“I need to find a place for dad”, he told me.
When I asked what was going on with him Randy hesitated.
“I can’t help you if I don’t know what is really going on and what Dad’s needs are!” I insisted.
“There isn’t a lot of money.” Randy told me. “You see Mom and Dad are separated.”
I could tell from the sound of his voice that Randy was in a lot of emotional pain. Finally, the story began to pour out.
Randy, his dad, and his whole family were dealing with dementia. They just didn’t know it yet.
Randy’s parents had been married 53 years. Both were in their 80’s. Up until a few months ago, there wasn’t a problem. Oh, his parents disagreed from time to time. But they had a loving relationship. They never fought as far as Randy knew. There was certainly never any violence in the home.
“My sisters insist that Dad has been physically abusing Mom but I just don’t buy it! Yes, Mom does have some bruises but maybe she fell and hurt herself. I know Dad would never hurt Mom. He loves her.
And Mom isn’t talking. In fact, she is pretty depressed. Dad was kicked out of the house and he has come to live with me. But Dad is really confused. He doesn’t know why he can’t move back with Mom or even go to see her. And he asks us a hundred times a day why he can’t see Melba (my mom).
Randy continued to pour out his heart to me.
The whole mess is putting a strain on my relationship with my wife. Furthermore, my wife is afraid to leave him alone in the house with my daughters even though they are both old enough to take care of themselves. She is worried that he could have a violent outburst. Anyway, she says Dad needs to find his own place. The trouble is Dad can’t take care of himself. He can barely make a sandwich by himself. Mom took care of the household. And my sister has POA over their money. She is giving me a small amount to take care of him.”
I Asked If I Could Speak to His Sister Since She Has the POA
Camille (Randy’s sister) told me what was happening. Mom had confided in her after the “incident.”
The truth of the matter is that Melba (Mom) has known for a long time there was something wrong with her husband. It went beyond forgetfulness. Sometimes he couldn’t seem to function. And he would pace. Moreover, he would ask over and over how to use the microwave. Melba had to take over the banking responsibilities when he started making a lot of mistakes.
The Big Coverup
Like many spouses, Melba covered up for him when they were around others. Because she didn’t want people to think poorly of her husband she pretended everything was okay. More importantly, Melba didn’t want to confront the truth about what was happening to the man she loved. Furthermore, she had married for better or worse. And she would take care of him.
Then Things Took A Frightful Turn
He couldn’t remember how to drive the car one day. When Melba suggested that he get into the passenger side and let her drive he blew up. He punched her over and over. Luckily a neighbor heard the screams and pulled him off of her. The neighbor called the police and Mom was taken to the hospital. Camille was called to the hospital.
“Dad was brought to jail and Randy bailed him out. After seeing what he did to Mom he should have left him there!”
“It was awful!” she told me. “I couldn’t believe that Dad had done this either. But Randy has to accept the facts. I mean, the neighbor saw the whole thing. Right now I am so angry and disgusted with dad I won’t even talk to him. But he needs to stay away from Mom!”
First Step- Getting A Diagnosis
Surprisingly no one had even suggested that Dad should be taken to a doctor for an evaluation. This was clearly the first step that needed to be taken. Not surprisingly Dad was diagnosed with Dementia. Most likely the doctor told Randy, he has Dementia with Lewy Bodies and possibly vascular dementia as well. Randy discovered that it was not uncommon for someone to have more than one type of dementia. And each type can create a different set of issues. Dealing with dementia it seemed would be a process.
Step Two- Educating the Whole Family
The next step involved helping the family get the help and support they needed. Understanding the disease would help this family to realize that the behaviors Dad exhibited were often out of his control. Furthermore, if you are dealing with dementia you need help and support now more than ever.
Randy, his wife and children, his sisters and their families and Melba all needed to attend a support group. It was time for the healing to begin. Listening to the stories of others who had different and sometimes similar experiences help the family to realize they were not alone.
As they learned more about this disease the siblings all had a lot of empathy for their Dad. They also began to forgive one another for “taking sides”. Dad wasn’t the monster, dementia was.
Melba had been blaming herself for the situation and what had happened. First of all, she realized she was not to blame. Dementia was the culprit that had taken away the man she had loved and adored for 53 years. It was time to grieve.
Step Three- Finding a Place for Dad to Call Home
The family all understood what was going on with Dad now. They knew they had to find a place where he could be cared for. And it needed to be a place where the staff was trained in Dementia behaviors and knew how to help their father.
After looking around they discovered small Memory Care Homes. These homes are set up like a real home, not a facility. And the family all decided they did not want to institutionalize Dad. Likewise, these smaller homes seemed perfect.
The homes were locked and secured. But there was never the feeling of being locked away. Warm and inviting with access to a large backyard and patio (that was secured), dad could roam to his heart’s content. On top of that Mom was welcome anytime to visit. Also, she could stay all day if she liked.
The home had a well-trained staff. And because they dealt with dementia every day they knew to be proactive instead of reactive. This meant that Dad had fewer outbursts.
Furthermore, dealing with dementia is never easy on the family. But when a family understands what they were dealing with they will be able to come together. Also, siblings are more able to support and love both of their parents on this journey.
Sycamore Creek Ranch is a 16 bed home environment that specializes in Memory Care. Our staff receives top-notch training to be able to help those with cognitive dysfunction. We invite you for a visit to see how we can help someone you love.