Mental Health - Alzheimer's - 'Dad's Dementia'
- Poem - Dad's Dementia
Dad's in his second childhood, doing lots of daft and silly things, his memories of recent times are no longer there but his memories of the past are as clear as yesterday although they seem to get a bit jumbled up. Dementia or Alzheimer's is cruel e
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We think Dad’s dementia began about the time his angina and diabetes started. His memory loss and confusion developed slowly and when we look back, we can almost remember exactly when it started. It was about the time he had ‘one of his do’s’ and ended up in hospital. After that, he at times appeared to be a bit forgetful, disorientated and confused, this became more apparent as the disease progressed.
At first, just little things he said and did made us laugh. Then one day he developed a rash; Dad insisted some women came round to the house and threw itching powder all over him and that was what caused the spots. He says they were nattering loudly; laughing at him and deliberately threw this powder over him. He says he saw the hand come up in the mirror. The rash was actually caused by antibiotics he was given by the doctor for a chest infection. He kept scratching the heads off so the spots wouldn’t heal. He tried pulling them out with pliers saying that they were stuck in his skin and that when he pulled them out bits of skin were attached to them. Honestly, if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.
He started having hallucinations where he heard voices and saw things that are not there like someone telling him to ‘shift’ or little men dancing on the shelf (put there by the man next door). He said that there are about six cats in a box on the other side of the wall waiting to pounce on unsuspecting birds feeding on the top of the wall – he told us that the man who lived kept the cats there on purpose and he wanted shooting.
Now, Dad thinks he is only visiting his home, he doesn’t remember why he came to be living there or how long he has been living there. He wonders when he is going back to the home he knew when he was a little boy. He doesn’t know how he will get there or carry all the things he has accumulated while he has been here. He tells his son ‘when I go from here I will never come back’ and sadly, we all know that that is actually true.
Dad used to love pottering about town calling in all the charity shops and snapping up bargains. Nowadays he leaves the house but doesn’t know which way to go to get to town even though he has lived in the same house for nearly 60 years. Mum has to go with him everywhere. She isn’t too steady on her legs so she has to use her tri-shopper but she has to go, she cannot let him out of her sight for fear he’ll get lost. When they went shopping the other day, Mum had just put her hat and coat on to go through the door when Dad said, ‘Where’s the other one, is she coming, too.’
Dad thinks Mum is the daily cleaning lady and asks her if she does what she does every day, if she comes to his home everyday to do the chores. He asked her if they had a piece of paper that gets given when they go in the big building instinctively she knows he means the marriage certificate and tells him it is upstairs. He asks her if she will come to live with him now that they are married. When she gets into bed at the end of the day he says ‘So you are sleeping here as well, are you?’ and smiles mischievously. He also thinks that there are several women coming and going at the house in order to look after him but to Dad, Mum is ‘the main one’. When Mum got up one morning to make them both a cup of tea he asked her who the other one was that was in bed.
The consolations of Alzheimer's
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Mum is exhausted; she says it is like having a child back in the house. He has to be watched all the time even when he gets up in the night. He does some very silly things if she doesn’t keep an eye on him. He turns the gas rings on to boil the kettle but forgets to ignite the flames so invariable when we walk in (usually twice daily) we instantly smell gas and have to jump into action. We fear that he will blow the house up and got them an electric kettle but Mum’s never had an electric kettle and doesn’t like change.
We explain that under the circumstances change is what is needed to keep them both safe but she says she is ready for her box – we say don’t say that we are not ready for Dad. We don’t really mean that, we would take care of both of them if she would let us but Mum, these days is too independent and not as needy. Dad on the other hand would be so difficult to cope with especially for his son even though Dad doesn’t know he is his son. His son finds it hard to watch his dad withering away and dementia is so cruel. He listens bewildered as his dad accuses him of doing jobs around the house that he, himself undertook disastrously some years before. Dad accuses his wife, son, friends, and neighbours of taking things that he has lost or misplaced and he can get quite nasty about it.
We are not even sure that Dad knows who we are. We visit every day, twice a day, and although he knows our names’ we can tell sometimes from the expression on his face that he doesn’t know us, not really!
Everyday he slips further away into his mind and the fleeting glimpses of the Dad we remember are fewer…
© 2012 Leni Sands
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