A journey into dementia.

March 30, 2010 by
Filed under: Dementia and my father. 

March 21, 2010

 The business line in my home-office rang but I didn’t pick it up when I saw the call display. I felt guilty but I wasn’t in the mood and I knew exactly how the conversation would begin and end. I waited for my father’s name to disappear from the display and waited for the voice-mail signal. I steeled myself, hit *98, and waited for his voice.

The message started with and exasperated sigh, “Ron, I hope that you will be here tomorrow (pause) and bring back my life to me.” 

“Here” is Victoria. I live in Langley BC, a four hour trip by road and ferry, from his home. I can’t restore his “life’ because that word is code for “car keys”. He wants them back and he calls nearly every day. In his mind, without a car he has no life, and no reason to live. 

On January 26 we received the official diagnosis. “Vascular dementia”, the doctor told us. I wasn’t surprised. On-line research into the sudden onset of short-term memory loss and confusion, had all but ruled out a stroke or Alzheimers. Before the middle of last September, my dad was an average eighty-year-old. Some physical problems but he was a kind, caring man with a sharp mind and an excellent memory. Now he considers me the enemy and his primary persecutor because on January 27, before I left his house to return home, I told him that I was taking his car keys. 

After hearing the geriatric doctor tell him that he could no longer drive, and after receiving a letter from the motor vehicle branch advising him that his license had been suspended, Dad looked as if I’d slapped him, “Who says I can’t drive?” he asked. 

It has been hell ever since. Hardly a day passes without a phone call. He has been demanding, threatening, cajoling. He has tried guilt, anger, suggestions of suicide, and reason to no avail. The calls usually end with frustration on both ends of the line and a click of termination from his side. 

We have embarked on a journey, my dad and I, that I would wish on no one.

Ron Young


2 Comments on A journey into dementia.

  1. Marlene Barcos on Mon, 12th Apr 2010 6:53 am
  2. As I was telling you, my mother had dementia and my husband has
    but he doesn’t know it. He denies everything.
    although, I think there has to be a sense of helplessness, and yes,
    I, personally, had to notify the DMV of his dangerous driving. It was
    a nightmare and I don’t know how he got away with it.
    I think it was Rob who took the keys. By this time, he was already in
    an assisted living situation/ And things got much worse before they
    got better.
    In the end, he was falling, the doctor diagnosed the swiss cheese
    analogy, plus some other stuff and we almost kidnapped him for the
    second time and got him into a Lutheral Home that has done miracles
    with him. Oh, he still gets confused, and people “steal” his money,
    glasses a pencil, whatever, but it’s not true.
    He is safe and for me, and it will be eventually for you, the most
    important thing because you can’t go running everytime.
    My husband gets mad at me, but I don’t take it personally. the key to
    survival with a demented perso is not to take anything personally. To
    keep them safe. and, detach emotionally.
    takes a bit of practice.
    good luck on that part.

    I was cruising around your website and it’s great.

    ok, see you again, take care, m

  3. Brenda Kish on Thu, 3rd Jun 2010 7:35 pm
  4. Ron, as I was reading the ongoing story of your Dad, and Marlene’s comment, I see some simularity in my Mother. She’s just 69. The driving and getting lost (in Yorkton, a city of only 18,000), she’d forgotten how to get to our home; the idea someone has come into her senior’s apartment and stolen money. (coins from a jar for bingo). She hasn’t really been the same since her heart surgery. Ralph is thinking she’ll have to give up her car by winter for sure. He rode with her from her apartment to our home, to again show her the easiest route. It was a scary ride. We realize it will take away her independence, and she doesn’t like to hear it. The time will come . She’s sometimes easily annoyed at things or people that wouldn’t have phased her before. Things that really arn’t an issue.
    Anyway keep up the website, it’s a comfort. Thanks.

Tell me what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!