His dementia-afflicted father pines for his first love | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Dear Emily,

My father, 79, has been diagnosed with dementia. He is in this progressive state, doing quite badly—very repetitive, forgetful and less and less of the commanding and remarkable man that he was.

Lately, he has been screaming, looking for the very first girl he fell in love with in high school. He looks for her the moment he wakes up any time of the day or when he is moving around. We can only try to calm him when it happens.

My mother suffers the most when he is in this state. Half of us want to have him confined because his condition is stressing the whole family, but the other half feel it’s inhumane to keep him apart, because there’s no problem with space at home for him and his carers.

Should we make arrangements for him to see this girlfriend one last time? — Second Son


The travails of ageing truly suck! Brilliant minds turn to muck and these once wonderful people who could weave words, ideas and colors into breathtaking tapestries of creativity are suddenly vastly diminished in what they once were. The joy their captivating personalities exuded has now spiraled into chaos, caused by the shackles of this devastating ailment.

While your father is fast vacating the life he created and lived to the full, and his mind being emptied of memories just as fast, it’s only his recollection of this woman that is obviously one of the very few still etched in his mind. Disturbing indeed.

You can always make arrangements for him to see this puppy love of long ago one last time. That may do him good—or not.

He is remembering her as that young love. What if she herself had changed drastically and dramatically, putting on an old woman’s shapelessness, the once-raven hair now completely white, delicate skin ravaged by layers of weather-beaten wrinkles with no smoothness left on her face? She then becomes another complete stranger your father will never ever remotely remember, no matter how much he cries for her. This could cause more pain and anguish for him.

He doesn’t have much time left, like it or not. Do what you can to make him comfortable to remember parts of life again. If it means bringing him to places that would jog his other senses, like being able to inhale the aromas of food he loved growing up, scents that once seduced him and made him happy, music he once loved singing or dancing to, people he can recognize however vaguely or fleetingly—those are rewarding enough.

Stretch your patience to cater to him, if you must. That fickle finger of fate could point to any one of you one day, and you suffer the same destiny. What goes around, comes around.

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