The Unexpected Blessing of Living With Someone With Dementia

Editors' Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on Slow Living. Read other perspectives here.

When I heard about the topic of slow living I knew I had to share some of my thoughts as my life has suddenly transitioned from a place of living with just my husband to living as well with my elderly father who is almost eighty-seven years old.

A few months ago my elderly father became a widower and I knew he could no longer live on his own because of dementia and the effects of Parkinson's disease on his body. I was excited to have the opportunity to help him out because I didn't grow up with him and so I knew it was going to be something special; it has turned out to be more than I could've expected.

The surprising thing to me is that my life has completely slowed down. My father eats very slowly, so instead of scarfing down our food in minutes, our dinnertime is now on average at least an hour. At first I felt a little frustrated because my food would get cold by the time my father was ready to eat, so I've learned to slow down and figure out the best way to serve our food. And as crazy as it sounds, my father's slowness has made me look at every area of my life.

My father is a very industrious man, a Korean War veteran and a retired entrepreneur, so when he talks, I listen. He speaks slowly and thoughtfully, which I find inspiring, especially in our day and age when everything is so fast and often nonsensical.

I have learned to walk slower with him and I have learned to wait longer for everything and I feel less anxious and more relaxed because of it.

I am amazed at God's mercy every day because I get to live with a man who has seen the world change from a more simple way of life, to a fast and so-called sophisticated life. For example, when my father was young he worked on a farm and he has told me stories of how his father, my grandfather, would work for pennies on the dollar to provide for his family. My grandfather used to sharpen saws and he took his time so that the user could get more uses out of the saw. In like manner, one night I watched my father take four hours to hang a shelf in my bathroom because he insisted on anchoring the shelf to the wall in places the manufacturer didn't consider. The same job might have taken my husband an hour to do.

When my father prays I also listen because he prays slowly and thoughtfully. For example, instead of saying a typical blessing over the meal that thanks God for the food, my father thanks God for the day, those who prepared the food, and the opportunity to submit ourselves and our bodies into Christ's service.

So, an unexpected death has turned into many unexpected blessings. The opportunity and blessing to serve my elderly father, who often forgets where he is going, what day it is, and what he is doing, has taught me that slowing down is important, because when life is too fast, there's just so much you can miss. Slowing down brings us to the present moment and I believe that's where God wants us to live.