, ‘Oh is this new?’”

Decreased or poor judgement

The final sign for Dan and his family was when they found that Ed had a cashier’s check in his wallet for a large sum of money. “[My dad] is not a flashy guy. He walks around with $20 in his wallet. He’d closed out a bank account two weeks ago and was walking around with a cashier’s check. If he had lost it, we wouldn’t have known it was gone. That was abnormal for his personality and mindset.”

A heart attack 

Ed who has dementia as a younger man
Ed as a younger man

In 2019, as Ed’s symptoms were becoming more concerning, Dan suffered a heart attack. While he survived, it changed his priorities to focus more on health and family. “I had this work hard, play hard, get it done attitude,” said Dan. “My health was not a high priority. Family was not as high priority. Getting done whatever I had to get done [even if it meant] I didn’t go on the vacation in Tahoe. That was my life. 

“After the heat attack, [my life] got turned on its head. I almost orphaned my kids! I [realized that I’d] have to change my life or I won’t be here to watch kids get married and have their own kids and live their own life. The change started from within. I transitioned out of law, [to something] much less stressful. I increased my exercise and health and I focused on what’s more important which is family.”

Dan credits this shift in thinking to being more open about what life brought him next – becoming a full-time caregiver for his dad.

Moving in with Dan

When it became apparent that Ed could no longer live on his own, he initially moved in with one of his other sons, Mark. However, what no one realized at the time was how much work goes into being a full-time caregiver. Despite never complaining, when Mark went on a vacation for a week, Dan saw first-hand how hard it can be to care for someone with dementia. Dan decided to split the caregiving role with his brother, having Ed live part time at both houses.

However, as the disease progressed, Ed couldn’t handle the constant back and forth, so Dan and his wife Danielle had Ed move in with them. “We did [the switch off] until he had a fall six months ago,” said Dan. “The progression of the disease became too hard to do the switch. My house is bigger and more spaced out. [My wife and I have] been doing it solo for seven months.”

Raising funds

Dan has his own social channels on both TikTok and Instagram which highlight Dan’s life as a dementia caregiver. It was through these platforms that the Alzheimer’s Association found him and reached out to offer support and ask if he’d be interested in participating in The Longest Day.

The Longest Day is the day with the most light – the summer solstice. Join us to fight Alzheimer’s through a fundraising activity of your choice on a day that works for you. The funds you raise advance the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Using social media, Dan hosted a fundraiser to raise funds for The Longest Day. Together with his followers, he raised more than $10K and hopes to do the same this year. “We hopped on and did some fundraisers for the month of June,” said Dan. “We were able to raise some money, raise awareness and [found some] volunteers. [My dad] has a lot of followers and a lot of admirers.

“This disease affects so many people, one in three people are affected by Alzheimer’s. Everybody I run into on the street that recognizes me from social media. They recognize me because they have a family member [with dementia] and are doing the same thing I am. [They stop me to say], ‘Hey just want you to know, thanks for the videos we’re going through the same thing.’ People are coming up because they know there’s a shared struggle. It’s out there and affecting a lot of people.”

Ed who has dementia and his son Dan
Ed (left) and Dan (right)

Proud to be a caregiver

Dan encourages more people to consider living with their loved one who has dementia. “[After my heart attack I] shifted my lifestyle. That helped pave the way and made it possible for me to [care for my dad],” said Dan. “My social [media accounts] show how you can care for a parent and still live your own life.

“[I understand that] it isn’t possible in all situations. If you’re [able, then] give it a try. I’d like to see more people do what I’m doing for quality of life. That’s my hope, [that] more people will take up the challenge. I just hope to make a difference.

“Since I brought my dad in, life has changed even further. I’ve become a much better human doing what I’m doing. The experience has changed me, you can’t experience empathy without living through it. I know how hard it is and I know I’m making a difference. There is nobody watching. I do what I do because I owe it to him. He took care of me. I’m going to return the favor. I’m not proud of who I was five years ago, I’m a lot prouder of the person I am today.”

This year, The Longest Day is on June 20. You can help make a difference. Join or make a donation to Dan’s team, Team Sallinger, or start your own at

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