When you are sharing your life with someone who has dementia, it can feel a bit like you are stuck in a scene from the movie Groundhog Day. And when you are repeating an activity or conversation that you have had, what feels like, a million times before, it can leave you feeling frustrated at times.
Intellectually, we can tell ourselves that it is the dementia and remind ourselves that he simply does not remember. While we understand that in our heads, it becomes a bit harder to hold on to that thought when you are repeating something for the 100th time. It does start to wear and sometimes even finds that last nerve. After all, we are human.
I try to look at repeat conversations with my father as low pressure interactions. What I mean is that we don’t have to come up with something new to talk about each time that we interact. And since Dad and I haven’t been on the same conversational plane for years, in some ways it is easier that way. We can even joke about how nice the forgetting is in that way.
One common theme for me and my Dad is when he tries to stand up from a chair. He has lost his strength and sense of balance, so this proves to be a challenge for him. Each time that I am with him I will gently remind him to scoot to the edge of his seat and push up on the arms of the chair (rather than just trying to lever himself up by leaning way forward). He will say something like, “I guess that would be better,” and then may or may not heed the advice.
The last time we were all together visiting, he chose not to take the advice. He struggled for a while and then said, “Well, usually somebody will offer to help me by now!” So I asked him if he would like my help to which he responded, “No!” After he continued to struggle, I went over, physically assisted him up and got him steady with his walker. He did feel the need at that point to tell me that my assistance really had not helped. (This is my father now….revisit my post ‘Grumpy Old Man’).
Though the interactions are repeats and my father is never gracious, I will continue to help him. I will continue to have the same conversations with him, hold his hand and listen to him complain. I will love him just as he loved me when I was an obnoxious kid (I must have been since all kids are at times). I’ll answer the same questions just like he did when I was in my Why?-kid-asking stage. I’ll hold his hand or arm to help him stay balanced while he walks just like he held my hand while I was learning to walk.
And though he is a grumpy old man, I will do my best to remember the good times that we did have as I was growing up. I will continue to be grateful for all of the opportunities that he provided to me. And I will love him compassionately, because I know that he really does love me.
On the journey with you…….Kathy