The years of taking care of Dad while dealing and learning about dementia will forever be etched in my heart. Everything about spring’s arrival reminds me of him as we shared the love of being outside.
For several years after Mom died, Dad could take care of himself and certainly didn’t see the need to be taken care of. It quickly became obvious certain things would get way out of hand if he wasn’t checked on at least a couple times a day.
A sales pitch from a telemarketer or door-to-door salesperson would cause panic and confusion for Dad until I got home. It could take hours to fix what they may have said in five minutes. The best I could hope for, whoever he had a conversation with, or actually paid money to, had left a business card so I knew where to start.
Any kind of literature that came through the mail about money, whether it was a scam that he owed or someone wanting to give him a loan, he’d immediately assume the IRS or FBI was after him, wanting his last dollar. To my knowledge, he was never into any trouble with either, so I’m not sure where or why the paranoia began, but it was real.
I can only envision how much trash would accumulate, in his house, if I hadn’t written him a note, on pickup day, to set the can by the curb. Bills would be found in the trash and junk mail stuffed in his checkbook. Items that needed to be thrown out (used paper plates, paper towels and plastic forks) from Meals on Wheels would be hanging with clothespins from the kitchen cabinets, after being washed and dried.
Through my work I’ve come to know a sweet lady who’s slowly losing her memories and thought process. She lives alone and her children are all out of state. She spends the better part of her days sitting in a recliner surrounded by bags of junk mail and piles of newspapers. It makes me angry when her children come to visit, as they choose to not act on what’s happening to her and around her.
During the cold and icy weather I asked if I could bring over some hot soup as I needed a reason to stop by to be sure she was OK. I remember Dad being at this very point in his battle with dementia, when he was still able to recognize his memory was fading.
Over the years I’ve asked if she would share one of her children’s phone number with me, just in case. It was always a polite no, until this time, as she tried to make light of the fact she’s having a hard time remembering things. She wrote down the number and even though she was smiling, I could see the fear in her eyes.
After our parents raise us isn’t it then our responsibility and obligation to raise them when they can no longer do it by themselves?
I should probably make the call to her daughter, but then again, Dad always said, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
Sandy Turner lives in Independence. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.