Never Goodbye

Navigating the Journey through Dementia

Just as I was beginning to despair that our new adventure may not be working out, I received an email from our neighbor Brenda about her visit to Dogwood Haven. She included an attachment entitled, “Jack in the Newspaper”. There was my dad with the biggest smile on his face I had ever seen. Brenda explained this was merely one newspaper clipping of my dad. Apparently he’d hit the Fort Payne newspapers twice now as part of the Dogwood Haven news. The other clipping showed him playing games. While she didn’t have that clipping to send me, Brenda reported that the owner had saved a copy for me. Furthermore, the owner was delighted with Jack, and one of the regularly scheduled activity directors had practically adopted him.

Brenda’s mother-in-law, Ruby, had lived at Dogwood Haven for a while now.If you didn’t know otherwise, you would think they hired her as a PR representative. When I first brought my Dad to visit Ruby, she assured that he would love it there. She likened it to being on a cruise. They washed your clothes, provided excellent dining, and brought in entertainment. The only difference was the cruise ship wasn’t going anywhere.

From her visit Brenda further reported Jack was eating lunch and had almost cleared his plate. To best understand why this observation matters, you have to know that in both the hospital and the nursing home, he would pick at his food, leaving most of it untouched. Dad lost five pounds in the hospital and proceeded to lose another eight pounds in the nursing home, arriving at a weight of 122 pounds. Some years ago his normal weight ranged from 155 to 160 pounds. Although he’d shrunk from his five foot nine frame, 122 pounds became an alarming weight for a man his size. Gaining back at least what he’d lost was now a major health concern.

As Brenda announced these rave reviews, I filled with relief. Not only had Dad set foot on the road to better health, he was downright enjoying himself. I so hoped Dogwood Haven was a solution for Dad’s loneliness and boredom. That duo of emotions, which had fueled recent disasters, perhaps now opened the door to a better living solution—for both Dad and me.