Never Goodbye

Navigating the Journey through Dementia

While I could have suggested assisted living several years ago, my dad would have never accepted it. At that time he was too preoccupied with proving he could get along by himself. A live-in caregiver would not have worked well for him either. I was the only one he trusted and allowed to help him. Plus, he found my help palatable only in small doses. Learning to gauge how much help to offer and timing the help at the appropriate moment was key. Achieving a delicate balance became an art that I was constantly fine-tuning.

Who knows how long he’d been teetering with disaster at his heels before I started living with him. When the final moment arrived and it became obvious he could no longer live alone at all, dad made his final stand. That protest led to breaking his hip. However, until he broke his hip, he did not realize he was no longer capable of living by himself.

After staying at Dogwood Haven for nearly nine months, Dad landed in the Fort Payne hospital when he became too weak to walk, incontinent, and incoherent. A hospital examination revealed his heart valve had worsened, and he was put on heart medication. He spent a week in the Collinsville Nursing Home, recuperating after his hospital stay. His physical strength rebounded, but his mental faculties never did. Mentally he continued to deteriorate. A medical scan revealed at some earlier time Dad had suffered a stroke. Brad and I suspected a series of strokes had gone medically undetected.

The chapter at Dogwood Haven Assisted Living closed. As dad’s ability to wheel around with his walker grew strong, so did his desire to wander. He made it down the large hill at Dogwood several times, heading out to visit his mother. His creative toileting went beyond the staff’s abilities to assist and supervise him. The owner recommended Rose Manor, a residence licensed to house residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

My son Brad moved Dad into Rose Manor, and I flew in to visit and complete the paper work. With ten residents and four staff on duty, the staff to resident ratio was up to the task. Two nurses were on duty most of the day. Their friendly, home-y atmosphere and competent staff helped calm my dad. He was put on two additional medications to relieve anxiety and help him sleep at night.

His mind continued to slip. I called every day, and one day Dad told me he was going to call Lyn and have her take him home. I explained that I was Lyn, and I was in California now, a bit far away to visit on such short notice. He seemed to understand, and then told me several more times he was ready to go home and would have Lyn come and get him.