Time off for the holidays offers an opportunity to connect with family and friends. And sometimes life brings you a chance to connect with others – in my case the auto repair shop. It wasn’t planned but nevertheless a necessary stop in December. While there, I chatted with the service manager who shared the story of finding nursing care for his father who has dementia. He was fortunate to find a place for his father, aged 78 and to help his mother, 68, put her house up for sale so that she could move into a retirement community. The auto shop’s owners had their own story to tell about her mother’s dementia and the pain it had caused her family when she accused them of stealing her money.
After my car was repaired, I needed a little boost so headed to the coffee shop. There, my daughter and I talked with my son’s friend from high school. His grandmother had dementia and was living at home with him and his mother. And his great-aunt, also with dementia, had recently moved into the home. Two people were being cared for by his mother who was still working full-time. She came home when the caregivers left for the day and took over night care giving duty. And while his grandmother had some resources; his great aunt had moved in with little income and as a new resident of the state would be waiting a while to qualify for any state benefits. He has watched the strain on his mother and questions his own ability to do the same should she need caregiving in the future.
And the next day, at the hair salon, the stylist recounted the story of dismantling her father’s studio. He is a well known potter but due to dementia is no longer throwing pots. And although he is now in assisted living, he still tries to show everyone his studio.
And all this while I watch dementia take over my mother’s days and her paranoia and resulting estrangement from her family have taken a heavy toll on my siblings and me.
It is a big burden for the next generation to carry. A US Senate Special Committee on Aging report says that the number of American Alzheimer’s patients is expected to triple over the next 25 years.
My daughter and I talked about the coincidence of these conversations on the ride home. We talked about how the population is getting older and so these stories would be more and more the norm. I saw a little bit of fear in my daughter’s eyes. She turned to me and said, “what really worries me is that you all will still be driving!”