Monday, June 11, 2012

Just Being.

I went over to see Dad the other day. I started talking to the couple that is now caring for him; they seem like nice people, although at times they seem a little mystified at the place they now find themselves, which puzzles me because I'm pretty sure they said they'd done this type of work before. Maybe its good to get people who haven't worked with the demented for years and years. Maybe that means they treat their charges more as human beings since they haven't been tired out by the many problems inherent in caring for the elderly and ill. Regardless, they appear to be a nice couple, and they do seem to treat Dad like a regular human being, which I appreciate.

The other day, a friend was telling me about his grandmother, who had dementia about 20 years ago, back before it was as understood as it is now. He said that his Father was embarrassed by his mother and the things she said and did. Years ago, a lot of effort was put into keeping a dementia sufferer 'in the current moment', no matter how disturbed that made the patient, who more often than not, would insist they were in the past, or were someone else. Fortunately, behavioral studies have changed now, and the general belief is to let the demented person be 'whenever' or 'wherever' they seem to be. This was a behavior I insisted on when first dealing with Dad, and something I've made sure about ever since. Our conversation also got me thinking about being embarrassed and I remembered taking Dad out and about when we lived together.

We would go for long walks, out for lunch at our favorite restaurants, through the car wash; any activity that kept Dad interested and entertained. Quite often we interacted with others and I remember feeling at peace with whatever Dad did or said. I never felt embarrassed by him or anything he did; if something strange happened, I would merely tell the waitress or whoever, that he had dementia and thought a little differently, and I never had a problem. I feel good about the fact that I never let embarrassment or humiliation taint our time together - and I always just let Dad be Dad.

As I sit with him and chat with his caregivers, and see how they interact with him, I see the same behavior in them that I always wanted for Dad. I never wanted him to feel on any level that he was doing something wrong and I will always want people around him who take him for who and what he is now, and are okay with that.

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