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Father’s Day as a Caregiver: Remembering Dad Before Dementia

MindingOurElderswebsite50%This Father’s Day, I’ll have fond memories of my dad, as will many caregivers and adult children. The juxtaposition of the past and present can make these memories bittersweet. But it is important to remember that, regardless of what has happened to our parents as they age, they remain our parents. Cognitive and physical decline do not take away their legacies as adults. We may have to provide care that many would consider demeaning, but, when this care is given out of love, it is never undignified. Part of caregiving with love is keeping in mind that this person is our parent, the person who raised us. Respect and preservation of dignity are their due. 

Reconciling the Past and Present When Caregiving: My father developed instant dementia due to a failed brain surgery. The irony, of course, was that this surgery was supposed to correct the results of a World War II brain injury and prevent the possibility of dementia. This abrupt change was devastating to my family and very difficult for us to accept. One day he was my dad. He was growing older and frailer, of course, but he was still Dad. After he came out of surgery, he was a man plagued by paranoia and hallucinations; a man who had no way of differentiating between our reality and the warped version his brain created. A new aspect of his personality had surfaced after the botched surgery, and we came to call this part of him “Herman.” Sometimes, we could coax Dad away from frightening thoughts by convincing him that Herman was responsible. Mostly we couldn’t, but this technique helped my family and me reconcile the old Dad with the new one. Dad was still present no matter what; he just exhibited some new thoughts and behaviors that were entirely out of his control...

Continue reading to learn more about my dad and all of our dads and how thinking about them "before" can help preserve those memories and help us with them "now."

Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.“I hold onto your book as a life preserver and am reading it slowly on purpose...I don't want it to end.” ...Craig William Dayton, Film Composer

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