The Slow March of Dementia

thanksgiving2One of the additional challenges to dementia is the speed in which it progress. In my experience with two parents, one with Alzheimer’s and another with Vascular Dementia, they both progressed pretty slowly in hind-sight.

I’ve been invited to speak at local libraries and community centers on the topic of caring for a loved one with dementia. Tonight, I’m scheduled to provide a presentation on caregiving and the holidays. As I prepared for this topic, I looked back at my last three Thanksgivings.

Thanksgiving 2011: My parents were still driving and splitting their time between their home and the retirement community. They got lost driving to my house. I lived less than 5 miles away and they had been to our home hundreds of times. I got a call from a motorist who helped redirect them 30 minutes after they were to arrive and then didn’t hear from them for 1.5 more hours! My Dad had a cell phone, but never used it and of course it wasn’t in the car with him. I went to pick them up at a gas station more than 15 miles from my house. The meal was cold and we avoided the topic of my parent’s getting lost. It was an awkward meal.

Thanksgiving 2012: My parents were no longer driving so I picked them up at the retirement community. My Mom was very anxious and ill-tempered. I gave her my baby book to look through as we finished getting ready for the meal which seemed to sooth her disposition. We all pushed away from the table with indigestion. It was an uncomfortable meal. 

Thanksgiving 2013: I pick up my Mom and we have a very pleasant Thanksgiving.
This years Thanksgiving was the best one in recent years. While my Mom is having a lot more difficultly managing through her day — wearing the same clothes, getting lost in her community, resistance to showering — she was dressed up and ready when I picked her up. She was gracious and appreciative of the home cooked meal.
I believed that my parents togetherness in many ways made helping them much more difficult to help. Now that my Dad moved on up to heaven, I wonder how much of strain they put on each other in trying to act as “caregivers”. I watched as my Mom struggled when my Dad’s energy and interests subsided, and then as he dealt with the cancer. I think for the first time, she could just enjoy the visit and the meal and for that, I’m thankful. Appreciated. 
Tell me about your experience with dementia?  Do you feel like it moved slowly, quickly, or somewhere in-between?

3 thoughts on “The Slow March of Dementia

  1. Also, the denial factor has to be taken into consideration. Sometimes we see the signs of dementia but don’t want to admit to ourselves that it is happening. I usually say that my dad had Alzheimer’s for about four years before passing but it could have been five or more.

    I’m glad you had a good Thanksgiving visit this year with your mother, you both definitely deserved it!

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