Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Dementia Chronicle

Today is Wednesday and dinner will be an old fashioned pot roast. I make it the way my grandmother made it; in a Dutch oven on the stovetop. My grandmother married in 1918. I come from a family who has never been in a hurry to have children. I grew up with children who's grandparents were younger than my parents. It gives me an odd generational perspective.  I was lucky that my grandmother was able to live into my high school years.

My father lived a long time as well. However, he developed dementia and a long period of my life was put on hold while I cared for him.  It was difficult caring for him.  He's been gone a little over ten years, a lot has changed since that time. A lot has been written and there are far more resources. For us, my father and I, there was little respite.  One evening on my way to work I suddenly came to the realization that the only time I was ever alone was while commuting to and from work. 

In the beginning of his descent into dementia I worked twelve hour shifts at night. He would be alone. I would call him, periodically, to check on him. There would be times when he wouldn't answer the phone for several hours, but he'd finally be there and tell me he'd been outside, or sleeping.   One evening on my way to work I realized I'd forgotten something. When I returned to our house there was a taxi waiting in the driveway and my father was just on his way out the door to greet the driver.  Upon seeing me the driver jumped back into the taxi and sped off.  It was then that I discovered he'd been going out almost every evening I worked.  I didn't know how he was paying for these taxis until my checking account started to become overdrawn.  Within the period of a month he had gone through several thousand dollars, mostly on taxi rides.  He handed them, or perhaps just her (the one who'd been waiting in the driveway that day), blank checks.  The only recognizable writing on them, of course, were his signature and the amount which was never less than five hundred dollars for, at most, a ten mile drive. The bank couldn't help me track them as they were never deposited, only cashed, and I hadn't noticed the name on the taxi not realizing what was happening at the time.  

I took him to a doctor who, after tests, called me to announce that my father had dementia and to wish me luck.  This was in the early 90's. We didn't have internet and dementia wasn't impacting the rest of the baby-boomers just yet.  In response to my questions the doctor only responded with irritation.  I developed my own do-it-yourself dementia caregiving plan.  We muddled through for the next nine years. 

Life Savers: The Salvation Army Adult Day Care Center in Seaside, California with director Vincent Raj.


  1. I was very moved by your story about your father. My father is 92 and reaching a stage in his life where he has a hard time with everything, but still lives alone with caregivers coming in. He had a stroke so can't communicate very well, otherwise I think he would be calling taxis too. Bless our parents, they did so much for us.

    1. It seems our fathers would be the same age. Their generation went through so much and as a whole complained very little. m