I invited my father-in-law to watch Mission of Honour, a 2018 film about Polish fighter pilots who helped the RAF defeat the German air force. It was not long before I realized that he could not keep up… He was not following the dialogue, the jokes or really the plot lines. All he could say was that it reminded him of his own experiences of the war (though the war ended before he made it out of infantry training).
It quite literally brought me to tears when I realized the extent of his cognitive decline but I pulled myself together and kept the movie going. He stuck it out too and thanked me for it and agreed he would like to do it again. I will keep organising movies in the living room where we have Netflix because it is so much better than him staring into space in his suite, which is how he often spends his evenings. He is sliding pretty quickly because of his increasing isolation caused by the potent mix of his dementia “shyness”, his lack of stimulation from his ladies in waiting and his Irish stubbornness making his “no’s” more truculent.
Life has a way of keeping us busy and a week has gone by since I started writing this. He is doing much better now and he is a lot happier!
First, I solved a medication issue by reducing his antidepressants so he is now more awake and alert. I have restarted two of his ladies in waiting due to the low level of Covid risk in our rural area so that each week day he has some feminine, cheerful energy in the house for an hour or two. Last week he even went for a walk for the first time in a month!
I also bought him some books and I have started watching WWII documentaries with him at supper in the evening and my wife watches a movie with him on Friday evenings. His life is richer and he is much happier. In fact, last night he brought me to tears again when he volunteered that he sleeps really well at night because he feels so secure in our home. So yes, he has lost ground during this Covid time that will not be recovered. Yes, his obsessive hawking and spitting will likely always be with him. Yes, we do not know what a 2nd wave will bring but we are able to accept and love him as he is and find our way through it together.
So, easy does it. It is a difficult journey that will end with his inevitable death, but we are finding the grace to continue adjusting his bubble so that he can be as content as possible until he shuffles off this mortal coil.
Originally written August 3, 2020