No Easy Answers
No Easy Answers for Caregivers
The dementia patient is not giving you a hard time, the dementia patient is having a hard time. Quote from Agingcare.com
My parents lived to be ninety-three and ninety-four. Mother lived the longest and kept her mental sharpness until a few days before she died. Daddy suffered from dementia probably for the last six months of his life. It’s hard to say how long because his dear wife of seventy-two years knew how to cover for his forgetfulness or sometimes bizarre behavior.
There were times, however, when Mother became totally frustrated with the changes she saw taking place and she would accuse him of doing things on purpose just to irritate her. He loved Juicy Fruit gum, but she kept it hidden from sight and rationed it because he could chew five or six sticks in an
hour and ask for another package. “I have to watch him like a
hawk,” she would say.
And she did, even though they lived in an assisted-living facility. He was changing, but I think her denial, at times, and anger, at other times, added to the stress and tension in their lives.
He would not bathe himself and would not let any staff person help him. So Mother adjusted his shower temperature, washed his back, brought him a dry towel, and helped him dress. With her congestive heart failure and the need for oxygen full time, this chore wore her out, both physically and emotionally.
Then he started getting up in the middle of the night. He would go into their bathroom, which was actually a part of their bedroom, turn on all of the lights, and shave. Mother could not convince him to return to bed until he finished. And then he would often put on a shirt or a pair of pants before finally lying down partially dressed, only to rise a couple of hours later to repeat the procedure. He nearly always forgot his oxygen tube hanging on the bedpost. I had no idea both of my parents were sleep deprived until Mother told me later that this was a common occurrence.
I don’t have any answers that might have made their last months together any easier. Because they were very private people, sometimes it was hard to know what was really going on. When I stopped by to visit, Mother would chatter nonstop, as usual, and Daddy would smile a lot, like normal. I took them treats they enjoyed, like smoothies or milkshakes. Mother loved orchids and they thrived under her care so she usually received one for any special occasion, or “just because.” Daddy would often let me brush his “angel hair,” as mother named it, and I might help her fasten jewelry that had tiny clasps.
All of these little things were ways to say “I love you,” but we didn’t often discuss some of the truly important issues concerning my daddy’s declining health. I tried to respect their privacy and treat them with the dignity they deserved. I think they both tried to protect me. I guess that’s what parents do.
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