Very early in my journey into life with a parent who has dementia, I read that “meeting one person with dementia, is like meeting one person with dementia.” We all want rules to follow, guides to help us know how to help our loved ones, and simple answers. That just isn’t possible given all the types of dementia and types of people.
While my mom would become very argumentative, my dad did not and seemed to fade away. As I watched two parents with different dementia’s and managing through varied life changes, the only rule I found was that being calm and positive were the only emotions to bring to a visit.
When mom would get argumentative, initially I would engage, just like I always did. We were able to disagree and challenged each other from silly to serious topics. When I realized our conversations were only making mom angrier and more agitated, I changed. It was not easy.
I recognized that my mom was losing the ability to change, so I needed to change. My sister-in-law who has been helping individuals with head injuries for over two decades always had good advice. At one point, I realized that if I considered that mom had an external head injury, the changes in her behavior made more sense to me and it was easier for me to change to adapt to the battle going on inside of her that I could not comprehend.
After my dad died, my mom was having a lot of conflict in her assisted living community. I always knew that together my parents were better. Without my dad as her companion, my mom no longer had something that constantly grounded and provided her with comfort. She started to verbally and physically act out. This was one of the reasons I started to search for a new community. Mom was not in a place that could support her needs.
I am not really going to answer the question I posed, because I still don’t know if anything is “normal” with dementia beyond the aching sense of loss we all experience. Changed.