My father has never been easy for anyone to get along with...opinionated, demanding, headstrong and prone to temper tantrums. So I'm confused as to whether he has early dementia or his personality quirks are just more pronounced with age. Can anyone shed some light?
Four months ago, when he turned 90, he decided to sell his house because he was lonely and isolated. 6 weeks ago I moved him into an independent/assisted living facility in my town. He did not adjust well, did not make any friends, did not want to participate in activities—in or out of the facility, and called the place a warehouse for people who were just waiting to die. I did everything I could to make him comfortable and get him involved, but nearly everything back-fired.
The good relationship we seemed to have forged, after a lifetime of battles, eroded quickly. So I reduced my visits to 2 or 3 times a week. Two days ago, he packed himself some minimal necessities, took off in the night and left a dramatic letter on my kitchen table: he compared his "bad decision to move here" to one he made 60 years ago; he compared his "flight by the dark of night" to that of Mary, Joseph and Jesus to Egypt, even though he's an ardent atheist. He would "not wait to become a spoon-fed, tail-wiped victim", and declared he "must follow the spirit of our Swiss ancestors, who risked all on a promising future that they would control".
The day before he left, I consulted an elder expert who, after hearing a few accounts of his unsettling behavior, memory lapses, etc., suggested I have him evaluated for dementia, recommended I obtain guardianship and definitely don't move him again. He had already talked of "going home". She said it takes at least 5 months for someone to adjust to an ALF, and that each move takes 18 months off an elder's life. He's been through a lot changes in the last 6 years:
1. Sold his house of 20 years in 2010 and
2. moved into ALF with my Alzheimer's mother.
3. Lost his wife of 62 years in 2013 and
4. moved in with a friend for 1-1/2 years.
5. Bought & lived his own house for 2-1/2 years, then
6. sold the house and
7. moved to ALF in a different state 6 weeks ago.
In an effort to keep him from "feeling like a prisoner", I returned his car 10 days ago...which he initially said he wanted to me to have, but subsequently accused me of stealing (a long story).
This morning, he finally called and told me he was about 500 miles from here, but hung up furiously when I told him everyone was very concerned and had been looking for him.
Hindsight is 20/20 vision. I can now see many mistakes I made during his transition, but at the time I couldn't tell if I was dealing with the same old craziness (as one sibling said, "What did you expect? He's Dad!") or a new medication side effect or dementia or what. I still don't know.
It will be a huge job for me to close out this chapter, an expensive fiasco to say the least. I'm not sure if I should begin clearing out his apartment or wait to see what eventuates over the next few weeks/months. BTW, nobody has any sort of POA in place for him.