family, personal

Dealing with (a parent with) dementia

Heavy sounding topic. Pretty heavy in reality too. As predicted, my dad was the easy-going person, and died in an easy-going way. My Mom is going to be the challenging one.

She started having some short-term memory loss a few months before my Dad died. I meant to ask him about it after they came to visit in February. I never got the chance. I know he knew, he was so helping and caring he just shielded her from the effects and everything was “fine.”

It’s gotten much worse quickly since he died. Her doctor gave her some pills for anxiety, and wanted to wait until her physical in July to evaluate further. He “figured” it was just due to the stress of the death and might get better. Nope. So I am pushing the issue with him and now he is going to start getting some tests done and refer her to a specialist.

Weird thing is, since she’s in good shape physically, and has not lost much of her “institutional” memory, she can get by in daily life. Not great mind you, but ok. I am reading up on “the conversation” – you know, about some form of assisted living – and a lot of the guidance I’ve seen presumes some long runway (plant seeds, keep planting seeds, see if something grows, wait until a small accident happens then use it to sell the idea). But I am worried I don’t have the luxury of time, and since I am across the country, I don’t get the consistency of interactions to properly “plant seeds” and such.

Besides, given the short term memory issue, every conversation I have with her is largely forgotten by the next one…

Not only do I not know much about trying to get your parent into the proper care, I don’t even know much about brain disease and dementia and Alzheimer’s and related issues. I might have titled my blog incorrectly, maybe she has something other than dementia. More studying to do.

The other thing that I have noticed is my own self-awareness of mortality and memory, given what my two parents have gone through lately. I am thinking more about ensuring I maximize time now, given that I’m well over halfway through my life if I were to pass when my Dad did. I’m reflecting more on my own memory – its fine to say that I need to write things down so I don’t forget them – there is a natural process in there somewhere. But the time to take care of your brain is now, not later. So I am going to investigate ways I can bolster my own brain. In looking some things up for Mom I noted how eating the right foods can help, and I actually do ok on that one without even knowing it.

I feel so bad for my Mom, sometimes her mind gets totally clear and she realizes something is not right, other times she’s embarrassed by what she has forgotten. Other times it is just frustrating to see someone you love be so lost, like imagining her husband is still alive and then having to go through the loss all over again when she realizes she forgot.

I hope others are having more success than me – it’s early in the process so I am hoping I can find some small wins to indicate I’m heading the right direction. This seems like a long, difficult road. For my mom, it’s a road I will follow until it ends.

Finally, my brother recently gave me some great encouragement, and it reminded me that in situations like these, once again you are not alone and should rely on the support of others.


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