After dementia diagnosis, what do you do?

Posted on January 20, 2011 by Michael Corley, consultant with The Patterson Foundation

By the time we’re 85 one in two of us will have some form of dementia. For those of us with aging parents, we’re likely to see this impacting our lives soon. Here's how I am envisioning it happening to me:

One of my brothers calls and tells me that Dad isn’t his same old self.  He seems to be forgetting things and repeating himself.

“Oh, he has always been like that,” I respond.  “Don’t  YOU remember?”

A week later, my other brother calls, “Dad just doesn’t seem right. He doesn’t seem to be taking care of himself like he used to.”

I begin to go through the mental games of questioning things.   “Well, maybe those two haven’t been paying attention to Dad, so how would they know?  Are they sure of what they perceive?  Surely this will pass. He probably just isn’t feeling well.”  So I put off thinking about it further and get back to my life.

A month later, I receive the same phone calls from my brothers.  I now begin to wonder if I should fly there to validate their concerns.  And if I did, what good would be accomplished? So I sit and ponder, “What do I do now?”

Several months later, I have an opportunity to visit home as part of a business trip.  I decide to take Dad out to dinner.  (Candidly, I have forgotten about my brothers’ concerns, after all, if it was bad, wouldn't I have heard more?)

I pick up Dad and everything is fine until he begins asking the same questions about three or four times.  “That’s odd,” I think.  “Dad never did that before.”

At dinner, Dad has a difficult time ordering dinner.  He can’t seem to recall the names of the same foods he has always ordered – steak and baked potato.  “That’s odd,” I think again.  As the evening continues, it dawns on me that my brothers were right.  Something has changed with my Dad.  So I ask myself, “What do I do now?”

I know I need to call my brothers and have a discussion with them.  Something isn’t right with Dad.  What are we to do now?

Who is going to take Dad to the doctor? Who is going to check on him every day?

If he has dementia, where is he going to live? How will he afford it?  If he wants to continue living alone, do we let him? What if he can’t drive? ..... and the questions continue and can be summed up with, “What do we do now?

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