Archive for Dementia

A Cursed, Crushing, Conflicted Concoction of Feelings

Long ago, maybe around Easter, with Dad, my younger sister, and me . . .

When my father bellowed and ordered me to leave his home, it was as if a double-edge knife had penetrated my heart. Like a rusty, bent blade, it twisted with the volume and intensity of Dad’s outburst.

One side of the blade was love. One, hatred.

We did not know then about his dementia.

Odd how, with those we love the most and the surest, we can experience such damning and damaging of reactions.

Dad’s unexpected roar came partway through a mundane visit home, where I balanced time with my parents while attending a conference. Fine! If he didn’t want me around—though I had no clue why—I could find a motel near the downtown conference, crash with a friend attending the event, or head home where my wife and pets would at least treat me with respect.

Mom intervened.

Odd to sit around the old kitchen table, with my parents now married for six decades, and to have your mother forcefully demand that her husband apologize to their son. Dad did. Looking back now, why wasn’t it obvious? He was hardly smiling anymore. His eye contact with others had become random and held no welcome or curiosity. At that table, Mom chided him. Mom warned him. Mom prevailed. Read More →

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Dementia and Other Terrible Dragons We Can’t Slay

What caused Dad’s death?

I don’t think I will ever know for sure.

Nonetheless, it’s a question that randomly nudges me during my hospice’s Interdisciplinary Group (IDG) as we discuss our patient’s recent deaths.

I know when my father died: the sixth day of February, in 2012. I know where he died: at the care facility where he spent his final two years. Or the where of his death could be identified as a particular town within Sacramento’s metropolitan area. I once knew his street address and room number. I still know the zip code of where he died, since it was the same one he’d had when living at his suburban home of forty-plus years.

How did he die? His death certificate had a heart-related cause of death. How could Dad’s death not involve his heart? At ninety-plus, the hard-working muscle in the middle of his chest must have been exhausted after all those decades. But on dreary days in long meetings, I wonder if dementia murdered him. Yep, I wrote murder. How foolish and melodramatic! But with dementia’s reputation for cruelty and relentlessness, didn’t it destroy Dad’s life as if wielding a thousand, or hundred thousand, paper cuts? At first dementia’s intent and weapons were overlooked, but each cruel, insubstantial slice lead to his demise.

Dad had an ample supply of stubborn in his DNA. He avoided doctors like black cats or sidewalk cracks. Only one neurologist examined him. That brief, awkward visit occurred well after dementia (along with a cranky knee, hearing loss, prostate problems, and a legion of other lesser ills) had its hooks into him. With little enthusiasm, the physician prescribed additional medication and appeared relieved when we departed. Read More →

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This Damn Grief

keysLet’s say it’s two or so months after your loved one’s death.

You are standing in the middle of the kitchen.

Your doctor’s appointment is across town and even if you left now, you’d be ten minutes late.

For the ninety-ninth time, you survey the pile of bills on the kitchen counter, and then the empty ceramic dish your youngest son crafted in elementary school that perches on the telephone table, and then the hooks on the wall by the door to the garage.

Now you start to cry.

You can’t find your car keys. And if you can’t find the keys, you can’t leave your house . . . let alone get to the doctor’s office. But that’s not the worst. Though in your early seventies and still feeling “young,” you are afraid that like your mother (who died a dozen years ago) and favorite uncle (currently in a pricey memory care facility), and also your best friend’s spouse, you are getting Alzheimer’s.

You can’t find your keys. And this morning, after your usual breakfast of granola and one slice of toasted wheat bread, you placed the carton of skim milk in the cupboard. Stupid? Forgetful? Silly? Last week, when mowing the lawn, you couldn’t locate the cumbersome green waste container for tossing in the grass clippings. It wasn’t until the next day that you spotted it in the corner of the garage. Who moved it where it didn’t belong? Gypsies? Gremlins? Read More →

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