This week we had a couple notable updates with my father. The first was important yet essentially a non-event. The guardianship hearing back over the summer was an emergency ruling. As I wrote in A New Normal, this was entirely necessary as it happened right as he was becoming truly unstable. He was still caring for himself but was having a harder and harder time with it while he still insisted he was fine. In fact, he’s never had any insight into his dementia. That emergency guardianship precipitated the most stressful few days of my life and led to his move to the assisted living home he’s at now. This week was the hearing for permanent guardianship and yielded no such drama. The most significant part of it was the report from the evaluator who’d seen him about half a year earlier. The evidence of his slippage is clear from the interview.
Over the weekend, we went to visit him at a Thanksgiving lunch the home was having. I think back to summer when he was still driving himself around, feeding himself, and still in charge of paying his own bills. Now it’s to the point where I needed to clip his nails and put his shoes on for him. His ability to hold a conversation has drastically gone away as well. He can express his love for his family but that’s about it. My last blog post about him focused on the importance he’s put on family and I suppose that’s the thing I have to be thankful for this year. It feels like he recognizes us but has a harder time with the context and even getting our names right. His awareness of his surroundings and situation isn’t there any more. The most we can get from him is that in a few weeks he thinks he’s going to be back where he was with his car. He may be going to Dallas or coming from Dallas in his mind, but in reality he’s in Atlanta.
Each time we go to see him, each of us show my dad pictures on our phones. This time I flipped through some old ones from a cousin’s Facebook page. It showed my father’s brother, wife, and my cousins as young children in scanned black-and-white images. My mother immediately recognized who they were but my father wasn’t able to place them or even remember who they were when he was told. Unfortunately, I think we’ve really had our last experiences with who he was.
I try to draw a lesson from each of these entries. This time, the moral of the story is not to wait to express yourself to someone you care about. There’s no telling when waiting longer will be too long. It doesn’t have to be dementia which takes their rationality away. At some point though, it might be too late. I’ve got a friend whose father suffered through Alzheimers and had a lucid moment right before he passed. He was fortunate. I don’t expect to be, but I do consider myself lucky to have known my father through his life and had a great relationship with him. I’ll continue to care for him even though our ability to really really connect now is at a base level.