Dad Has Dementia

Elizabeth's home care journal

Week 27: Suddenly, Dad Is Dying

Last updated: July 16, 2010

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It's going to be difficult to summarize this in 500 words or less, so bear with me.

When I returned from my disastrous trip to the family home after Father's Day, I discovered that Dad could barely walk -- and was dismayed that no one was taking him to the doctor to treat his ailments. Let me recap.

Dad fell twice in the two weeks prior to my trip to see Mom. I witnessed the first fall, in his bedroom, and assessed him for fractures. He seemed okay.

The second fall occurred about two days before my trip. Lee, coming to bed at 12:30pm, found Dad lying on his bedroom floor, with the light on, his mattress and box spring strewn about. We have no idea how long Dad was lying there "“ or how he found the strength to dismantle his bed. Nonetheless, I again assessed Dad for fractures, but he seemed all right. Lee (mainly) got Dad up off the floor and onto his walker. We reassembled his bed an

Week 20: Power Struggles

Last updated: May 28, 2010

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As I look back over these past 20 weeks of blogging, one thing becomes clear: I'm having a lot of trouble finding the positives in taking care of Dad at home. So far, I've talked about the expense of taking him in, my worries and anxieties, my anger. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I haven't even touched on the exhaustion "“ physical and mental "“ the guilt (toward both my dad and my husband), and the sheer aggravation I often feel.

Where's the joy, the laughter, the memories of good times shared? I hate to describe caregiving as a grind, but... in the day-to-day grind of things, is it ever possible to see the positive forest for the negative trees?

In discussing the issue with my best friend, Mitzi, I started to wonder if part of the problem involves a near-total loss of control over my own life. When I'm spending time with Dad, I feel so much of my energy is spent on battles

Week 18: First, We Make a Hole in the Dirt

Last updated: May 14, 2010

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Today, Dad and I are planting flowers in containers. I've purchased more ceramic pots and annuals this year than ever before in my life because gardening has always been one of Dad's passions "“ and because container gardening is one of the few activities he can still do.

The slate-top patio table in the screen porch is covered with an array of flowers in crackly plastic flats. Before him, Dad has an oblong galvanized planter. He looks at me uncertainly. "I don't understand. I'm supposed to move the flowers out of the containers they're in and put them in this other thing?"

That he doesn't know what to do is unthinkable. If ever there was a born farmer, Dad is it. As a child, I lived in awe of his ability to grow everything from acres of soybeans to delicate peonies. He seemed to know exactly what combination of elements each plant required to thrive, from the type of light to the amou

Week 3: The Hard Costs of Caregiving

Last updated: January 29, 2010

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When I think about caring for my dad in my home, I tend to group the associated costs into three basic categories:

  1. Soft costs. These are the incidental costs associated with having another person live in the home, such as increased gasoline expense, and the hidden costs, such as increased wear-and-tear on carpeting. (Trust me, Dad's walker scraping back and forth across the newly refinished hardwood floors will definitely take its toll.)
  2. Hard costs. These are expenses for things like additional furniture and accessories, increased utility costs, groceries, and incidentals. In short, these are costs that can be quantified.
  3. Human costs. This includes the emotional toll of caregiving.

In an effort to be as candid as possible, I want to address the hard costs of caring for a loved one in your own home. Lee and I are lucky: we both have good jobs that afford us a nice standard of living.

Week 1: Dad Moves In

Last updated: January 14, 2010

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It started with a frantic phone call from my mother. "Your dad just threatened to kill me."

I tried to remain calm, asking Mom what, exactly, Dad had said.

"He barged into my bedroom after I was asleep. You know that big flashlight Margaret and Dave got him for Christmas last year? He shook it at me and told me he was going to kill me for cheating on him."

Three months ago, Dad was diagnosed with dementia.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Dad was always the sane one in the family, the one who stood by my mom through a serious bout with mental illness. Dad was the one who held the family together and maintained a sense of normalcy for his three children. He was a man known for common sense and rationality. He was the guy everyone in the extended family consulted on important matters. He was our rock.

Now, suddenly, he's not rational. He thinks my mother is having affairs with nume

About Dad Has Dementia
  • Winner: 2010 Online Journalism Award for Online Commentary/Blogging

    Three months after being diagnosed with dementia, my father moved in with my husband and me. I'm a nurse by trade, a baby boomer by birth, and now, yet another overwhelmed home caregiver struggling to keep a loved one safe and happy -- and keep my marriage and sanity intact. My name and a few family details have been changed to protect our privacy, but the stories and emotions of my Dad Has Dementia blog remain all too real.

    You can reach me at

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