Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Helping or hindering?

I am concerned for my Dad. He is going to enjoy his 74th birthday in a couple of weeks. As a robust younger man, he ran his own car mechanic workshop, grew his own vegetables, fixed everything from plumbing to furniture, cooked and cleaned with verve, and played tennis with enthusiasm. My Dad seemed to be able to handle anything.

Lately this has not been the case. He is cranky, chronically sleepy, argumentative and forgetful. I am worried he is showing signs of dementia but he has been recently cleared by his doctor of this. What has been diagnosed is diminished hearing, high blood pressure and sleep apnea. He is over weight and prone to tripping, often falling to his knees. His reflexes and comprehension have slowed causing him to lose his temper in his frustration to cover his embarrassment or misunderstanding. My Dad seems suddenly old.

My Mum is always chiding and scolding him and he responds with resentment and words of blame directed mainly at her. Mum swings from total self sacrifice to weeping fury. I am often called upon to make peace, sort out Dad's paperwork and find a solution to the latest problem. Even though my help is appreciated I have a feeling there is more that I can do but what is it?

I heard a woman telling the story of her father's experience with dementia. She found that when she engaged her father to help another person, he seemed to regain his self respect and sense of value. He was less difficult to manage even though his level of dementia remained the same. This started me thinking about whether I was truly helping my Dad or was I hindering him?

It is easy to undermine, emasculate, devalue another human being with just a few words. The tongue can cut to the heart. My own heart aches to think I have inflicted unintentional paper cuts to my Dad's current state of mind with a few curt remarks, impatience or being smart arsed.

From this moment I intend to engage my Dad to help me. If I can give him purpose and value, the time and space to contribute in any way he can, to show him true thankfulness for his generosity, to listen and to talk to him without criticism, maybe just maybe I can lead back to the land of the living versus sliding into the empty spaces of his mind.

I love and treasure my Dad. 

I am going to make his life sweet.

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