If I can be honest with you, friends, I will share that so far 2017 has not been treating me well. What normally kicks off a season of positive change and excitement for most people, has not been so for me. While there are many things I can be (and am) grateful for, there have also been quite a few moments of frustration, sadness, and uncertainty that have led to nearly two months of being in a fog. And I hate it.
What has been going on, you ask? Well, it started shortly after New Year’s Day with a more aggressive progression of my father’s dementia and decline in his health. In the last 6-9 months, he has gone from being able to walk with a walker and eating normally to being bed-ridden and needing to be fed. Despite that, he was still generally healthy. Yet, in the last 2 months, he progressed further and is now on a puree diet since he is unable to chew and swallow food. Well, unable is inaccurate. Physically, he is able, but the dementia prevents him from doing so. (In essence, his body has forgotten how to swallow.)
Even with pureed foods, he is still having difficulties eating and often times begins to choke due to not swallowing the food. He even has issues with liquids, causing concern for dehydration. All of this, of course, is incredibly frustrating for our family, but especially for my dear mami, who is his primary caregiver and the one that feeds him. Continuing on this path of progression, we all know the inevitable reality – my papi will one day stop eating altogether. We just don’t know how long before this unfortunate scenario occurs. This knowledge is what eats me up inside.
I hate to sound overly dramatic, but the truth is that it feels almost like I’m grieving something that I know is coming (soon?). “It’s weird to feel like I’m grieving something that hasn’t yet happened,” I told a friend recently. But, this is honestly how it feels. I know that the outlook isn’t great. I know that this is a reality our family is facing. And though we don’t know if my papi will continue to eat his pureed foods for years or months, either way feels like a bandage on an ever-bleeding wound.
I share all of this because I know the struggle of dealing with dementia and seeing a loved one suffer from this life-robbing disease is one that many people also experience. Perhaps some of you can relate or are currently in similar situations. While I wish I had some hopeful or encouraging words, I can only say that I understand. Maybe one day I will look back on this phase and after some reflection be able to see some light in this bleak moment. For now, I will try my best to be a light for my mami, as I personally struggle with the daily thought that my papi is succumbing to the dementia.
All photos © Melanie Edwards/modernmami™