I used to read articles about dementia and count my blessings that I wasn’t affected by the devastating effects on a family member. Even though my father in law developed a form of dementia, he was well into his late 90’s and it seemed like a natural progression. When my mom declared that she had mini strokes and felt like her mind was going we thought it might be wine related. Her daily consumption was steadily increasing and the lines blurred in unison. It was a slow progression into the dark deep hole of cognitive decline. Vascular dementia is evil.
Today I took my dad to an appointment at the hospital. We can’t really leave mom at home for too long on her own. She panics and does strange things. Like deciding to cook and then forgetting she started to cook and walking away from the kitchen. Oddly she’s lost her sense of smell (and no, it’s not covid) so if something burns in the kitchen she is unaware. So Rudy came with me and stayed with mom. They took Molly for a walk and then mom made Rudy breakfast. Dad and I went to his laser surgery appointment.
Luckily the appointment was quick. We missed the crowds at the hospital. Now that things are rolling again everyone is eager to get their procedures underway. We were in and out in under an hour. Miraculous. I was expecting so much more delay. After the appointment we dropped off the prescription and drove home. Mom and Rudy were hanging out and were (pleasantly?) surprised to see us. We chatted and detailed the events at the hospital.
A while later we left to run our errands. Dad and I left mom and Rudy and Molly at home again. Our first put stop was dads weekly bread pick up. He has an addiction to the local bakery walnut raisin sourdough. Then we picked up his prescription. While we drove around he said that he felt like he was forgetting our childhood memories. I felt a lump in my throat. Was he confessing to memory loss too?? Then he continued to say he was always trying to conjure up memories of ya as kids. He feels like he missed out on so much. I told him that he was the family provider and thanks to him we had a stay home mom. Best gift ever. He said it was funny that I said that; mom says the same thing.
We looked at each other and he saw something in my expression. I know he says; your mom is really confused. But there are many days when we can still talk like old times. I couldn’t look over at him again. I thought I might cry. Dementia has robbed my parents of a truly wonderful golden era. My dad has been given a great responsibility of caregiver for my mom. I think it’s a reality that he’s accepted like so many other challenges in his life. He deals in facts and logic; it is what it is. My mom is afloat between her brains deep caverns. Sometimes she’s completely lucid and others she’s in a dense fog. Her short term memory is worst. But the saddest part is her resentment of dads normal self. She’s frustrated and angry and she lets it out on dad.
Mom has sleeping problems. She can’t fall asleep and when she does she’s restless. She wakes many mornings (according to dad) and says she thinks she’s had more mini strokes in the night; her vision is worse and her brain isn’t working. It must be frightening and disturbing to feel yourself slipping away. She reverts back to her familiar routines: busy work in the kitchen or offering hospitality to everyone (more coffee? How about a sandwich? Drinks anyone?) hoping for takers. Poor Rudy often agrees to things he doesn’t really want just to give her purpose. Dad only wants to play cards. I comply with card playing since a) I enjoy it b) he enjoys it c) it’s a distraction from the mundane.
When I left today, like most times, my mom gets melancholy and sad. She asks when I’m coming back. Next Wednesday I tell her. I phone when I get home (it’s about 2 hours) dad answers. He’s glad we had a safe trip. When I call tomorrow to check in mom will ask when I’m coming back. I will tell her next Wednesday. It will be a daily routine until next Wednesday.
Dementia sucks. It’s a thief.