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My dad's still around, but he's not

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Hi everyone,

I'm so happy to have found this community. A little bit about myself: I am a 29 (soon to be 30) year old American male. I am currently an English teacher in South Korea. I've been working here on and off since 2018, few years before the pandemic. I spent most of my 20s here, and not sure where exactly I will go yet. For now, all I know is that this fits my lifestyle.

My father is 72. Two Christmases ago, he had a heart attack just one week after I returned to Korea. At that time, I was really distraught. Ever since then, his health has been declining rapidly. He is in stage 3 or 4 of dementia, I'm not sure the exact stage. I decided to return back to the US last May in an attempt to be able to spend more time with him. The time is well spent, but it agonizes me that he can't remember any of those moments. Dementia is a demon. I could not fully integrate back in the States, so I returned to Korea just a few months ago. Although I really enjoy my life and living here, I feel a new level of isolation knowing that my father is nothing like what he used to be. He was just forced to retire, which means lots of time at home, and I don't think he's ever been used to this much free time in his life. Not only that, at this point, taking him out in public has become a burden and a danger. I know that it's really putting a damper on my mom, as she's still in her mid 50s. She's very sharp and this is affecting her as much as me.

Because we are so far away from each other, communication has become really difficult. When I was in the US last year, spending time with him, it felt like I was with a toddler. I cannot iterate it enough, but dementia is a demon. I love my father dearly, but I have also come to realize now that I am an adult about his narcissistic tendencies as well. Narcissism and dementia is a strange and very overwhelming combination. He acknowledges his health is on the decline, but he is in denial that he has any sort of memory problems. Quick to blame others. Always talks about people that me (and nobody else in the family) cares about, despite my efforts to tell him that he should focus on his kids (hello - me!!).

At this point, I have been grieving his loss already. It feels like any day he could pass now. My mom shares the same sentiment, and I think it's slowly driving her insane as well. It put me in a bit of a manic episode last year. Nowadays, it's affecting me in my daily life and when I go to work. He has that blank stare in his eyes, and you can see that he's scared. It really made me emotional spending that time at my parents' house for those 7 months. I think this is in part to the fact that his memory problems are so bad. I feel like I am wasting my time if I give him a phone call, as he's not going to remember any of it. He's losing his ability to use technology as well, which makes it even more difficult to communicate.

I'm just posting this as a form of relief for myself. Again, I love being across the world, but I sometimes feel conflicted - I should be spending my time there, with him. I can't revolve my life around him, and him sitting in a chair watching the news all day. It's really sad to see. I also worry that one random morning I will get a message from my mom telling me to come home ASAP because of his condition. It doesn't help that living here, I already have a smaller network of friends. And, no family. Family is such a meaningful connection. I've also never truly experienced loss or grief at this capacity - probably because it's my own father. It's only been 15 months since the heart attack, and I could notice the changes month by month.

Any advice or insight on how to cope with this would be much appreciated. Also, for my mom as well. I worry about her a lot, too. I told her to make a trip here during my summer vacation so we could have some bonding time. She joined a support group for "spouses with dementia," or something of the like, but I know she even feels worse being there. The other members tell her she is "too young" to be in there, and that she should have "got out" while she could.

Thanks for reading. I hope everyone is doing well, and hopefully, better than me!

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I'm so sorry for what you're going through.  My mom died of it.  It was really hard when she forgot how to use the phone.  She lived alone until she was 90, then spent the last two years two months in the dementia care facility.  It took us a year to get her a court ordered evaluation and they ordered her to the facility but it took a few more months before an opening was available.  I was working out of town and had to drive further to go see her.  I had other siblings who never went until two weeksd before she died, I am so glad I encouraged them to.  To my siblings' credit, my mom had mental illness all her life and was highly abusive, they had good reason but I wanted them to see how she'd softened since getting on medication.  Her brain became pretty empty before she died, but always she knew me and my brother, even my sisters although never seeing them.


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12 hours ago, p3nguu said:

Any advice or insight on how to cope with this would be much appreciated. Also, for my mom as well. 

I want to share with you some readings that I hope you and your mom will find helpful. Note that each of these articles include links to dozens of additional resources:

Anticipating the Death of One's Parents

Staying Present in the Face of Inevitable Loss

Caregiving and Grief in Alzheimers and Dementia: Suggested Resources

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