Saturday, November 30, 2019

A failed test

I spent 24 hours with Mom and Dad this Friday. I went in at eight in the morning and left at eight on Saturday.

Dad had not slept well Thursday night. He said his room was freezing. Dad struggles with blankets. The over-blankets are folded accordion style at the foot of the bed and, in theory, he pulls them up as he gets cold through the night.

Some nights theory conforms to reality. Other nights theory does not.

Mrs ERJ and I devised a plan. I would check on dad through the night. After each time I helped mom with toiletting I would pop into his room and touch his hand to see if he was cool. Dad agreed that might work.

Mom had an active night. She got up five times. The second time she got up was 11PM. Afterward I went and check on dad as agreed.

He startled when I checked his hands. Attempts to calm him were not very successful because he did not have his hearing aids in.

Five minutes later I heard his door rattling. That is the little dog's signal that she needs to go out. On a typical night she goes out twice, at Mom's 1AM and 4AM trips to the toilet.

I went to the door and found my dad barricading himself in. He told me to leave and that he would take care of the little dog.

No problem, I thought.

Mom woke for the morning at 7, about an hour earlier than usual. I had not taken the little dog out. Commenting on the fact, Mom said it might be a good idea if I took her out so she did not make a mess.

I opened dad's door, little dog was waiting and scooted out the door. She looked pretty eager to go outside.

Ten minutes later dad came out his door and he was breathing fire.

He gave me repeated ass-chewings for disobeying him, for invading his space, for kidnapping the little dog. I made dutiful son sounds. I "Yessirred", hung my head, apologized. It was just more gasoline on the bonfire.

Mom was distressed but there was nothing she could do.

Dementia is a cruel disease. I am contemplating shaving my beard so I don't look like that guy who is the home invader.

There is usually more information in a failed test than a successful one. A part that does not fail has only given partial information regarding the number of cycles it can sustain. A part that failed gives definitive information in that regard.

The trick is to shift through the noise and find that information. I think the lesson is that there will be times when we do our best but regardless of the purity of our intentions and quality of execution...we cannot win. Not that we will not win, but that we can not win. Dementia is a cruel disease. There will be many times when we cannot win.


  1. Sadly true. Went through that with an Uncle.

  2. The beard loss can be temporary. Easing any anxiety Dad may have...thats a good thing.

    Hang in there..

  3. Those of us who have been through this with our loved ones sympathize with you. It seems at times to be a thankless chore, heaped with abuse that cannot be refuted. God is watching. We live a great life, and this is the part of the deal that highlights our grace and good fortune. Blessings on you Joe.

  4. Side note: Have you thought about trying weighted blankets for your dad?

    1. A belated thank-you for all the support.

      Dad's bedroom is hands-off. He wants his blankets arranged "just so". It is one of the few places where he has the illusion of control. Sometimes I think efforts to help him blow up because he feels violated, especially when we are sneaky.

  5. All we can do is try to make the right choices. Unfortunately, you can make what appear to be the right choices and still have a bad result. But you can take consolation that you tried your best.
    God bless you and yours as you deal with this.

  6. Yes, there are definitely bad days ahead. Please don't let them cloud your memory over the good days of the past. As you know, it is the dementia talking and not your father. Good luck Joe, there's no doubt your are making your parents' lives better!

    1. Phantom: "...right choices and still have bad result..." is the human condition and a source of great stories. It is also still the best path forward.

      RDB: Thanks for the advice. Yup, most of the time the person in my Dad's skin is not my dad.


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