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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Back To Dad

Well, it seems like I am talking about Dad almost all the time these past months.  It IS the major focus of my life.  I can't avoid it; just having another person in the house is strange.  Having an adult who is becoming less able and more confusing is even stranger. 

I understand, intellectually, that Dad is forgetting more and more things.  But its the THINGS he is forgetting that are most confusing.  I understand that older memories are more stable and new ones are iffy.

Last week, the sun started setting so that it shined on the chair he sits in and he wanted to close the drapes partially.  I happened to walk into the room, and he was flicking the deck light switch on and off trying to get the drapes to close.  I showed him the cord on the side that you pull to open/close the drapes.  OK, he hadn't had to do that in months, maybe years (picturing his FL house).

The next day, I had to tell him again.

Today, he pointed to the toolshed in the house next door and asked when they built it.  I said about 15 years ago.  He said "No, this is new".  I looked at it was the same old shed.  It might have been a bit brighter from the lower angle of the sunlight.  He said "NO, it wasn't there yesterday".  I mentioned that he had looked at it a couple months before and asked me what that yellow box was attached to my shed, and that I had explained it was the neighbor's shed. 

OK, so he forgot that and the different sunlight made it stand out more.  But he said that he looks out that window every day and it wasn't there before.  I said "Dad, I KNOW my yard and the views from it.  That shed has been there many many years".  He insisted it hadn't been there before. 

Sigh...  OK, I'm not the most diplomatic person in the world.  I told him his memory was failing.  I've been honest about things like that with Dad.  Not to be cruel, but to be realistic.  It seems important to me, as his caretaker, and for him, that he accepts that I am always going to be right on simple factual things.  Things like day of the week, time to take pills (and whether he has or hasn't), when he needs to change his clothes, what he can safely do himself or not do, etc.

I also understand that trusting other people on factual stuff is hard for him.  Even decades ago, in the prime of his life, he never thought ANYONE else was right about ANYTHING he didn't know personally.  I used to spend a lot of time researching factual disagreements to prove him wrong.  Me 100, Dad 0, and that never affected him in the least!  He had that kind of selective memory that forgets all lost disagreements.

Could I have that same kind of selective memory?  No.  I remember all my mistakes all too well.  I hate being factually wrong as much as Dad does but I acknowledge it and remember.

So when Dad got overly insistent that the neighbor toolshed had NOT been there a few days ago, I tried to relate the situation to the drapes (see above).  I was direct about it.  I simply asked Dad if he knew how to close the drapes to keep the sun out of his eyes in the afternoon.  He looked at them, but he couldn't recall.

So I pointed out that he had asked me how to close the drapes every day the past week, and I had shown him every day the past week.  That his short-term memory wasn't working as well as it used to.  That he didn't remember seeing that neighbor's toolshed there while looking out the window previously.  That he had to start trusting me on those simple things...

I'm not trying to score points against Dad.  That's as pointless as beating your 5 year old at chess.  It isn't a contest.  Its about getting Dad to accept that he can't remember some kinds of things.  Does he want to acknowledge that?  Of course not.  Neither would I.  But can he accept that?  I think he can. 

I need him to trust me.  Because as he gets less able, that is going to become more important for him than for me.  When he gets too difficult to take care of (or live with), he is going to have to move to an assisted-living facility. 

I haven't mentioned the idea ever.  And I won't until I can't bear the situation any longer.  I wouldn't ever threaten him with it or even hint at it.  But I am always aware that the day will come. I will both hate that day, but also be relieved.  I both love him and want to take care of him, but he s also driving me nuts and completely upending my life. 

I hope you understand the conflict.  I you do, then you've "been there".  If not, I hope you get your turn taking care of an elder relative so that you will understand...

Its a valuable life experience.


Katnip Lounge said...

Hang in there...I'm sending you positive, tolerant vibes.

Andrea and the Celestial Kitties said...

I understand. And it's not easy. Hugs and purrs!