Lessons Learned from dementia disorderMy father was 89 years old when the first signs of dementia had started showing . He was showing signs of memory loss and all of us at home thought it was due to aging. A doctor by profession my father was a very disciplined person. Even at the age of 89 he refused to take any help from me or my mother and would insist on doing his stuff all by himself. Early signs of dementia include difficulty in doing familiar tasks, misplacing things and being confused about time and place. My father showed all these symptoms of dementia disorder. He was losing balance while walking and it was becoming difficult for my mother to manage him all alone. But my father refused to move in with me and my husband.
A major Life transitionAs things started becoming more and more difficult , I insisted that they move in with us. I took him to the neurologist who after a series of test, confirmed it was dementia. My mom complained that he was trying to be troublesome. It took me sometime to explain to her what dementia is and how my father had no control over his behavior. For me it was the biggest shock. In all my life I had never seen my father suffer any major sickness and the fact that such a strong person was losing control over himself , made me nervous and emotionally shaken. The roles were changing and I was trying to balance my emotions and the realization that my father is now like a small child. It was overwhelming. My son and myself spent hours together researching about dementia on the internet, talking to doctors and friends who knew about it. As I read more and more on the different stages of dementia, I was preparing myself for the worst. This happened in 2010 when in India, there were hardly any trained nurses available for dealing with dementia patients.I not just had to manage my father but also my mother , who by now had herself become emotionally weak and would breakdown often.
Copying mechanism to get through this phaseDuring this period of anxiety and stress, self care was becoming important. My husband and my son would constantly remind me to exercise , go for long walks to fight the depression. Taking care of myself was the last thing on my mind, but my husband was right, it was essential to handle stress. I was in a full time job and balancing my job and my caregiving responsibilities was taking its toll on me. Therefore self care regime had to be followed if I had to be strong to look after my parents and cope with the worst which was yet to come. A little piece of him was slipping away day by day. Things were getting worse.He could no longer remember my name or my mom’s name. While I was preparing for this day to come, when it actually happened, I broke down. He was gradually fading into oblivion. I would watch his face trying hard to find my father. Each day when I returned from work, I would throw my bag on the table and would hug him. I could see tears in his eyes.
Dealing with lossMy father passed away within six months. While dealing with this loss, grief taught me the fragility and value of life.It was a harsh reminder of the time that we spend chasing our goals without realizing how short life is. Your dear ones can be snatched away from you by the brutal force of diseases leaving you with just memories to support you during such loss.The sense of loss is always overwhelming. While I have lost my father, his teachings and the way he lived his life , are lessons that I treasure even today. His experiences have made a great impact on my life and the choices that I have made. The most powerful way of encountering grief was by being grateful for all that my father had given me.
Lessons I learned on his death
- Death is not the absolute end of your loved ones. They continue to stay with you through memories and their teachings .
- Every major transition teaches a valuable lesson. In this case I learnt the fragility and value of life.
- Managing self and investing in self care is crucial during such phases as it helps fight stress and anxiety, making one stronger to face situations.
- The feeling of gratitude for being lucky to have a father who loved and cared for me and taught me valuable lessons in life.