Just Listen…

Dealing with my dad’s dementia has been a humbling, patience-building, eye-opening experience these last 10 months. Trying to balance his demand for independence while providing his need for constant attention, assurance and safety. While at the same dealing with his constant fear of the unknown, change in his routine, hearing loss and comprehension and plain and simple child-like needs and behavior.

I’m reading as much as I can on what to expect from him, about the world he is living in and how I can help him and myself while this cruel disease continues to take away a little bit more of him each day.

Yesterday was a good example of his world and how we perceive what we think is happening when actually it’s something else…if that makes sense.

My dad’s driver’s license was taken away last March when he was diagnosed with Frontal Temporal Dementia. Within a few months we sold my mom’s car that had not been driven in years, but he knew it was time to sell it. That was hard for him. That left his ’96 Lincoln in the garage. I would drive him in it when I visited and we kept up the oil changes, registration and insurance. But the time came to also sell it as the a/c no longer worked and in Palm Springs that is a necessity in the summer. My brother had a friend of his come to get the car yesterday to take it to his shop to get it ready to sell.

While selling an old car may be a relief to some it is just another piece of dad’s life that is changing. He had already shared with me earlier how he remembers he and my mom buying the car new in 1996 (I think). He wants to have a hand in how much he accepts for the sale. While the car is valued at $2800, he wants $4000. When I said, “dad, it is a very old car and needs work done on it”, his response was “the motor is good and it is such a pretty car”. I could hear the emotion in his voice and I said “dad, this must be really hard for you, I know you loved that car”. He then said something I hadn’t even thought of. He said “you know, mom and I took a lot of trips in that car and drove around in it a lot”. I hadn’t stopped to think about that. Another piece of his life with mom going away.

We lost my mom in April. It was his wife of 62 years. So while he is dealing with his own world and mind changing from dementia he lost his partner/friend/companion which was his whole world. I tell my dad on a daily basis that I love him and that I know he is doing the best he can. I talk to him like I would one of my kids when they were little. They just wanted to be reassured, comforted, understood and heard.

After all that my dad has done for me over the years it’s the least I can do to be kind to him, to listen to him and to try to understand his fear and confusion. But most of all to remember that he is still my dad, even though our roles have reversed he did the same for me when I was a child and I’m honored that I can do it for him now.

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