As both diseases progressed, I retired from my job to help dad with her care. We knew what to expect with the cancer; however, certain aspects of dementia took us into uncharted territory. Joy, laughter and love would morph into uncharacteristic anger, paranoia and confusion. Her moods were akin to a lamp shorting out; bright one minute . . . dark the next.
We were in constant contact with her doctor and hospice, and although they offered wonderful advice, the one statement they kept repeating regarding the mood swings was, "do not take what she says or does personally." Well, that sounds easy enough, but when it's your loved one who lashes out, physically and/or verbally, or worse, runs away, it's hard not to. During those episodes, we found ourselves a muddled mass of bewilderment, despair, hurt, anger, resentment … You name it, we felt it. Biting our tongues, taking deep breaths and apologizing for perceived wrongdoings became part of our routine. Our minds told us it wasn't mom but the dementia . . . convincing our hearts was a different story. If there was one ray of light in those dark times, it was that she didn't remember the outbursts; otherwise, she would have been inconsolable knowing she had hurt us.
Dementia is unrelenting, cruel and takes an emotional and physical toll on everyone involved. If it weren't for the resources made available to us, the love and support of
family and friends, and most importantly our faith in God, we would still be picking up the pieces -- and even though some days more difficult than others, it was all cherished time spent with an incredible and beautiful woman I love and miss so very much. For me, that's all that matters.