Life’s Lessons – Maria’s Diary

Learning is an ongoing natural progress for everyone. My dad used to say, the day we stop learning is the day we die. That was when life was sweet, everything ran in a predictable fashion.  That is, toasters blew up, kids got sick with all the normal stuff, flu, measles etc. Back then money was tight but everyone managed as we simply got on with day-to-day living. Today life should be easier two kids grown and with no mortgage, we have it made.

Now, however, we are faced with a new challenge. How to cope with and help an aging parent whose memory is behaving in an erratic fashion. When I mention the words, vascular dementia, I get sympathetic looks but not much practical advice. So if anyone in the blogging world has experience of this unpredictable event in our lives, I would appreciate all of the advice you can throw my way.

Bob is as usual, kindly on standby to offer hugs to everyone including dad. Though he is still miffed over the bow  tie photo so, what the heck here is a reminder.

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10 thoughts on “Life’s Lessons – Maria’s Diary

  1. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. My Dad had been getting increasingly dotty and irascible for several years, and was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in February. He was lucky … the shock of losing my Mom in May was more than he could handle, and he followed her in July. By then he was no longer able to communicate at all – just spoke gibberish – it was terribly hard on my sisters.

    One piece of advice I’d like to share is, DON’T ARGUE WITH HIM. When he calls one of his daughters or nieces by their mother’s name, or insists he’s been in a place he’s never seen before, or swears up and down that blue is red, just agree with him, change the subject, and – if the argument is over whether or not he needs to take his meds or something else important – approach it a few minutes later from a different angle.

    He will not remember the outcome of the argument. He won’t learn from it. You will stress yourself (and him) out, and there will be no benefit. Accept that he lives in a different reality now, and let him live there in peace. Accept that he’s going to ask the same question over and over and OVER again … If it’s a question that gets him riled up, tell him gently and firmly, “No, we’re not going to discuss this – it’s too upsetting” and change the subject. If it’s just a question that needs and answer, give him the answer. Getting upset won’t help. He isn’t choosing to forget.

    Also, when (not if) you mess up and get impatient with him, don’t beat yourself up. His hurt feelings will disappear LONG before yours do! That’s one of the great blessings of dementia … Just as he’ll forgive the fun and kind things you do with him, he’ll also forgive your failures.

    I hope that helps. I wrote a bit about my Dad in a recent post – https://americansoustannie.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/home/ – and I’ll be posting again in a couple weeks.

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    • Thank you for the great advice. He is not at the argumentative stage but I will remember. He is simply forgetting a little more each passing week, for example forgetting how to go from his house to mine, forgetting how or why he arrived at the doctors.Each and every tip I receive helps us unnderstand his situation.

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      • It’s so hard to watch! The most important thing, I believe, is to remember that he’s not doing it deliberately. It’s really hard when you have to explain for the umpty-ninth time how to do something or why he’s got to do it … One can’t help feeling that if they would just make the effort they could remember! He can’t, any more than a person with a broken ankle can walk easily. Protect his dignity and be kind (I have the sense that won’t be hard for you!) And remember that even though it’s the umptyninth time you’ve had to answer the question, for him it’s the first time he’s asked it.

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      • Thank you. I know he isn’t doing or forgetting on purpose or playing one of us off the other as someone suggested to me once. I should also remember that we are lucky in a way, as he is 84 and not 64. We have great memories to draw on, the lot of us, now is our time to remind him of them.

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      • Exactly! Something I made for my Dad – unfortunately I didn’t realize he needed it until almost too late – was a picture book. I chose pictures from the year they spent living with us in the US, and printed them quite large on pages. The captions were very short, and were intended more as conversation helpers for whoever was going through the book with him. It wasn’t a proper printed book – just pages printed out and slipped into clear plastic envelopes that were bound together – very easy to find and to use. Something I thought of doing but didn’t get to – he deteriorated SO quickly – was a picture book with photographs of all our family members and his and Mom’s close friends. I think that would have helped him. He would still have been confused, but he’d have been able to just page through them and remember things. We put framed photographs up on the wall in his bedroom at the home, and he told me that sometimes he just sat and looked at them and remembered, and they made him happy. Much better than sitting and staring at the wall.

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