The Descent: One Family's Harrowing Journey Into The Abyss That Is Dementia
When I received a call from the Emergency Room in March 2013, a scenario I had feared for months became a painful reality. My 77 year-old father, who had vascular dementia, had physically harmed my mother, who had been caring for him at home since his diagnosis.
As the disease had progressed, he began to suffer from paranoia. He became convinced she was stealing from him. One evening when extremely agitated, he threw a cookie tin at her, hitting her in the face.
What happened next was unlike anything I could have imagined. A chain of events had been set in motion. I was as powerless to stop the inflexible process dictated by the justice system as I was to impede my father’s descent into madness.
Instead of receiving psychiatric care he desperately needed, Dad was arrested, charged with felony battery, and locked up in the county jail. We worked furiously with a lawyer to have him declared incompetent to stand trial.
The conditions set by the judge for his release placed many roadblocks in our path, and new ones emerged almost daily. Every attempt to free him seemed thwarted by a different obstacle. Dad was incarcerated for twelve excruciating days.
When he was set free, he was so weak he was unable to walk or stand on his own. He had not showered, shaved or brushed his teeth the entire time. We believe he was also not given any of his medications, for his dementia or his Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
Worst of all, he had no idea where he had been or why. He had no memory of the event, and thought he had been in a psychiatric hospital. He believed we had put him there.
There was no true victory in his release, as it failed to offer relief from the cruelties of living with dementia. I found myself constantly operating in crisis mode, torn between caring for my parents and my young daughter.
The next year of our lives was a long, stressful string of heartbreaking events. The final one being a fall that resulted in Dad shattering his pelvis. He died shortly thereafter, on March 10, 2014 at the age of 78.
The Descent is a memoir sharing an extraordinary set of circumstances generated by a disease all too common in our society.
© Elizabeth Flora Ross 2014 All Rights Reserved.