Caught between a rock and a hard place

My dad's memory has been declining at a rapid pace.  He quite often struggles to remember people that he doesn't see frequently, even my mom,  though he was married to her for over 50 years.  He forgets how to do things, and he forgets events that happened even moments before.  In addition, sometimes he remembers things that didn't even happen.  For example, sometimes he will call me and tell me that he had just gotten home from Salt Lake but he can't remember how he got there or who he was with (but he didn't really go anywhere).  The very hardest thing is that he KNOWS that he can't remember and is extremely frustrated by it.  It is difficult to watch him struggle with trying to tell me something he feels is important when he realizes that he really can't remember what he is trying to tell me.  Sometimes he gets depressed and says things like it would be better if he could just lay down and die because he isn't worth anything anymore.  Frequently he gets hyper-focused on one topic that he feels is important and will repeat the same thing over and over and over.  Today it was that he needed to water the lawn, I didn't actually count, but know that he must have told me 30 times that his lawn was dying and we needed to get water on it as soon as possible before it got any worse.  He was feeling frustrated because he didn't know how to hook up the sprinkler to water that specific spot.  I tried to explain to him that it rained really hard this morning so we didn't need to water today, but it did no good, he just remained fixated on watering the lawn.

It is getting more difficult to feel comfortable about dad living on his own.  He still likes to be in his house and have his things all around him.  He doesn't ever cook, so that takes some of the worry off, but he more and more frequently he has become frightened when he is really confused.

Since my mother died my dad has become a hoarder.  He has tools, machines, bikes, lawn mowers, and various other items all over the house.  Actually, he not only has one of each of the things he "needs" he has many!  For example, he has 6 bicycle tire pumps and 5 riding lawn mowers all in various stages of work-ability.

My sister, Robin, and her family have just sold their really beautiful house and have agreed to move in with dad so that he doesn't have to live alone.  Yesterday we spent a good share of the day moving things out of the basement bedroom to start fixing it up for Robin to move in.  We started taking the bicycles out of the basement and onto the front lawn.  We then decided to take all of the bikes that were in the house to the front lawn to see which ones were in working order.  This is NOT an exaggeration - there were 21 bikes!  A neighbor came by and asked if we were selling any of the bikes and he ended up buying two of them.  We asked dad to help us decide which ones were in good shape and asked him if he would like to sell them.  He told us to sell the working ones and take the rest to the dump.  He did specify two that he liked riding and said to keep those.  A little later he decided that he wanted to sell all but those two.  We tried to reason with him that we couldn't sell broken bikes and he decided that it would be okay to give them away.  We loaded up twelve that weren't in good shape and took them to the city dumpster where they were placed in a way that someone could take them if they wanted.  Ashley and Robin decided that she wanted to keep a couple so we parked them in the carport.

All of the sudden dad started getting agitated and I knew that he was upset about all of the bikes being gone.  We decided to bring the bikes from the carport back into the house so that he could see them.  Unfortunately he was really upset and was not easily consoled.  I took him into the bedroom to talk and he said that he felt that we were taking everything that he needed away from him.  Trying to reason with him did not help at all.  He didn't yell at me, but I knew he was angry with me and my sisters - in fact he looked like he was going to cry.  I tried to tell him that we needed to make a space for Robin to move in so she could help him when he became afraid and then he would just throw up his hands and say, "Well I guess I have got no choice, I'm just worthless anyway!"  As soon as I tried to convince him of his worth he started accusing me of taking away all of the things he needed again.

IT IS SO HARD to know what to do when dealing with a loved one with dementia.  We probably shouldn't have let him collect so many things over the years, but he was happy and content, and what right did we have to interfere when he was still thinking clearly?  I know it is going to be a struggle for the next few weeks as we continue to clean things out.  We are not taking everything - in fact we are going to let him have several rooms in the house where he can still work on his "toys".  But we don't have much of a choice - we either need to clean out the house and make it livable for Robin and her family or else we will have to start making plans to move dad to a care facility.  Either way he is not going to be happy - and will probably stay mad at me for a long time - if he remembers.


Jodi said…
Oh, so sorry! It really is hard to have to do what has to be done. I worry this is in my future in not too short a time. I feel for you! I am so amazed your sister is willing to sell her home to move in with him. There are not many people in this world willing to do that. Kudos to her!

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