In the early phase of my parents slide into dementia, my dad would use this term a lot. As I flipped through The Washington Post this morning and saw the word in a headline, I smiled as my stomach clenched. I grew to hate this word. It felt so dismissive of my concerns.
While the entire caregiving journey is a tough road, I found the early phase the most difficult. Everyone is uncomfortable as you figure out how the dance will flow. In some families, I see as they freely ask for and accept help. In others, especially when the couple is still together, the adult children are usually shut out.
My parents knew something was wrong with the memory of their spouse, but neither recognized that they too had problems. My dad would usually listen, but my mom would take each statement and debate each point–in most cases I was told to stop lying or making up these horrible stories.
To keep the peace, my dad started to just truncate anything I said by stating “It’s a nothingburger.”
I had to wait for the failures to be called in to help. There were several times they would call me to come help and when I showed up my mom didn’t remember calling and thought it presumptuous of me to think she needed help.
When my mom started repeatedly calling to help get dad off the floor, I would run over. Until the day my husband asked me if I realized that I was prioritizing my parents over my own kids quite often. I was taking my kids to get flu shots and decided that could wait. With that one question, I realized I was enabling my parents by showing up and the next time mom called, I told her to call 911. That trip to the hospital made it clear to all of us that our parents were really unable to navigate through their day. The hospital recognized that both parents had cognitive issues.
Everything did not by any means become easier, however, that incident helped my siblings and I to navigate the next few months. It was at least two more years before my parents were in Assisted Living, but sometimes you have to hit bottom before you can start figuring out how to move forward. Revisited.