Dad's Dementia Changed My Life
In January 2019, we took my Dad to the hospital psych ward for evaluation and medication for his advancing dementia.
It was an emotional decision that almost tore my family apart.
There were lots of tears and anger that day. He was confused and upset that others were upset. He was also looking for a woman he thought was in our house—a woman we could not see.
It was one of the worst days of my life.
While waiting at the hospital for him to be admitted, I held his hand and asked him to tell me a story he told me a few minutes before. Over the last few years, he told me the same story many times. It was a story from his past that he remembered clearly, that made him smile. I often pretended I didn't know the story. My asking him to tell it would get his attention and deflect him from unwanted behavior. It often gave him relief from the stress of losing his mind.
I didn't know this would be the last time he would have the capacity to share it with me.
The years leading up to this day had been difficult. Horrible, actually. To watch someone who was your hero and protector become someone else. Someone without the qualities that you knew as unique to them. And to watch them suffer through those changes.
The next fourteen months were even worse. He forgot who I was. He forgot his grandchildren and his son. He forgot the woman he was married to for almost 60 years—the woman who stayed by his side as much a humanly possible.
He didn't return home for thirteen and a half months. He returned only because of COVID lockdowns and my Mom's insistence he goes home. She couldn't bear to leave his side. He died thirteen days later.
The emotional toll of his illness continues. Each family member secretly questions whether they did the right thing. Did we do the best we could?
I personally struggled through his mental decline. I struggled with others. Most of the time, not with him directly, but with other family members. Differences of opinions on his care. Differences of opinions on moral, ethical, and religious views.
The only thing, I think, that kept me from falling apart or doing irreversible damage to myself with the stress of the situation was learning that I am in control of my mind.
And, I am not, and will never be, in control of the world. And my attempts at doing so were making me a miserable, stressed, and angry person.
I became aware.
Aware I couldn't control my Dad's illness.
Aware I couldn't control my Mom's actions or attitude.
Aware I couldn't control the nurses, doctors, and caregivers.
And trying to control these things was making me a crazy person.
I could control my thoughts.
I could control my feelings.
I could control my actions.
I could allow other people to be who they are.
I know God blessed me with this gift. He put the information and people in my path when I needed to hear it.
Awareness is a gift I got from my Dad having dementia.
I work every day to understand myself further and why I think what I think, feel what I feel, and do what I do.
I work every day to accept that I don't control the world, anyone else, or anything outside of me.
I work every day to help others understand this too.
If you are struggling with trying to control the world, I would love to speak with you.
Awareness really can change your life.
Sign up for a free session at secondactcoach.com.
With loving memories of my Dad,