The faces of dementia

Last weekend I spent my time helping my dad. He’s got vascular dementia. Every 6 weeks I will go and hang out with him so my mom can have a respite break. Over 1.1 million Canadians are effected either with someone they know or indirectly with dementia. 5.8 million people in the US have been diagnosed with it. We know this disease processes. I see it everytime I look after my dad. The biggest thing with people with dementia is social isolation which of course is so prevalent now with Covid. Social isolation rises the stress the hormones which in turn creates more confusion. It’s a tough balance though because when things change it elevates that stress. Now when I go hang out with my dad I just take it all as it comes. Things that he loved so much before its hard to get him to want to do it.

One of my favorite things is to listen to his records with him. He loves music and music has been proven that it helps with memory. Music also improves quality of life, it reduces agitation and distress. It helps create new memories even with dementia. I know for me and I’m sure others can relate I listen to music when I feel stressed and it calms me down. It was hard to get my dad to sit and listen to his music. The whole weekend we listened to two records. I found watching tv seemed to calm him even though we could watch the same news all day and each time it’s new to him. We did find some great programs on different cultures.

I now see him taping his body which is a self soothing thing. Despite him having dementia he’s got the most Amazing sense of humor that cracks me up. He’s still really aware of what is going on its just his short term memory. We have the best conversations and he helps me figure out things I need. I never had any real relationship with the dad who lives in Ireland. Barry has always been the dad who has spent time with me. We laugh when I remind him how he helped me write all my English essays in school. He’s shaped me into the woman I am today. I love spending time with him. We love to walk and see how buildings are changing and walking on the beach. Dementia makes Everything is so simple we pick up rocks from the beach, we look out into the ocean and see boats, birds and seals. We smile at children and dogs and we just soak up what is around us. I make each moment count. That’s all he has now with short term memory. As we leave the beach and head home he will have forgotten what we did but that’s ok. The next memory is around the corner.

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