What can I do if I am having a hard time visiting my father with dementia is the nursing home?

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My dad is in a nursing home. He has dementia , almost in the last stage. He still knows us. But my dad that I knew is going and i am having trouble visiting a dad that is not there. How can I come to terms with this, and are there any books on this subject?

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I have had first hand experience with my Mom with Dementia, but she's hanging onto first stages so far. She goes in and out of knowing who I am right now, depends on medication, time of day etc. but the reason I am here to answer your question is not my experience with my Mom.
I am a hairdresser and I have seen many clients of mine in all stages. Some of my clients I have seen decline from normality, straight through to final stages of dementia. Even though your Dad is not able to respond in ways you would normally expect him to, such as words or hugs, kisses things like that. There are deep memories you may be able to trigger, some type of emotion that connects you to him. Such as an object he remembers as a gift to you, a toy, a song, a picture even if you just smile or a joke he may have liked anything like that from your childhood may trigger a memory, the day you were born or some dramatic event.
I'll tell you something about one of my clients that I saw go from being a vibrant wonderful person, decline thru all the stages. Her husband was her caregiver and was wonderful and patient, understanding and supportive. Her appoinments were monthly with me and until the last few, It became obvious she wasn't going to be hanging on much longer. I saw her decline more rapidly and her husband informed me that it was time for NH full time. At this point she could only mumble and could not even raise her head without assistance and noone really knows what was left of her memory or who she recognized. I managed to cut her hair. I had a feeling this was our final appointment.
In hopes she could understand and I was not expecting a reaction at all...
I put my arm around her shoulders (she was in a wheelchair) I softly whispered in her ear "You have a wondeful husband, your a very lucky lady!" Well to my and her husband surprize, she lifted her head up SMILED at me and looked at her husband with the biggest grin, as if she wanted to tell him that herself but couldn't!
She passed away a few days later. He came into my shop and said to me "Thank You for making my wife smile!" It may have been only a smile for a fleeting moment of time,this was a smile loaded with emotion and memories and so much Love for her husband wrapped in one!
This also taught me something about memory that is attached to feelings there is alot of strength in a strong bond and even dementia can't take a person's whole heart and true feelings from them.
I didn't want to ramble on about this but I think this story about my Mom fits in to this subject as well.
On Christmas Eve last Christmas my Mom in NH was being weened off of a Med, she was completely unstable, basically didn't know or care it was christmas, didn't know or care who I was either. She wanted me to leave her alone. I told her OK I'll go if you open this present.. I am just as stubborn as she is. She agreed probably just so I would leave. She took the gift out of the gift bag. It was the sweetest looking stuffed SnowWoman! I saw her in the store and I feel in love with her and only $6.00, was perfect too, and knowing an expensive gift would probably dissapear at the NH. So Mom's eye's lit up and without even thinking about it I said "what are you going to name her?" (she always asked me the same question whenever she gave me a stuffed toy I remembered afterwards, it was like a natural question to ask) She said "let me think she's really cute and adorable...OH how about SUZY!.... Oh yes that's perfect!" I took care of MOM for a year prior to NH she always called me Sue (I insistead on being called Suzy as a child though) This meant to me that even though she was completely out of her mind on the surface, that her true feelings were brought to the surface because of a natural reaction triggered by an emotion triggered by a bond only her and I shared. I left her that Christmas eve knowing my Mom was still in there somewhere and she Loved me, reguardless if she could express those feelings in a normal way. So hang in there with an open heart and you may witness a bit of something that could make you smile and you'll have to keep with you and he can take with him. He is still in there... you may need to look at your Dad with your heart and not your eyes. I hope my shareing this with you gives a brighter spin to your situation. You asking this question on here shows your love for your Dad and that is something meaningful in itself. That means he has given a part of himself in happy thoughts of him. As I just wrote that, I just realized that my Mom in her demented condition, feels safe and tells me often that her Dad is taking care of her. It is comforting to me that she feels safe with this thought and sometimes I think to myself, he may just be looking out for her. If this thought gives her peace, it's all good.
So beautifully said, wuvs.....brings tears to my eyes.
teddie... how is your dad doing? We are all here to support one another and to vent. I am preparing for the next stages with my Mom, I know that I cannot reverse the process and one day at a time is how I look at the situation at present. It helps me to share my emotions and thoughts and stress. Knowing your not the only one is a comfort in itself. Hugs to you and your family.
wuvsicecream: your answer helped me so much. I was brushing my Dads hair(he always liked me to pay hairdresser with him when I was Little) trying to calm him. He looked at me and said your so good to me, sis and Billy. He use to call me sis. I just thought Dad you come back to me just for a minute. I will never forget that. This happened before your answer. Now I know he really was with me. Dads losing alot of weight. He is not eating only 25% of his food at a time. His food has to be put in blender. I bring in ice cream for him. He enjoys that. i try so hard for him. It hurts so much to see him this way. i pray everyday. You have to be strong. One day at a time is right. Hugs to you and your Mom
I understand, teddie. My sweet Mom-in-law became even sweeter, almost angel-like with her "halo" of white hair. When she could no longer talk, she would beam with joy when our young boys came to visit. We would hold or massage her hands, and just love on her. I couldn't handle the end, she was too dear to me, I didn't want to remember her that way. Sadly, we are dealing with Alzheimer's a second time, my Mom. I responded to your question, because I am having difficulty visiting my Mom for an altogether different reason. My mother was emotionally and verbally abusive growing up. Now she threatens to kill herself if I leave her in the wonderful care facility. Or, tries to blackmail me with "I gave you life, how dare you do this to me?!" She's even done it in front of my son and upset him. I know my Mom, and I know she will never change, not until she doesn't remember anymore. Sad. How I'd love to have a normal relationship with her and be with her.
I know it's hard. Be there to show him he is loved. It's the best thing you can do for both of you. I lost my Dad unexpectedly, and I don't know if this helps any, but I'd give anything for 5 minutes to tell him how much I loved and respected him, hug and kiss him. Big Hugs!

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