Seriously, I thought I had a good handle on understanding the dynamics of dementia and how the syndrome manifests. Hell, I created the Virtual Dementia Tour to help sensitize people to what it’s like to have dementia. My 34 year career has been dedicated to the care and treatment of people with dementia and their care providers. My own Dad let me know last year that he felt it was time for him to move into an Independent Living residence. Admittedly, it was a tough move selling his house where he and Mother lived and going into a small apartment in an elder care community but it was time.
He took it like a champ. Even though it’s been clear he has mild cognitive decline and some vascular/multi infarct dementia, he is on top of things. On our daily phone calls and weekly lunches (with a few beers) he mentioned a few things like how tough it is to go into the dining room and not know where to sit and how rude some people were about their seats. He talked about the poor people who are in bad physical shape and also the ones who “don’t know where they are”.
Eventually he found his group and started a welcome committee for new people and left messages on the menus to tell the staff how great they are. On Sundays he faithfully got up early and prepared the day room for church being mindful of how many wheelchairs and walkers they needed to make space for.
He talked about helping out with people who holler for help on his floor and need assistance to the dining room. During this time he had surgery for a malignant mass and 8 weeks of radiation but the WWII veteran bounced right back.
Then, something went really wrong and while he continued to stay positive, it was clear that he was unhappy. No matter how much I pressed him, he denied there was a problem.
I had made myself out to be one of those family members who are very involved with their parent. I took him out every weekend escorted him to almost every doctor’s appointment and even called him every afternoon on my way home from work. I pompously told myself that I was doing more than enough to make sure Dad was taken care of.
Then, one day, seemingly out of the blue to me, he said, “I can’t stay in this place any longer. I’m going to get my own apartment or I will simply be homeless”.
What the heck had I missed? Did I forget a few conversations or have my own moment of confusion? None of my training and experience in Geriatrics prepared me for what came next.
Join me for my next blog as we can all learn about paying closer and better attention and what to do when the well planned out plan falls apart.
Second Wind Dreams and the Virtual Dementia Tour are celebrating our 20th anniversary next week on September 14th. Please join us and get involved by going to our Facebook page, Twitter and LinkedIn as we celebrate our elders and those living with dementia. Dreams are coming true on that day throughout the world and the Virtual Dementia Tour will be provided for free. Please go to our website to sign up and Take the Tour.