During the events with my mother over the past couple of weeks, my father, who has dementia, has had to deal with lots of changes and uncertainty. And during that time, it seemed apparent to me that time is marching on in the progression of his dementia.
Mom had come for a visit to our home which leaves Dad with a gap in the daily visitations that my mother has been keeping up with (most days she has been going twice!). Her absence alone leaves Dad with a gaping hole in his day. I think that Dad is inclined to measure out his days by my mother’s visits; they create a rhythm that he has come to depend on in past months.
He expects her in the mornings when they spend time together reading the Bible and doing a daily devotional. Mom says that she does not understand much of what my father is reading when he reads from the Bible, but it is something that seems to mean much to him.
She goes again in the evenings to read the Evening Suffrages (vespers) with him.
I’m glad that this still seems to be important to my father because in many other ways he says that his faith is providing little comfort to him. I think this is the dementia working on his brain but none the less it is sad.
So having Mom gone is a real shake-up in his routine.
Add to that the fact that while she was here, Mom ended up in the hospital following a couple of unresponsive episodes in church on Sunday.
Keeping up with it all was just too much for Dad. Not only was there worry about her health, Mom was not able to return home as planned; the return to routine was delayed.
His confusion was evident by the phone calls. He seemed to have a difficult time keeping straight in his mind where Mom was and who she was with. He seemed to start to lose track of who all the players were and who he was in relation to the rest of us.
He left a message on my cell phone one day identifying himself as ‘your son, Harry’. He called at one point looking for Martha, my sister, when it turned out that he was really looking for my mother. At one point he left me a message indicating that I could call him back, providing me with the number from the house where I grew up and where Mom still lives but he has not lived for 6 months.
It appeared for a while that my cell phone number was the only number that he was able to dial successfully so he was using that number as his switchboard for locating others.
So for a man who could remember his high school French beyond when I could remember mine, time marches on. The dementia that once was something that others in my family could not see is now something that cannot be denied. He is still aware enough to realize that he can’t remember anything but he states this now with a tone of resignation and fact rather than frustration.
The man who could and would talk to anybody now, in his dementia, sequesters himself away from others feeling that he has nothing in common with them to discuss. Time marches on….
And time will continue to march. At some point he likely will not know who I am or who my mother is. I wonder if he will remember his childhood friend ‘Tink’ the longest?? If that brings him comfort, I hope so.
Dementia has lifted off any filters that Dad once had and some startling things have been said. They could be hurtful if we let them. I hope in the end we can go back to remembering Dad with the filters on and be content. I hope that after passing through the difficult years of dementia we can begin to remember the man of his pre-dementia days. It does become tough when you are in the middle of it all. I have to remind myself that this is still Dad; he is in there but is being changed by the disease process.
I came across a video of a loving husband talking about his journey through dementia with his wife. What I loved about it was his commitment to continuing to try to communicate with his wife and the realization that she was always his Jan. I also love the message that after the death of his wife, the memories of the other Jan are now beginning to come back to him. Check it out: Bruce and Jan’s Story.
Dementia is truly a disease that makes time-marching-on feel slow and laborious. You know you can’t turn back the clock on the changes and there is really no way to fast forward through the difficult times.
But time will continue to march on, and at some time in the future Dad will be released from the ravages of this disease. And then we will begin the process of letting the Dad of his younger years resurface………
On the journey with you…….Kathy