He is still my Dad…Right?

December 15, 2009

Having an elderly parent that has been diagnosed with dementia of any type is never an easy pill to swallow.  Your first reaction is often “Well that is normal, right?”  All old people get forgetful, how hard can this be?  So we will just have to remind him of a few things once in awhile, no big deal.  He is still my Dad….Right?

Unfortunately for some this is not the case.  Along with dementia you often see, anger, paranoia, confusion and stubbornness.  Simple conversations sometimes turn into heated arguments.  I am sure we have all heard, “When your parent gets older you will become the parent and they will become the child.”  If only it was that simple or easy.  When a parent fights your decisions or instructions you cannot send them to time out like you did with your children years ago.  So you attempt to explain, reason, plead and pray that they will make the right decision and follow your advice.  Whether it is just a simple task of what to eat or wear or a safety issue such as turning in their car keys.  He is still my Dad…Right?

When your children were little you had the opportunity to teach and mold them as they grew and became more aware of their surroundings.  This is not possible with a parent that loses more of themselves every day.  They are not learning new things every day, in fact they are unlearning old things every day.  First the short term memory fades away and they forget from one day to the next that someone died, was born, or stopped by for a visit.  Not only do they forget but sometimes they will argue, that you are “losing it” and they know for a fact that Uncle Joe did not stop by.  Little by little you let go and stop correcting their erroneous memories and watch them fade away.  He is still my Dad….Right?

So you stop fighting and correcting their mistakes and you watch them begin to live in a world that they have created. In their world they are still capable of doing everything they did in the prime of their lives.  Any suggestions or advise from their loved ones is viewed as a direct attack on their intelligence, well being and independence.  So you begin to pray for them, yourself, your siblings and for all this craziness to stop.  So what do you pray for?  Do you pray for the dementia to get worse so that they no longer resist help or guidance, or do you pray that they go peacefully in their sleep so they go before you lose more of the strong Dad you remember.  The Dad that carried you home after the Fourth of July fireworks when you were too young and tired to walk, who’s arm you held as you walked down the aisle on your Wedding Day and the Dad you danced with  to Daddy’s Little Girl the day he gave you away…He is still my Dad…Right?