He No Longer Had a Home in This World

My dad was dying from dementia long before we realized he was slipping away

Melissa Miles McCarter
Human Parts
Published in
4 min readAug 13, 2019


My dad stayed at the home of his grandparents during the summers. Photos courtesy of the author.

PPeople think of dementia as little old men or women wandering off or forgetting the names of their children. It’s assumed to be a slow decline that might even be accepted as a normal part of old age. The only way I can describe it, when it happened to my father, is that he no longer had a home in this world.

I knew my father’s dementia wasn’t “normal” when his home health nurse told me that my dad was writhing around on the floor, having dropped himself off the bed despite his paralyzed limbs.

That’s not normal, I thought.

It turns out that what I thought was normal behavior in a person with dementia is quite different than reality. Quick to anger. Violence. Abusive language. Intense mood swings. These are all symptoms of dementia.

My dad wasn’t a gentle old man in his pajamas lost in the neighborhood, having forgotten his own name. One time, I called him and he told me George Washington was outside his window, looking for him. My dad wasn’t afraid; he was almost jolly. He was watching a documentary on the founding of America, the nurse explained. I guess that kind of made sense.