This post is sort of just documentation, so I remember when this happened when I give in and do the legal crap.
I was visiting with Dad yesterday afternoon and mentioned that I was going to start stockpiling frozen meals for him in the freezer downstairs, since I no longer have a four wheel drive vehicle and when it snows, we’re going to be stuck here. “Snow?” he exclaimed, “At the beginning of summer?”
Oh dear, it’s October. Seriously. October. We shouldn’t have to worry about snow for a while yet. I really need to try to take some photos that would show why we are stuck in the house with a mere inch of snow. Hell, I had a lawn guy refuse to try to come down here in the actual summer. But the point is, he is so disoriented that he is no longer aware of what season it is. I knew he didn’t know the date without looking at his watch but this is another step down.
He looked at his watch for the date and then asked me what date it was. When I told him, he said that his brother’s birthday was in a few days – but they don’t send cards to each other. The last time I told him that Al had died – maybe 8 years ago? – he got aggressive with me. So, I didn’t say that this time, I just asked how old Al would have been. Dad had no idea, because he had no idea of how old he is. Six years older, he said, which I said would make Al 88. That freaked him out, since he doesn’t believe he is 82. You know, ’cause I make this stuff up.
But then he said, so how old is my mother now? I’m just not comfortable lying even though it’s sometimes necessary (and I will be lying about going to Springfield next Monday) so I said, gently, Grandma died just before I turned 21 so almost thirty years ago. He couldn’t believe it. He remembers that Grandma lived with Al for a while, but doesn’t remember her time in the nursing home or her death. We went on to talk about my other grandparents and when they died. I remember things based on other things that were happening at the same time. His father died when I was 10 or 11, the year before Mom had cancer. I know because Grandma lived with us afterward and we sent her back to my uncle when Mom got sick. Grandma Cupit died just before Mom had her mastectomy. I mean, Mom went to her funeral and came home and went to the hospital. It was a hell of a year. Grandpa Cupit died in 1987 just as I was graduating from my masters program.
It was hard to have the conversation. It was scary to realize just how disoriented he has become. His memory, well his short term memory is gone and I knew that. We go over the same thing over and over and over which I can deal with except when he gets in a loop, like about finances, and starts accusing me of not telling him how much money he has. Even that, I suppose, is my sensitivity to feeling accused of something. Short term memory – and reasoning – is just not something he has anymore.
Mid-term memory, is pretty well gone, too. He is aware of some things, like Mom is in the nursing home – but he no longer knows why. He can’t remember that I’ve been on his checking account (as having power of attorney for Mom) for years now and I pay his bills. But more and more memory is seeping out. I knew he didn’t remember Al’s death (or my aunt Na’s death) but he remembered older important events. He’s lost his mother’s death now, too. And when we’ve talked about other big events, he used to remember them and now they’re gone. He looks confused when we talk about them and I avoid them other than when he asks. It’s sad, Petee’s death was so hard on him last summer but he doesn’t remember him anymore, at least not always. The things he does remember seem to be childhood stories now. He doesn’t talk much about things in between. Maybe I should try to trigger memories for him. Would it make him feel worse? Would our family memories be fun for him or would it grieve him to remember the things he’s lost?
It’s so hard to know where the line is. I really should get social services involved – I know, I keep saying that. I dread it, it’s going to upset him so much. But I really need someone besides myself making the decisions. My useless brothers pretty much just say that they’ll support whatever I decide. When I visit Mom at the nursing home, I can’t picture Dad there yet. He is not that far gone, compared to the people there. But how safe is he at home? Will I find him dead one morning? Would that be kind of better for him? Will he fall and get hurt while I’m not home? I’ve only just realized that he can’t tell me when he needs something like toothpaste. I have to be checking for things like that and making sure I buy them for him.