Monday, May 1, 2017

Dementia: A Learning Journey

A Son's Journey to Understand Dementia Continues After Father's Passing

By Rich Barger

I’m Rich Barger and this is a story about my dad. My dad was a resident of Villa Gardens  Retirement Community. He spent his final months at the Summer House memory care neighborhood at Villa Gardens. My dad passed away on January 17, 2016 from late stage Parkinson ’s disease, which is one of the common dementias.

My dad’s final chapter took almost three years to write. During those three years, I learned much about the behaviors associated with each stage of the disease that I knew would eventually take his life. I know now that managing his dementia was more than seeing his doctors and filling his prescriptions – it was about maintaining my dad’s dignity, managing expectations, and making certain that the last years, months, weeks, and days of his life were as fulfilling as they could be. Fortunately for me and my family dad used that time to his advantage.

My dad’s final chapter would have had a far different ending if it weren’t for the excellent care he received from what had quickly become his extended family at Villa Gardens. I am now paying forward that excellent care and find myself in a very different place than I believed I would be – learning about caregiving, supporting the members of the memory care community, finding ways to assist the staff, and educating myself.

Dementia is just now being understood. There are more than 80 different forms, and the chemistry that causes dementia is a new science for most of the medical community. What I found was that caregiving takes on a new meaning when it involves taking care of a loved one that has been diagnosed with an affliction that will eventually take his or her life. My behavior would certainly have been different during my dad’s final chapter if I had the knowledge and understanding that I have now.

I’ll share more as I learn more. I’m hopeful that many of you will take that learning journey with me and support our Summer House memory care community.

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