Watching My Parents Decline While
Living Out of State - Part 2
Another issue was developing and once again denial was a big part of this issue. I started a journal early on with Daddy's dementia making short notes of things Daddy said and did through the years. Several years into this journey I wrote "Mama is unable to concentrate well. She doesn't remember well. I believe it's due to fear and exhaustion from Daddy's situation." Mama had always been quite dependent on Daddy. He was a take charge person, and she willingly let him take care of most things. I'm sure she saw her world crumbling right before her eyes. I knew she was overwhelmed with caring for Daddy for years. It did not cross my mind that she could have dementia. I was so consumed with "losing" the Daddy I loved that I was blinded to the fact that the Mama I loved was beginning her own journey with dementia.
I finally realized I could not run from the fact that Mama had dementia. I had kept a journal of Daddy's journey with dementia, but I realized I was too emotionally drained to keep a journal of Mama's journey. Daddy was still living, and I was too overwhelmed with all that was going on. I encouraged my parents to let someone come in and help them. After several discussion about this for many months, Mama finally consented to have someone hired to come once a week. That did not last long. Mama was sure she was taking her "stuff." When I would ask Mama what they had eaten that day, (frequent phone calls were the order of the day by then) she would become angry. "I don't know, but we ate." She was losing weight. I knew they were not eating as they should.
Finally in February 1996 Mama and Daddy went to live in an assisted living setting. Daddy seemed to adjust; Mama was not happy about this move at all. One of the big differences in the different types of dementia they had was their personalities. Daddy kept most of his personality. I do not recall him as being anything but gracious and appreciative of anything someone did for him, even on his death bed. Mama had a total personality change early on in her disease. She lost interest in reading, china painting, going to church, etc. She became very assertive.
Daddy died August 1996. In April 1997 we had to move Mama from assisted living to a nursing home. This was a very painful experience because we knew Mama never wanted to live in a nursing home. There was no way we could give her the care she needed. Visits with her were spent walking the halls or walking outside. We sat in the rocking chairs outside a lot. I would sing hymns to her. She loved her Lord. She had taught her children songs of the faith and had us memorize scripture. Perhaps the saddest day of my life was when I asked her if she knew who Jesus was. She replied, "No." From 2000 until Mama's death in 2008, she did not know who I was.
During these 20 years I experienced a lot of guilt that I could not be more help to my parents and to Robert and Judy. As I would leave to go back home, I would stop by the drug store and give Robert an assessment of what was going on with Mama and Daddy. I would get in the car and cry a good bit of the way home. I prayed and I cried myself to sleep a lot. Near the end of Mama's life I experienced anger. To think that she was 90 years old when she died and had spent 11 years of her life not really living was devastating to me. Robert and I each took our strengths and used them collectively to get through these difficult times.
My parents gave me a legacy of faith in God and scriptures from His Word that sustained me through this long journey.
©2015 Charlotte Bowles Baker
I would like to express my appreciation to my sister for writing these two blogs about her journey with having Mama and Daddy both having dementia. Saturday, I will share her blog about her thoughts on having a brother with dementia.
Robert Bowles, Jr.