My father has Dementia and primary progressive aphasia. For those who don’t know what that is, PPA is a neurological syndrome in which language capabilities become slowly and progressively impaired and is caused by Dementia. At this point, his aphasia is fairly advanced and makes phone and Skype calls very difficult. He thrives on face-to-face visits, where we can converse (albeit, one-sided but I do understand what he’s trying to say most of the time) or sit in silence while holding hands and watching Cheers on his TV.
In my life, I cannot recall going more than a week without seeing him, making the first 5 months of this pandemic the longest 5 months of my life, thus far. When I was younger, I can’t even count how many times we would sit there and watch cartoons on the weekend. As I got older, our love of card and computer games – primarily this cheesy PC golf game – had us spending a lot of time together. Even as an adult, we would go for lunch, go mini-putting and just hang out.
When my mother moved 8 hours away, ultimately separating from my father, he and I became even closer. I even moved in with him for a while after a separation of my own. It was so convenient. We had our evening ritual – I would often make dinner as his health was starting to slowly deteriorate and would have dessert while watching Family Feud. Steve Harvey would have my dad cracking up. He would always say “He’s so crazy!”
As his Dementia progressed and he went from apartment to retirement home to LTC, visiting him was non-negotiable. As some of my friends would complain about how many times their moms would call or their parents would ask for help, I sat there and envied them. I couldn’t even talk or visit with my dad for almost half a year. I would hear the horror stories of other LTC homes in other cities. Every time the health unit would announce a positive case relating to my father’s facility (thankfully, there weren’t many) my stomach would just be in knots. Not being able to control his safety was torture.
Our first window visit was an emotional one. We cried and laughed. I got to update him on our family’s current events – who’s engaged, who’s pregnant, so on. Our first indoor visit was recently and I FINALLY was able to hug him, before returning to my chair 6 feet away, of course. I’m trying to share the visiting time with some aunts and uncles who want to see their brother so I’m not getting to see him nearly as often as I would like but I’m trying to make the most of it while I can as I fear another lockdown in the LTC sector in the near future. The year 2020 in relation to my time with my dad has been a very difficult road to travel and the journey is not over. I’m perpetually waiting for my swab results to come in to be able to schedule some visits with my dad, to get swabbed and start the cycle all over again.
I beg of you, hug your parents. Don’t brush them off when they call, even if it’s bad timing. Take advantage of the time you have with them because you never know what can happen.
~ Michelle Lambert, Administrative Assistant, Plan A Timmins