Dad Has Dementia

Week 20: Power Struggles

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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 of will.

Today, for example, Dad needed to get to the barbershop, and I needed to go grocery shopping. We thought we'd go out to breakfast before the barber. On these points, we agreed.

After Dad's haircut, we headed for home because I've learned it's better for him to take a break between errands. I heated him a cup of coffee and then checked my e-mail. An hour later, I asked him if he was ready to go grocery shopping yet.

"Well, I am," he said, "but first I want to go outside and water the sunflowers."

My heart sunk. This would delay us by at least an hour, and it was already 1:00 in the afternoon.

I tried to negotiate. "Why don't we go to the grocery store first, and then you can water the sunflowers when we get home?"

"No," Dad shot back firmly, "I need to do it now. It will only take me a few minutes. But first I have to change my shoes."

An hour later, the watering finally finished, I suggested we go grocery shopping. No, Dad said. He needed to feed the birds. It would only take a few minutes.


"Why does your dad always get his way?" Mitzi asked.

Good question. Because he's my dad, and I'm his daughter. Because he was a highly authoritarian father, and I still turn into an anxious little girl whenever I feel I'm challenging his authority. And because on those occasions when I assert myself, Dad gets angry and then sulks, which unnerves me.

We eventually got the grocery shopping done, so I suppose there was no harm done. But I'm weary of these power struggles and eager to find a solution.