Both of my parents came to live with me in my home almost 3 years ago.
Early on they had mild memory loss and sometimes would be a little confused. Over the last year their dementia progressed more quickly. My Dad has become very quiet. He was once so outgoing, friendly, always wanted to make folks laugh! He can't hear well, and can't see well. He isn't weight-bearing and he has arthritis pain. He is 95 years old. I hate seeing his world shrink so much. Mom was his queen. :-) They were married just shy of 70 years. She died last week from dementia. She quit eating and drinking. She was 97 years old.
It hit me hard even though I thought I was prepared. And now I struggle to know how to help Dad. I told him when Mom went on Hospice that I thought her "time" was near. (They had both talked quite a lot about being ready to go, and shared their faith.) When I told Dad this, he nodded and said, "I understand." I explained that we were taking excellent care of her (she was still at home with us, but not getting out of bed as usual). He said, "well...she's 96, right?" I was shocked that he knew her age so close. She had turned 97 just a couple of months ago. So, I said, yes...she's 97. He nodded and then said, "We all must face it one day." I held his hand and he closed his eyes.
After that he went to her bedside 3 or 4 times before she died. She lasted about a week after that talk. When she was still responsive they held hands. She smiled at him. It was beautiful and heartbreaking. They seemed to nod at each other. I feel they both understood.
But how can I know for sure?
I have caregivers that come into my home and help with their care. One day Dad asked to see mom. The caregiver wheeled him to her bedside and he began to tuck her in saying that she doesn't like to be cold. He then tried to pull the blanket up over her head.
I was by my Mom's side when she passed away early one morning after several days of being non-responsive. She was skin and bones and my heart was breaking even seeing how much she had changed physically.
After she died, I immediately had to switch gears to do my best for Dad. We decided to wait until he asked about Mom before telling him anything. (Before she was bedridden he would always ask where she was if she wasn't at the dining table when he got there. We'd always explain that she's in the bathroom or whatever the case might me, but that she was coming!) He has NOT asked about her a single time since she died. Except the one question he asked on the morning she died, after her body was taken away...He asked, "Are we alone in here now" referencing the bedroom they shared. And when he was told yes, he nodded and closed his yes.
Now he is having longer periods of shutting down, and more often. He will look at me when I give him a hug. He'll smile when I tell him I love him. But then, he often closes his eyes and shakes his head. He has periods of time where falls asleep and won't wake up. Like at the breakfast table. Even if you get him to open his eyes they soon roll back and he shuts them. This isn't NEW since Mom's death, but it is happening much more often. Is this grief? His dementia? The combination? The sleepiness seems to be his biggest symptom of dementia over the last year. He also will wake from a nap very confused. He still knows me and others, but doesn't say much. He will answer in a few words where before it would be a conversation.
I just don't know how to help. Should I bring up Mom? I am afraid of him having to deal with reliving the realization that she is gone. Over and over, so I'm letting him lead that now. We continue to just love him like crazy. I don't want him have to be strong for me (although I miss him sooo much and miss his strength, his words and his support).
I'd appreciate advice. Tomorrow is my Mom's celebration of life at home. I'm praying that Dad will benefit as well. We will be at home so we can keep an eye on what he can and cannot tolerate and respond to that.