My dad denies it. My mom told many of her close friends that he was declining rapidly and she was very concerned. Now, a year after her death, I am moving in with him temporarily and am very concerned myself how bad it really is. He denies everything and he's not taking care of himself because mom's gone. He's already an aggressive person--quick to anger and yell--and I just don't know what steps to take to help him without overstepping the boundary. If he's as bad as she said he was, then I'm potentially walking into a scenario I'm completely not prepared for. He recently told both my sister and me that his memory was getting worse and it was scary and that he needed some help. The next time I saw him, I asked him about it and suggested going to the doctor with him to figure it out and he said he had just overreacted and that everyone's memory declines with age, which is true but, this is a classic sign of denial from everything I've been reading.
And if this is as bad as that, how do I take care of someone who denies it so vehemently??
Boy oh boy! Till the next morning! Only then did we realise what was going on! Mom being in a wheelchair now, with very bad dementia, keep on telling us that she just did their washing and hanged all the washing on the line outside, we must just bring in when it is dry, when handed the washcloth to wash, did not know what to do with the washcloth! We realised just how "normal" they acted all the time. My dad could not dress himself - we brought his cloths to her and she had to help him get dressed, sitting in a wheelchair, not being able to lift her arms high enough to pull his shirt over his shoulders! How the heck did they coped on their own!?! When I tried so wash her feet the next morning, I saw a very huge wound underneath her one foot as if she walk barefoot on something very hot. Until she has put feet into the bucket of water - she must have not being able to wash her feet in weeks! This was the greatest shock of my life! They acted to "normal". And they kept on telling us that they can help themselves, they are coping on their own!
We only then discovered that my dad was not able to drive anymore - how the heck he managed to visit his friends, go shopping and everything before, no one knows! When they came to visit, my husband used to pull his car out of the driveway, park the car outside with the nose of the car facing the road - just ready for him to take off - so we never knew that he was not able to reverse the car out of the driveway anymore, until they moved in!
What a big shock and what a big problem - he insisted that he is still capable of helping himself, driving his own car, handling my mom with the wheelchair, helping her into the car from her wheelchair.
One day he also yelled at us that we treat him like a baby and thinks he is not capable of doing things for himself - I said to him: But mom must dress you, having difficulty herself doing so? She helped you to shower, standing using a crutch? She must dry you after she has showered you? How she managed, nobody knows! But since them, he is acting "normal" again - even if it takes him almost an hour to wash himself and dress himself - so stubborn!
I really think you are in for a huge surprise! And when they realize that they can not do it, those who yells, yells even better - yelling improves with time, it seems to me with some of these old people!
Nothing happened to me, I'm glad to say, and I cared for him throughout the journey. I can really relate to what your mother told you, and you need to take that seriously!
Many people with dementia deny that they need help, or the extent of the help they need. For short periods they can put on a good show and appear more "normal" than they really are. So you are in a position very familiar to caregivers of persons with dementia.
Dad may have always had a short fused temper, but that may be of greater concern now if irrational things trigger it, and if he has lost his social filters. He may be nastier than you remember him (just maybe) and perhaps even violent when he wasn't before. What you accepted as part of his personality before may need to be addressed medically to keep everyone safe and to make him more comfortable.
So, like the other posters here, I think one of the first steps is a medical exam. Not the day you arrive, but after you've been there long enough to see where the problem issues are. These should be conveyed to the doctor before the exam.
Has Dad been on his own for a year? How did that go?
I also think it's a good time to get dad to the doctor for a complete check-up. "Dad, you've been through a lot with mom, let's get you to the doctor to make sure you're in tip-top shape and we address anything that might be going on. Let the doctor know about his memory issues and his angry outbursts. Also your mom's concerns. Get that info to the doctor before your visit, so he's prepared to deal with dad's issues with no obvious prompting from you.
The stress from dealing with your mom could have affected his memory in a temporary way, or he could be having some cognitive decline that is permanent.
Do you think his doctor is pretty good? Is that doc the one who treated mom? Were you satisfied with her care? If not, it would be a good time to find a doctor who specializes in geriatrics and who knows how to treat older patients.
Good luck and please keep us posted. We all learn from each other.