Dad’s Journey Was Not A Peaceful One For Anyone

I have read that the journey through Alzheimer’s can be one of peace and tranquility or one of angst and struggle. My dad’s journey was not a peaceful one for himself or my mom. Oh how I wished it had been.

Anger with Alzheimer's

As I reflect back, I realized a few things about my dad. I believe he lived his whole life with anxiety and fear that showed itself as anger. I’m not sure where the fear originated from but I know it was there. As Dad progressed through the disease, anger is what stood out a lot of the time.

Dad had always been in control of his home, his kids, his work life. That was the way it was then. He was seen as the boss. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Control can be positive. He was the final decision maker when it came to the home. He was often the final say when it came to raising us, and we turned out pretty good. He was an instrument mechanic and a good one. All of those things are good things. But when someone who is used to having control is losing it, that is a tough battle. As Dad lost control of his world, he continually fought to gain that control back. He became more difficult to be around as his fear, anxiety, and anger took over.

Dad’s behaviour became an exaggeration of his normal. He was argumentative with Mom. Because he didn’t know who she was, he would kick her out of the house. She wouldn’t argue, she would just leave believing it would pass. By the time she came back, he would have settled. When she was gone, he was anxious and scared. He knew he was alone and couldn’t figure out where Mom was. He wanted Mom to come home. Mom never told us much about this for the most part. We aren’t able to help as my brothers and I lived hours away.

Anger that goes too far

One time, Dad struck Mom. Mom did not hesitate to call the police. The police came and rightfully so, did their job. They impressed on Dad that he cannot hit Mom, this woman, or whoever he believed she was. Somewhere in Dad there was a recognition that the police coming to his home, talking to him, meant he was in trouble, he’d done something wrong. There was still that connection there. What the officers didn’t know was that I had put every service available at the door of their home only to have Mom turn them away because “Dad didn’t want or need them”. The officer didn’t believe me when I told what I had been trying to do. Mom was still letting Dad make all the decisions even though his capacity to do so was degrading. The police insisted Dad be assessed at the hospital as they knew, as we did, Dad and Mom needed help. The officer stayed with Mom until the ambulance came. Mom took Dad home shortly after they arrived at the hospital, which legally she could do. Although Dad threatened at times to hit Mom, he never did again. Mom told him each time he threatened if he hit her, she would call the police. That would stop him in his tracks. Thank goodness.

There was little peace for anyone in much of my dad’s journey. Even though we all understood it was the disease, it didn’t get easier for a long time.

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