The Person is the Priority

The stuff of dealing with a serious disease can overshadow the person – at a time when the person really needs to be seen and acknowledged.

I wrote these words in my notes during a class about supporting people with cancer. A lot of what I learned at that seminar is applicable to dementia, but this note about the “stuff” (the business and busy-ness) of dealing with an illness stands out as particularly relevant.

This year, with my father’s dementia placing me in the position of having responsibility for his care, I’ve felt like I’ve been drowning in the “stuff” of paperwork and phone calls.

The process of getting up to speed with his bank accounts and insurance policies . . . Figuring out who’s who on his medical/care team . . . Updating family and friends about his situation . . . Plus all the issues of his pending divorce . . . It’s been a full time job.

My challenge is to remember that all this stuff, important as it is, has to be kept in perspective. It all needs to be done. Much of it is urgent. But I cannot let it overshadow the person that I’m doing it for!

My dad has had his life stripped away. His independence. His sense of purpose. They’re gone. Dementia has changed his world.

He needs to know he is still important. He needs to know he is loved. As much as it is possible, that is my priority.

Frankly, the “stuff” is easier to deal with than Dad is. Recently, he’s been accusing me – and others – of all manner of plotting, incompetence and evil-doing. So, today, I’d rather sit down and balance his checkbook than talk with him.

But he is my dad, and he has been a good, generous, hard-working person all of his life. He deserves to be acknowledged, appreciated and loved for who he is –  now more than ever.

My dad takes me and our little dog Trixi for a wagon ride (1964-ish)

My dad takes me and our little dog Trixi for a wagon ride (1964-ish)

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