‘Before the doctor came in he started telling us about drinking prune juice. He started laughing as he tells us he drank 3 glasses of it, and it worked. We started laughing – loudly.’

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Becky Gacono of Annville, Pennsylvania, chronicles her mother’s dementia journey each week for Love What Matters. This week she grapples with the fact her father realizes he has lost his wife, although she is physically still here.

“Dad continues to struggle. The list is not as long as it had been, but there is still a list. He seems to be adjusting to living in a new place. He is sleeping a little better. He doesn’t seem to call us quite as often. I think I had only 4 calls yesterday and 3 today.

His biggest struggle is watching mom decline so rapidly. He misses her. He doesn’t feel needed because the help she needs now, he can’t do. He misses her hugs, her kisses, her presence. He misses her saying his name. We all knew this day was coming but I’m not sure we understood the emotional and mental strain it would have on Dad.

My sister Mary Ann went to see them on Monday and Dad opened up about his loss. He said he misses mom. He said when he kisses her he might as well be kissing the wall, or his walker. It is so sad. This is a slow, excruciating death, not only for Mom, but for all of us, and especially Dad. We grieve every day for the pieces of her we lose and have lost.

Woman with dementia sits in wheelchair while husband leans over to kiss her
Becky Gacono/Our Journey Through Our Mom’s Dementia

We continue to take Dad out to do things. Last night my brother Kris and his son took Dad to dinner. This morning Mary Ann and I took dad to a doctor appointment. He is doing pretty well for an 89-year-old. Before the doctor came in the room he started telling us about drinking prune juice. He started laughing as he tells us he drank 3 glasses of it, and it worked. We started laughing – loudly. What a wonderful sound! The room was filled with happiness. I realized it was a sound we hadn’t heard for a very long time. For a moment, our world was normal.

89 year old man sits in doctor's office smiling
Becky Gacono/Our Journey Through Our Mom’s Dementia

Lately I have been trying to remember Mom as she was and those memories are getting harder and harder to find. I’m forgetting the sound and rhythm of her voice. The things we talked about. The day to day of my life that was filled with her. I wonder if Dad is losing his memories of her too?

This week the the weight of sadness for my father is exhausting. He realizes he has lost her, but she is physically still here. He is consumed by a grief he is trying to accept but it is taking its toll on who he is. It is a sadness that seems to have wrapped itself around him to the point he cannot breathe.

So we wake up to a new day. We answer calls from Dad. We visit them and we too try to adjust to their new home. We take Dad places. We listen. We do our best to make the best of our new normal. And on a really good day we get to hear what laughter sounds like and we celebrate the little things that used to be.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Becky Gacono of Annville, Pennsylvania. She is chronicling her mother’s dementia journey on their Facebook page, Our Journey Through Our Mom’s Dementia, and in a series of posts for Love What Matters:

‘His love for her is palpable’: Doting husband’s explicit instructions for wife with dementia’s morning routine

‘I’ll get to her outfit later’: Daughter’s humorous attempt getting her mom with dementia to the doctor

Wife with dementia ‘listens’ to husband’s story for 15 minutes before cracking a joke, which ‘gives him a sliver of hope she is still there’

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