Do you ever feel good when you have a parent with Dementia?

leatherA recent search brought someone to my blog: “Do you ever feel good when you have a parent with Dementia?” I hope I have conveyed in the two years I’ve shared my journey — the answer to the question is ABSOLUTELY.

The experience has seasoned me in a way that age enhances wine, cheese, and leather. My emotions are richer, my awareness deeper and my ability to give greater. I’ve always felt that I was a bit clueless when it came to social cues. As a military brat that moved a lot in my childhood, I wonder if I grew calluses on my senses and numbed my ability to pick up on social cues so I could manage through each move. I was and am still very comfortable alone. Did I cultivate this ability so I could survive puberty in 4 different schools over 3 years? My strength came from the inside, but as I’ve aged, I realize my strength was rigid.

This journey has changed the trajectory of my family, my career and my friendships. The death of my father fractured my strength. It felt like a section of my foundation was missing. While I watched as I lost my Dad in increments due to his Alzheimer’s — many of his characteristics were still in tact. I could still talk with him, he was still very kind, he cracked jokes and I could even hold his hand.

There have also been some incredibly horrible times … but they pass. I used each experience to learn.

I am still rebuilding after the loss of my Dad, but know that my strength will return and I will emerge a better, stronger, more flexible version of former self. Enhanced. 

Finding our Roles as Siblings and Care Givers

thankfulAll four children (and one brave spouse) came to town to help go through the final household items – these were mostly personal or historical documents … the items we just don’t know how to handle. We figured if we did it together, it would be easier to feel confident in our decisions.

What I recognize in looking back on some difficult conversations is that we are all skilled differently and have varied roles to play as we care for our parents.

My role has developed as the primary care manager for my parents. I took the crazy calls, battled with them and witnessed their worst over the past year. The role has changed me. I believe it’s  made me kinder and gentler. However, I realized that I expected my siblings to fill in as I do as a care giver.  That is unfair – I’ve been in training for this role for years and am still learning on the job.

My parents are no longer the people who raised us. We see glimmers of our parents, but they are now both incapable of interacting with us as our parents used too. As they changed, so must we.

We are still finding the balance, but just as I changed to adapt to my parents, I know I need to adapt to understand the changing role of me and my siblings. I know how lucky I am they are all engaged and willing to help. Thankful.