While I have only had a few of those moments of sheer terror so far, I have had the long hours of pure boredom. Once in a while though, Dad surprises me with moments of his old self. The other day I brought down one of his old photo albums.
He smiled and laughed and enjoyed looking at the old photos. It made his day to spend time in the past. The past is where he feels the most comfortable. It is what he still remembers best.
There are a lot of rules when dealing with people with dementia. Join them in their world, where ever, or whenever, that world is at the moment. Don't try to bring them back to your world. It just causes frustration and torment for both of you.
The other day Dad was telling me something he "heard." It was something from his world. It was something of dire consequences. "They had to close the Big Island of Hawaii." He told me with the seriousness of an anchor man talking about the devastation left by a tornado.
"Really?" I asked. Expecting to hear something about a volcano about to erupt.
"Oh, yes!" He continued, "they have to keep everyone off of it." His eyebrows were raised in an all knowing way that I have seen repeatedly since childhood.
"Why," I asked again.
"It broke loose, and is heading for Alaska!" He told me, believing every word he was saying.
Now, I realized I was in his world, and trying very hard not to laugh, and look as if I believed every word, "What? Really?"
"Oh yes! It is going to crash into Alaska. When it does," he was squinting, and looked dead serious, "the volcano is going to explode, and take out half the island!"
"Seriously?" I stayed in his world with him.
"We don't have to worry about it though." He said.
"How come," I had no idea what to expect next.
"It isn't going to happen for a hundred years," he finished.
I don't say this to make fun of him. I say it because it is one of those moments that make the boredom of so many other moments all worth while. It may not be reality as we know it, but it is him still communicating, still talking about things, still with us.
And then there is the number one rule of taking care of people with dementia. The most important rule of all:
DO NOT argue with them. Why? For one simple reason, YOU WILL NOT WIN!
You could be 100% right. You could be sitting and watching the news and it is proving you right. You could have ten books and fifty people proving you right, YOU WILL NOT WIN!
I forgot this most important rule today. I blame myself. I was trying to make a cake from scratch for Willie's birthday, it didn't go well. It took FOREVER to make. I followed the recipe exactly, it did not taste good. It was dry, and not very chocolaty. It had five star reviews on the Food Network app. I thought for sure it would be good. I tell you what, those reviews must have been by people who think grocery store cakes are good. You know the ones, they sit there in the bakery coolers, for days and days, waiting for some fool with PMS craving chocolate to buy. It wasn't even that good. I was pissed!
I went out to the living room and they were talking about the Belmont Stakes. I said something about forgetting that it was on. I like to watch horse racing. Seeing those beautiful beings gracefully running, I just enjoy it. I was sad I missed it and still pissed about the cake.
"They are trying to move that to Iowa," Dad said.
"What? The Belmont Stakes?" I asked, bewildered.
"Yeah, they want to run it at that big car track," he said.
"Dad, they are not going to move the Belmont Stakes to Iowa."
"Oh, yes they are, they offered to pay $75,000 dollars to move it to that big track." He insisted. (Yeah, you read that right, it only took $75,000 to move one of the most elite horse races in the world, to Iowa. What a deal!)
"Dad, they aren't going to bring the Belmont Stakes to Iowa, and they are certainly aren't going to run horses on a car track," I continued, my frustration showing.
"The guy that bought the big track, said he is going to try to get that big horse race there," he was determined.
"Dad, they can't run horses on a car track and they can't run cars on a horse track. The horses hooves would be ruined if they tried to run on a car track. And they aren't going to move the Belmont Stakes there" I tried to get him to understand.
"That's not what they said," (you should know that everything is something "they said") "The guy who bought that track said he is going to bring big horse races there."
"OK," I gave in, remembering the number one rule, don't argue with someone with dementia. I walked away, I did NOT win.
In case you are wondering, the track he is talking about is a NASCAR track in Newton, Iowa. It has had Nationwide and Camping World races there, and I think they are hoping to have a Sprint Cup race there someday. I'm pretty darn sure The Belmont Stakes will never be moved to Newton, Iowa. Except in Dad's world. I will never doubt him again.