I Called Dad but Dementia Answered
As has been the case a lot lately, the day just got away from me. The plan is to visit with dad tomorrow. But, it’s more on my mind that I didn’t see him yesterday or today. It’s getting late. My best guess is he’s likely already had his shower and is tucked in bed for the night. I feel like I need to hear his voice. The phone is right there by his bed on the nightstand. His second roommate in five months has also now gone home. So, the phone won’t disturb anyone. Besides, it doesn’t ring that loud anyway.
I stop what I’m doing. I tell myself to make the call right now; and I do. I dial the number and he answers. Well; it was dad who was supposed to answer. That’s who I like to know answered. The truth is it hasn’t been dad who’s answered, at least not entirely, for quite a few years now. Even though I called for dad, dementia answered.
I start off with my typical, “Hi dad, how’s your day been”?
“Oh great” he says. Then he asks what time it is. I respond that it’s going on eight o’clock. “Oh boy”, he says, “Where did the time go. I must have slept the night away. I didn’t know it was that late.”
Yes, he just said “slept the "night" away”. I reply, “Yeah, the day does have a way of flying”.
It’s not about the conversation. It’s the reminder. One more reminder, dementia is advancing. I know that if not for the dementia, dad could just look to his right and he will see one of two things. Either the start of darkness outside or the shade has been pulled down. Both are hints of night-time.
It’s not that I haven’t experienced similar conversations before. I have and often, in person. It’s just that it’s so difficult to watch this amazing disease take my father away from me (and our family). You learn to move on with conversations like that. It doesn’t mean you’re not left feeling some kind of way inside. Sometimes it’s upset or disbelief, other times it’s hurt or disappointment. There is no cure for dementia. It often leaves a person questioned as to whether what they just said or did is really due to the dementia. In some ways, it can seem like it’s really your loved one just acting out or even pretending. But, they aren’t pretending. As for the acting out, it can happen (typically triggered) but, it’s still dementia, not your loved one.
While speaking with my dad, I knew it was his shower night. I knew it was likely he’d just had a shower and he was now dressed for bed. Not that he’d just dressed himself as if starting his day, as he’d implied. Although he can and does, with guidance he was not likely fully dressed as he was (not purposely) leading me to believe.
Part of me wanted to suggest he look at himself. Ask him to tell me what he has on. You learn to just let some things go. The longer something is made an issue, the more likely the person can become agitated. Instead, I found a nice way to end the call. Basically saying I’d let him go for now so he can rest. We both said "I love you" and then "goodnight".
I immediately called back but, directly to the nurse’s station. I needed to verify whether my dad is indeed fully dressed as if he's starting his day. My concern was if he was, well, where exactly does he think he’s going. Is he remembering a time and place of getting dressed and leaving out to go some place specific? If so, I need to make sure someone is aware to keep an eye on him. That particular nurse I spoke with was great, as always and quickly confirmed he’d had his shower and is dressed for bed.