The end of October 2015...After a year working in foster care, I chose to leave. There were several reasons; it was just time. The next day, I became daytime care giver to my 81 year old Father-in-Law (FIL). He has suffered with dementia for many years. He needed constant attention; and my Mother-in-Law (MIL) was extremely stressed and needed some relief. This began the journey we are now navigating. We laugh, we cry, and we live for moments of joy. I interned for a year on the acute psychiatric unit of our local hospital while earning my Master's degree. This gave me invaluable experience with elderly dementia patients. However, we were not prepared for this journey...so we learn as we go, and I have been doing a lot of research on my own. This blog will be my outlet to share what I learn, and to share what it is really like to care for someone with dementia.
FIL is a very talented man and hard worker. He used to build houses (ours included); fixed and restored cars; grew bountiful gardens; did in-depth genealogy; hunted & fished; did woodworking; and played several instruments such as guitar, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica, and the bass. He was a member of the church choir, as well as a bluegrass band. He was also a member of a lodge for 45 years; and a member of an antique car club. He and MIL have been married for 62 years! My hubby and BIL are twins; MIL & FIL have three grand children and four great-grandchildren.
Signs of dementia became evident many years ago. A few episodes we remember are when FIL was driving with MIL; he drove on the wrong side of the road! We noticed that he began to grow silent during family gatherings. As time went on, he became confused while doing seemingly common tasks. One distinct memory was when my hubby went over to check their van; FIL did not know how to pop the hood. We noticed that he became uncomfortable in large groups of people--church, restaurants, etc. Then he began to get lost. One time, he told MIL that he was going to a certain little town several miles away to visit some old friends. He was gone a long time before she finally called us. It is an absolute miracle that he made it back safely. We seriously doubt he ever made it to that little town--it is more likely that he drove around our town the whole time.
My hubby disabled FIL's pick up so he could not drive off. So, FIL began to walk away from the house on his own. MIL usually didn't call us until he had been gone for a long time. The police, strangers, family members, neighbors and friends picked him up many times. Again, it is a miracle that he was not hurt somehow. This became a common event, and our biggest challenge with FIL at home.
So this is the introduction into our world with dementia. In the next post, I will begin explaining what it was like to be the daytime care giver for FIL.