Dealing with Parents’ Dementia


Yesterday, my Dad was kicked out of his nursing home due to bad behavior. Today, he is being transported to a Geriatric Psych Unit, a few miles from his home. His diagnosis: Vascular Dementia. Patty’s Mom had the same diagnosis.

Mom’s was caused by a stroke induced by a common procedure called an angioplasty. It’s also called a balloon catheterization, a non-surgical method of expanding restricted arteries.

I still remember the doctor showing off the before-and after-x-rays to prove that her once restricted arteries were open. What he didn’t say was the procedure caused a stroke by loosening a blood clot that flowed to her brain. The hospital never did acknowledge her stroke. We were told old people get confused in the hospital.

Elderly people are not usually treated with the same level of care, as younger people. They get written off.

She was not herself from then on, for the last five years of her life. We dealt with her constant packing up, thinking she was moving “back home,” as we watched her soul gradually slip away over those long years.

Dad’s dementia has been more gradual, and harder to recognize in its beginning stages, since his regular personality included OCD, anxiety, and self-centered behavior. As his condition worsened, he became more and more demanding of my mother, who was in worse physical condition than he was. His dementia is an unfortunate addition to all of that.

Now he has forgotten how to do some basic things, like taking his medication according to schedule, or working the thermostat. He has withdrawn more and more, and being hard of hearing, he makes his displeasure known at high decibel levels.

Yesterday, he even got physical with staff, apparently, being very angry about being in a nursing home. Hence, he was sent back to the hospital. As I write, he is being prepared for transport to geriatric psych unit in another community a few miles away. There they can regulate his medication, and provide a structured environment. It is a delicate balance. If overmedicated, he falls asleep all the time. If undermedicated, he is agitated, an difficult to manage.

This is all so difficult for my mother because his bad behavior is something she has to deal with constantly for years, even in the middle of the night, since his sleep patterns are out of whack.

It’s hard for me because I am so far away. I do a lot from here, but distance caregiving has serious limitations. Mom needs better support.

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia share common symptoms, and are equally draining for caregivers and loved ones.

It is easy to fall into a guilt trip when you have to put your father in a nursing home or a psych unit, even when it must be done.

I wrote this a few days ago. Things are a bit better at the moment. 

About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
Bookmark the permalink.


  1. My first thought upon reading this: How can I pray for Glenn?
    My second thought: Jesus, come quickly!
    Oh yes. When things are beyond my control or it is something I don’t want to deal with, I want it to just all be over! But I also believe that it is only through our trials that we are trained and sanctified. We in America have it so easy that whenever trials come, we want them over instead of learning the lesson and growing to be like Jesus. Bah! I get so disgusted with myself! But that is good! That means something needs to change. In this case, it is actually to quiet myself and ask Papa God how he wants me to pray. So know that your blog is an impetus to my communion with God, and that you and Patty are being prayed for!

  2. Periodically check in on your blog because I appreciate your writing. Don’t usually comment, but having just lost my mum (my Dad died in ’09) I wanted to tell you that I am so sorry to hear about the reality with your Dad. It’s hard, and I pray you find the grace for this season.

Leave a Reply