My dad called last night
This is not unusual. He has been calling more frequently lately. Sometimes he calls early enough that I answer the phone but most times it is around 2 a.m. It took me a long time but I now have the ringer turned off the phone in my bedroom.
My father has a delightful cocktail of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s. As we say, due to the vascular dementia he cannot make a decision that makes sense (calling at 2 a.m.) and with the Alzheimer’s, he won’t remember what he did anyway.
The first question that people ask me when I tell them that my dad has dementia is “Does he know you?” The answer to that question is more complex than you would think. If you asked him, he could tell you my name and that I am his daughter. As long as you didn’t look too much deeper, that works great.
Lately it seems that I own a bar. (I don’t) He is sure that I bought a building and there was a bar in it and I own and work in the bar. My family and friends think this is a great idea. They all want to work there. He also seems to have forgotten that I am married. He seems genuinely surprised when I tell him that I ate dinner with my husband. I have been married for 32 years.
As you may guess, this is a hard road. It is hard because the disease has taken parts of him away. His social graces are lost. He cannot take social cues. He is generally sweet but he can lose his temper and it is not possible to reason with him. He cannot tell if it is 2 a.m. or 2 p.m. You would think that he could get an idea by looking out the window but that doesn’t work.
It is also hard because you wish that the people who work with him now knew the man that I knew. You wish that they knew that if he were “himself” he would not say or do the things he says and does. Even harder than that, is that you wish that you still had the man that you knew.
I will confess that I find a lot of the things that go on to be rather humorous. My father has developed an obsession with certain products. He likes Charmin toilet paper. He has announced that only the Charmin in the 12-pack “does the job”. There is a rather infamous family story about how my son was called about a toilet paper emergency. He picked up a 9 pack of Charmin and took it over to my dad. I will spare you the details but Michael will never respond to the words “Let me show you…” the same way again.
Dad lives in the “Memory Care Unit” in a wonderful “senior living facility”. He is very happy there most of the time. He talks about how the people who live on the floor with him are either half nuts or completely nuts. It is sort of like when he talks about how the other people are old. (they are younger than him) Reality does not enter our lives often.
My dad had been a salesman. One of the things that has really stuck with him is his ability to use the phone. I keep thinking that it will be lost soon but he keeps on calling. He is also friendly and personable most of the time. Most of time, if you will listen, he will tell you a story. The stories are a bit more fiction than truth these days and he does get lost telling them but he still likes to tell his stories.
Vascular dementia is sneaky. At first, I think that we knew there was something not right but we attributed it to my dad being selfish. Over time it became obvious that it was not selfishness. He didn’t know that what he was doing was wrong.
From what we have experienced, vascular dementia also is like being at the top of a 20 story staircase. There are times that the losses are nothing but a few stairs and then other times that it seems like he falls down a few flights of stairs. The changes can take place in a day. He has been pretty stable for the last nine months or so but he seems to have suddenly lost another flight or so. Hence the increased calling at night.
I wonder how long it can last. I feel guilty because I don’t want him to be like this. I hate for “my dad” to disappear more and more. I don’t want him to end up the way he will if the disease progresses and he lives. It is like watching a terribly sad movie and hoping that something will change for the characters. That they can be saved. There is only one thing that will save him but that ending will be the saddest of all.