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Dementia: Does it Depress the Patient?

Dealing with Dad's dementia: This week, I talk about how my papa’s attitude has changed.

My papa has always been someone who likes to do things and get out and have a good day. He always used to joke that if he had a good night at work the night before, meaning when he got a generous amount of tips, we’d know it by how the next morning or afternoon went. Some days he’d take a whole crew of friends or coworkers to the golf course. Other days, he’d take my brother and I to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk or just a few miles away to what used to be Palo Alto Bowl.

Even after the onset of his illnesses and bouts with different things, he would still always ask, “What time should we set the tee time for?” or “Let’s go hit the driving range, missy.” Or even, “Want me to make you something to eat or should we go out?”

But, this seems to have changed. And, honestly, it confuses me.

These days, I almost have to force him to do something, anything. This sometimes includes eating a snack with me. “Papa, let’s go play golf,” I say to him as I have about two hours before I have to go back to work.

Now, granted, it’s probably not fair to him for me to be on a time-constraint. But, I do have to work. And, regardless, I know at what time in the day he will become tired and take a nap. So, this is a fair amount of time to do something.

“No, I don’t think so. I’m too tired,” he says. Or, “My back hurts and I’m just not that into it today.”

Later in the day, I’ll give him some cheese and crackers, or some chicken pieces as a snack to control his diabetes. I’ll put on a TV show we both like and put the food between us, nudging it toward him.

“I don’t want it missy. I’m full,” he said, though I know he can’t possibly be full after eating several hours ago just a small lunch.

I’m not sure why this is--why does he not want to converse as much or interact as much? I wonder if maybe I should cut down on work or if I should not be pursuing another degree. I wonder if that is selfish of me. Between my mom, my aunt, even my brother and myself, it seems as though we support him a lot. So, I just don’t understand this new change.

RESOURCES

It is often encouraged for both patients and family members/caregivers to join a support group. There are support groups offered nearby in Mountain View, San Jose, or even telephone support groups. For support in your area, check out your local groups available.

Alysa Sakkas January 24, 2012 at 10:17 PM
While "enjoying" is not quite the right word, I've been reading your articles and can relate to the confusing changes. We watched as my father-in-law was robbed mentally and physically by Alzheimers until his passing two years ago. I wish you strength.
Nicole Baldocchi January 25, 2012 at 12:33 AM
Alysa, Thank you very much for the support and for reading my column. It means a lot. I'm sorry to hear about your father-in-law; did he begin to lose interest in things, too?
Alysa Sakkas January 25, 2012 at 01:16 AM
My FIL was the most extroverted person I've ever known, and was physically fit. He was known for remembering people's names who he'd only met once, and I don't think he'd changed pant sizes in the ~20 years I'd known him until his final years. He went from being a health-conscious person who rarely ate dessert, to having a big sweet tooth and drinking lots of soda. His memory deteriorated chronologically backward, making it so he didn't know his own grandson that he saw almost every day. It was just weird, unfair, he became a different person. You wonder about depression and how aware they are, and I sadly remember him asking my husband in a moment of clarity before things got really bad, "Why won't God just take me now?", however, for the most part, I'm not sure they really sense the "loss". We're the ones that sense the losses/changes, aren't we?
Anne Ernst January 25, 2012 at 01:48 AM
What a painful memory that must be, Alysa. It's a reminder though how the mind can come and go, which is also a bit of trickery and those of you who care for their loved ones must have a difficult time sorting it all out.
Nicole Baldocchi January 25, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Alysa, Although "thank you" isn't the right set of words, I appreciate your sharing your story here. I'm sorry for what you dealt with. I'd like to think on some level that your father-in-law knew you and the family, even his grandson, were there.

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