Date My Dad or Bless the Caregiver…

I’ve been on this road since I was 28 or so. I think. I’m 34 now. I can’t really imagine my life without this disease. Even though my mother is the one who’s sick, her dementia affects me too. Although I’m at a point now where I don’t miss what could have been (rather, it doesn’t haunt me like it used to)—I don’t fantasize about having girly-talk-filled-lunches with my mom or meeting up for pedicures anymore—these days, I worry a lot about my dad.

My dad is a full-time caregiver. He retired at 63 to take on this not-so-jazzy-job………………. he couldn’t take the stress of not know what would happen when he we went to work each day. These days, he spends his days tending to his toddler-wife. He bathes her, he feeds her, he makes sure she doesn’t drink the soap (or any other kind of liquid cleaner), he takes her for walks, he takes her to the doctor, he does her laundry and he cleans up after her………………………………………… he does whatever she needs.

He rarely complains.

Sure, he has his moments…………….. I can tell when he’s sad or angry and it breaks my heart. I can only do so much for him. But I can’t help but wish he had some companionship. Sorry, a demented mother who uses a handful of repetitive phrases to communicate does not count. Somedays, I wish my dad could meet someone nice and pretty too………………………….. because, I think someone nice and pretty would be lovely. Maybe. I hope. Someone who understands and supports his situation.

My mom is at a point now where she cannot play wife.

My dad has no one to talk to. I’m his only friend I think—but I’m also his daughter.

Mainstream dementia or what you see on TV isn’t what you see in real life.

I hate news stories about Alzheimer’s or dementia. They often feel sugar-coated. You hear the afflicted man or woman—still incredibly lucid—talking about how they are savoring every remaining moment, every precious memory. Then, they look into their partner’s eyes—they both fight back the tears.

It’s tragic, but that’s not always the reality.

My mother and father never held hands as they looked lovingly into each other’s eyes when as the doctor informed them that she had Alzheimer’s in 2006 (a misdiagnosis as it turns out…………………).

In fact, my mother never seemed to comprehend that she had any kind of brain disorder. She just drifted away year after year—her essence lost in the fog.

The years leading up to the present moment were filled with every emotion……………………… denial, anger, sadness, rage, frustration, anger, anger, resentment, jealousy, despair, desperation, hate, contempt, denial……………………..

There was no tender hand-holding.

The grotesque reality is avoided: the behaviors, the emotional toll on family, the loneliness……………………. the deep, dark pit that often traps caregivers like my dad.

So here’s the question????????????????????????????? Is it really fair for my dad to go on without a new partner because his wife is still alive? And when is it OK for the caregiver to let go of the past and live?

Caring for a demented loved one is a prison sentence. You are bound to your loved on because it is the right thing to do…………………….as humans, we must care for our family. We must love them and respect them. We must do what we can do to make their life as comfortable as possible……………………….. and as a society, we demand it. You are noble if you remain ever faithful to your demented mate. You’re loyal. You’re remarkable. You’re heroic. Society smiles upon you. We give you our seal of approval because you are doing what no one really wants to do………………………………………………

But what if your loved one’s mind—that part of our grey matter that makes us who we are, gives us our personality, our energy, our vibrancy, that “thing” that makes you you—has already crossed over?

Can you be a caregiver, a good caregiver and date?

I want my dad to date. There, I said it. I want my dad to be happy. I want him to meet someone who treats my mother with love and respect. I want someone who understands that this is not a conventional or convenient relationship. Yes, my dad comes with baggage, a demented and dying wife and a 34-year-old, but doesn’t he deserve some kind of a happy ending too?

>>Flickr pic by Funky 64

7 Comments

  1. You ask really good questions. I can totally understand why you want your dad to date.

    I like that you write about all of the dark emotions that have showed up in the last several years and point out how it hasn’t been like a typical Alzheimer’s media story.

    Because I think what you’re describing is much more typical, and others who are going through it can find maybe a bit of relief knowing they aren’t the only ones on this kind of emotional roller coaster.

  2. “And when is it OK for the caregiver to let go of the past and live?”

    Till Death Do Us Part. Hellooo?

    Unless your mom & dad had a back up plan regarding and escape clause, then the above referenced vow applies.

    FYI You’re dad rules! Give him a vacation from caregiving, and take over, or hire somebody, or both.

    Thank you

  3. Kathy, Wow. This brings up a whole area of this disease that I have not seen yet. In many cases, such as my maternal Grandpa and now my paternal Grandma, their spouse has already passed away. But I completely agree with your suggestion of your father dating. All you are really suggesting is him having an inkling of life, of living, of happiness again. Their relationship, their partnership… is not intact if one of the partners’ mind is not intact.

    I’m sorry. I’m here for you.

  4. Kathy,

    I am asking the same question right now, and I agree with you. I want my dad to date again too. My mom can no longer be a partner or a wife to him.. I mean, she tried to eat cat food today. He deserves to be happy and I believe she would want him to find companionship. It will be difficult to find someone understanding of his situation.. but I have hope.

    You posted this entry in April. I am wondering if your dad has given any thought to dating again since then or if I has met anyone? My situation is remarkably similar to yours and I have been following your blog religiously since I discovered it. Thank you so much.

  5. I am going though this right now with my dad. I told him that none of the kids mind if he dates, we just want him to be happy. I doubt LB knows what he is going though with that thoughtless comment about an escape clause. I feel like my mom is the opposite of a ghost. Her body is there but her soul has moved on.

    Dementia hit my mom at a young age, and she is not a companion for my dad anymore. She doesn’t know who he is half the time. Just having some one to chat to about TV show they watch together would be good. But I know he is young and has other needs. It’s not like he plans to divorce my mom. As you said “Someone who understands and supports his situation.”

    He feels guilty even thinking about dating, but my mom wouldn’t know the difference.

  6. my dad is not dating now. i think right now he’s just grieving her placement so its been difficult. its not an easy situation thats for sure; i mean, who wants to encourage their parent to date while the other parent is still alive, in another room? but, it is what is. thanks for following the blog. i’m glad its been helpful. i appreciate the support!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s