At a Loss for Words


At a Loss for Words

scrabble-tiles-906404_640I moved Dad from Illinois to Texas three weeks ago. I've lived away for nearly 30 years, so seeing him nearly every day during these past three weeks has been quite eye-opening. Some days, he's sharp as a tack, full of energy, happy and fully mobile. On those days, I leave the assisted living facility wondering if I did the right thing by placing him there and (in his words) "locking him up." However, I can go back the very next day, and he will be confused, tired, grumpy and unsteady. Most days, he's somewhere in the middle.

The one consistent thing I have noticed is his speech. He's starting to forget random names and other nouns, and tends to speak in rather vague terms. I'm struggling to figure out how to best handle it. I am horribly impatient by nature, so it can be a challenge for me to not complete his sentences or correct him. He gets frustrated and agitated if he sees that I don't understand him, so I have to be careful with my reactions and questions. Sometimes he can bluff his way through, continuing to talk around the word until I can grasp the context. In those cases I just play along as if nothing is wrong, and stay focused on the conversation at hand.

But sometimes, I'm not so lucky. Here was today's conversation:

Dad: "Did you ever hear back from those people about that thing you were looking into?"

Me: (uh... What "thing?" Who are "those people?" A pile of possible things and people suddenly flood into my mind.) "Which thing, Dad?"

Dad: (somewhat annoyed) "You know, what we were talking about when you were here the other day!"

Me: (bracing myself) "Sorry Dad, which topic? I've been checking on a lot of things lately so I'm probably a little confused."

Dad: (getting agitated) "That insurance thing - you were waiting to hear back from someone and were going to call them!"

I finally realize that he's actually not talking about insurance, he's talking about a document his attorney is drawing up for him. So now I need to carefully word my response, as "correcting" him will only move him from agitate to angry.

Me: (being intentionally vague) "Oh, that--yes, I did talk with them yesterday afternoon. They are going to send me the document. I should have it by the end of this week."

Dad: (satisfied and moving on) "Hey, can you hand me that thing off the top of the dresser over there?"

I'm at a loss.

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Try not to second guess ... okay, we all do it a lot. My dad used to call the assisted living facility \"Happy Acres\" - with a very sarcastic tone. I know he didn't like it at first, but he's doing okay with it now. Mom still talks about being locked up at times. Other times she's happy because she has friends again.\n\nYou've done a lot!


TBD, you may have been out of the family loop for 30 years, but your interpersonal skills never suffered for it. From your perspective at this point, it feels like being \"at a loss\". I want to reassure you that \"loss: would be the last word I would use to describe your reaction to the new circumstance you're in. To quote your own words, you've \"noticed\", \"wondered\", \"struggled\", \"played along\", \"carefully worded your response\", and more. Those aren't loss words, those are very much loving and in-touch words. This journey is a struggle, but you have brought great skills to the table, and I look forward to your next post.


Oh, gosh, TBD. I really relate to your situation. I can't believe how much you've done in just three weeks. You're really doing great.\n\nAnd, as you know, I understand the second thoughts. These decisions take so much adjustment for all of us.\n\nI do think that as you spend more time with your dad these conversations will become easier. I think the stress around his word loss will lessen and you'll be more confident in your ability to understand him.\n\nHave you been able to schedule a doctor's appointment for your dad? \n\nI'm so glad you are blogging. :)\n\n