Dad Has Dementia

Week 19: Pill Problems

Last updated: May 21, 2010


This caregiving gig is hard. No, it's beyond hard. It exacts a toll in ways too numerous to list. From the physical demands of caring for another person to the frequent blows to one's self-esteem, caregiving must top of the list of most challenging jobs.

I sit here on a Sunday morning, feeling like a fool "“ for the umpteenth time "“ and questioning whether I'm really capable of doing this. Let me tell you why.

Dad and I have a pill routine. Before I leave for work in the morning, I set out his morning pills, and he takes them with cereal when he gets up. Lee sets out his evening pills, and Dad takes them with supper. After supper, Dad usually goes right to bed. I then set out his sleeping pills. An hour or two later, like clockwork, Dad gets up, eats a bowl of cereal, and takes his sleeping pills.

Except, last night he didn't get up like clockwork. Last night, the sleeping pills remained on the table, undisturbed.

And so, when Dad arose at 6:00 a.m. -- before the rest of us -- he saw his "morning" pills in the cup where they always are and took them. He didn't notice that the cup contained a different number and mix of pills than his usual morning dose.

When I finally rolled myself out of bed at 8:30, I found my dad literally swaying with fatigue while seated at the kitchen table, shaking his head to clear the cobwebs and repeatedly saying, "I feel awful right now. I don't understand why I'm so tired. Why can't I wake up?"

When I figured out what had happened, the self-recriminations started. How could you be so stupid? How could you be so lazy? How big of an idiot can you possibly be?

You see, I heard Dad arise and go into the bathroom this morning, and this fleeting thought crossed my mind: Maybe you should get up and make sure he actually took his sleeping pills last night. What if they're still sitting on the table?

Nah, my sleepy brain responded. He always takes his sleeping pills. Besides, Sunday is one of the few days I'm able to sleep in.

And so, I rolled over in bed and pulled the blanket up snugly around my shoulders.

Boy, do I feel like a jerk.

As I type this, Dad is sleeping in a chair outside in the morning sun, and I'm feeling like a lazy, self-centered boob. Putting my own needs ahead of someone else's "“ someone who needs a competent adult watching over him.

Maybe I'm not cut out for this. Maybe I'm too selfish. Maybe I was wrong all along in thinking Dad would be happier and safer with me than in a nursing home.

How can I ever make this up to him?