Never Goodbye

Navigating the Journey through Dementia

After dad’s time rehabilitating in the nursing home was over, we spent several weeks with me caring for him at the house. Truly an adjustment for both of us, I figured out the best way to help him bathe, when to have him use his walker, and when to wheel him around in the wheel chair. Bathroom duties proved to be the most difficult for both of us. Suffice to say, I washed a lot of his clothes on a daily basis. He lost all interest in sorting through and reading his direct mail. Activity dwindled to watching TV and sitting on the porch to look at the lake and pet the dogs.

A physical therapist came to work with him three times a week. As his walking improved, I realized once again that boredom would soon become our nemesis.

Dogwood Haven, our new adventure, rescued us this time. With the help of my son Brad and the neighbors Jim and Brenda, we moved dad’s bedroom furniture into a room in Dad’s new retreat –Dogwood Haven Assisted Living. More like a carpeted house with many bedrooms, Dogwood Haven housed other elderly who found themselves in similar circumstances as my dad.

I seized the opportunity to return to LA. After being in Alabama for more than three months, instead of three weeks, obligations demanded my return. Dad and I decided to try out Dogwood Haven for a month, and I hoped it would become our saving grace. Seasoned with twenty years of experience, the owner suggested a month’s stay as the magic time period—just enough time to win over a new resident.

I started calling Dad daily and was able to reach him usually one day out of three. I discovered he couldn’t get to his phone very quickly. So I had to let it ring for a long time. Next I discovered he was holding the phone upside down with the wrong end at his ear. That didn’t lend toward easy conversation either. Sometimes his hearing aid batteries were dead. The owner and her staff helped iron out the glitches in his care.

I knew in order to win over his heart, Dogwood Haven must defeat the ever impending threat of boredom. Dogwood Haven provided a number of activities to keep residents occupied. However every time I asked Dad how he liked the activities there, he didn’t know what I was talking about. Even specific questions about activities I knew they offered– such as gospel singer performances and bingo games baffled him. I’d seen him eating several times with another elderly guy before I left for LA. I asked him how he liked his new eating companion. He didn’t recall having a new meal companion.