When a parent is diagnosed with Dementia you may often say, “My parent has what?” The shock and disbelief of this diagnosis is something you can’t prepare for and the unknown is never easy. Life will take a new turn as their short term memory decreases and their long term memory may still be alive and full of rich details.
The normal routine you once had with your loved one will change and take new challenges, twists and turns that will shake you to your core but you need to hang on and be their advocate. Help your loved one when they have trouble getting dressed, remember the days of the week, month or small details of their daily routine. My dad forgot what day it was a lot and kept asking me “ What’s today?” I would tell him and we would review all the days of the week together. This become a daily ritual when I would visit him at the memory care facility. Take time to reminisce about their past ( college, high school, or any special event they cherished) These moment you share will be more meaningful and special as the dementia progresses. Some people with Dementia may not know their family as the disease progresses, but my dad knew who I was even on his last day. I am forever blessed and grateful he never forgot who I was or my mom and brother.
As a caregiver to both my parents, seeing them age broke my heart in thousands of pieces. From using a cane to walker then both parents using a wheelchair. I could not believe my dad had dementia and not knowing how much his memory would change. I remember one day the LVN told me “There will be a day you won’t be able to take him out for his doctor appointments” Little did I know that day would come and I would forever be rocked again to the core. The shock of knowing a parent has dementia may never go away even after they have passed on but keep pressing forward and know you will get through this. Each family will have their own journey with a loved one with Dementia and it’s a path with no advance notice of what to do and when. If you keep asking yourself “ I can’t believe this is happening? “its okay and normal. Your life has forever changed and it’s a challenge to manage it all but you can do it.
Give yourself time to grieve for the person you are losing to dementia. This may take weeks, months or years and it’s ok. I cried for a long time before and after my visits with my dad in memory care. I wish I could wave a magic wand so he never had Dementia but it’s not possible. I had to jump in with both feet and be the support he needed as his memory would fade and not able to remember details, memories, events, friends and his past. The sadness may never go away even after they pass on, but take one day at a time. If you need a dementia support groups find one to help you as well as friends and family who are supportive and helpful even if just to cry and talk about the challenges you are enduring, This will be hard, tiring and a rollercoaster journey of emotions but just do the next thing. You will get through this journey and one day you will be able to say, “ It was my absolute pleasure to take care of my parents.”
You won’t regret all you did of your loved one with dementia and you will know you did the best for them while they were alive. Begin and end with LOVE.