Dad is 79 and has dementia. He has been in a long term care facility for a year and a half now. Prior to that, he lived at home - alone in his house. When he was there, he wasn’t safe and I know he wasn’t happy.
Before lockdown, I visited almost every day to keep him social and engaged. Even back then, he constantly said he wanted to go home. I used to think he meant his house, which I knew he couldn’t go back to - even with an aide. I tried looking at other places with him, I offered that he come live with me, but we never got anywhere because he hates change and we ended up talking in circles. Now, I’m beginning to think “home” wasn’t the home I thought. When he refers to home, he talks about the house and family he grew up with. He doesn’t care that I’m his daughter - nor does it calm him to hear me say how much I love him and that he’s safe where he is. Being back in the house he grew up in with the family he grew up with is the life he wants and there is nothing I can say (whether it’s getting in his world or trying to talk sense) that will change his mind or make things ok. In fact, if you didn’t know he had dementia, you’d swear he was being held against his will. He’s so logical while he’s arguing with me and when I try to turn his negatives into positives, he literally tells me that I’M not making sense!
I’m now allowed to visit once a week indoors for 2 hours. We talk, watch TV, talk some more, and usually have a good time. But when it’s time for me to leave (mind you no one tells me it’s time to leave except him), he starts saying that we both have to go. He says he’s leaving too because he has to get home to his family (and again refers to the house he grew up in). He says he doesn’t want to be there and although it’s nice, it’s time for him to go. It’s heart wrenching and there’s nothing I can say to leave on a good positive note. I have so much anxiety and guilt that it consumes me. My parents have been divorced since I was 5 and I’m 53 now. My relationship as a child with dad was weekends only and as an adult, dinner on Sundays. I don’t feel that our relationship is estranged from my childhood - just the opposite! I wish my dad could trust me, be content, and accept that he needs this.
I love my father so much and I love visiting with him, but knowing what the last 5 minutes of our visit will be like, makes me not want to go because I dont know what to say and how to handle this. (And I tried to refer to where he is as “home” but he says - are you kidding me?? This is not home). Ugh.