In writing my experience I hope it will let others know that they are not alone in this process. It is not an easy realization to make and the frustrations along the way are difficult. But they are resources to help, whether it is family, friends, physicians, and social workers. There are many online resources to give reassurance, information and support.
My mother died 16 months ago. She was as for many others, my father’s whole life. She battled cancer for 5 years. He was at her side every moment. And when she died my father was lost. Myself and my family knew it would be extremely difficult for my father to cope. We saw the usual signs of grief and depression. And for the first six months are so, we wrote everything off to that.
But after the first six months, we were becoming concerned that some of his behaviors were more then depression. He was unable to do simple tasks that he had always done. The most notable was that he had forgotten how to use the washer and dryer. His short term memory was terrible. And because he couldn’t remember he started to worry obsessively. He would make statements that really didn’t make sense or that weren’t relevant. His mental status was clearly declining. He knew it and we knew it. We were all scared.
We needed answers. The first decision was to have him evaluated by his primary care physician. He told us that there is what is called pseudo-dementia as a result of depression. He was started on medications to treat this. Over time his depression did improve but his signs of early dementia were getting worse. The previous symptoms were still there plus more, for example frequently not knowing what day it was or time awareness. He was also awake late at night and very anxious and somewhat disoriented. It was time to reevaluate.
We had a follow up appointment with this doctor. After discussing what we were seeing he ordered a CT scan of the brain and bloodwork, he also performed a quick preliminary test for possible onset of dementia. Also discussed was concern for my father to be driving. Our next follow up appointment is soon and hopefully will have more answers.
The reality now is that my father needs help with almost everything and we are there without a second thought. The managing of his finances and directing of his medical care is something no one else can help with and we will continue to do it. But taking care of his home, meals and and whatever else he needs plus doing these things for our families and working fulltime has become very difficult. He also was becoming upset about us doing all that was necessary. His physical safety has also become an issue. He is alone in his home. We needed to reach out for help. And it is available. We have started him with a personal medical alert system. We have started meals on wheels 3 times a week not just for us but also for him so that he has more social interaction. Getting his friends involved is helping too. Just simple phone calls to catch up, stopping in for a visit and taking him out to lunch. Reaching out to others is key.
Decisions still need to be made as to what will be best for my father. We are exploring all options and taking it one day at a time with love and patience. The patience part is not always easy. Making the transition to caring for a parent as if they are a child is difficult, difficult for the both the parent and the children. But the reality is many of us have to face this transition and there are support systems to help, you just need to reach out.