Maybe it was the post Christmas let down or just mere exhaustion after being sick since Thanksgiving. I had resorted to doing a whole lot of nothing, as It felt as though my mind was so full, it was making my body tired.

I hadn't been up to see Dad or taken him anything for Christmas. What do you buy the guy who has nothing? His belongings disappear as quickly as he steals from the other residents. For the most part he isn't verbal, so if he did want something, I'm not sure how we would ever know what it is.

I felt guilty I had pushed dad aside so I could enjoy time with the kids and grandkids and not feel depressed about his condition. I choose not to go visit, although the old saying "out of sight, out of mind," doesn't really work, it just makes you feel like a heel for being so selfish.

Since momís passing 10 years ago, this is the first time I hadn't spent time or given him a gift of some kind. I tried to justify not going to the nursing home on everything from still having a cough and stuffy nose to running out of energy. Just about the time I was sufficiently eaten up with guilt, Hospice called.

Dad had choked on some food and had spent the past 24 hours in bed. They couldn't get him to wake up and was assuming the dementia had finally taken away his ability to swallow. The food he sucked into his lungs were causing them to fill up with fluid and his vitals were slowing down to a snails' pace. The next 24 hours were spent waiting, watching and wondering if this was going to be the end of Dad's journey.

I sat on the edge of his bed and watched him sleep. He seemed comfortable, although no amount of shaking, talking or pleading would wake him up. I apologized for not coming up sooner. I needed eye to eye contact to be sure he heard my words. Hospice was now staying bedside around the clock. If I would have come up on Christmas Eve, like I always have before, I would have seen him awake.

Is he really ready to go? Has he given up? Is he in pain? The Hospice aide and I were deep in discussion when Dad's eyes popped open. I was probably crowding his space by sitting on the edge of a twin bed but he didn't budge. Nurses were walking in and out, his roommate was talking nonstop, but Dad's eyes were fixated on mine.

Are you comfortable, I started with the questions. Are you in pain? He just stared at me as if he hadn't seen me in years and was trying to wrap his head around who I was. It had been nearly two days since he had eaten or drank anything. Do you want something to eat? I pleaded with him for an answer by staring right back. Finally he nodded a yes to being hungry.

After several containers of pudding and applesauce, Dad rebounded. His vitals came back to normal and the congestion in his chest seem to be clearing up.

For as long as I have him, I'm going to use dementia to my advantage, as each time I sit with Dad, it's going to be Christmas Eve.

Sandy Turner lives in Independence. Email her at