01/30/2014 06:51 am ET Updated Apr 01, 2014

A Room For My Father

They gave us a list. To make preparing easier, it read.

It included all the basics. Practical things: furniture, linens, toiletries, and clothing. Under each category there were specific items listed.

We were pressed for time. Rushed. We had known the day would come; yet when it arrived we felt unprepared. The circumstances were unlike anything we ever could have imagined.

There wasn't time to process everything we were going through. We had to focus, work hard and get things ready fast.

I felt a heavy weight as we made our preparations. This was more than a room in a memory care facility. It would be his home for the rest of his days.

He needed familiar things. Items used in his everyday life before he became ill.

He needed favorite things. Items that bring him comfort and joy.

He needed reminders. Items to stimulate treasured memories and help him retain them for as long as possible.

But when those memories are gone, I want my father to be surrounded by evidence of a full life. A good life. I want him to see he was loved by many. Accomplished much. Laughed often.

I painstakingly compiled a photo history of his life. Family. Friends. Trips. Events...

It was a labor of love. But, if I'm truly honest, it was as much for me as it was for him.

The thing about dementia is, the grieving process begins long before your loved one dies. You lose him before you actually lose him. It is a pain unlike any I have experienced.

And, at a certain point you are relegated to the sidelines of your loved one's life. Forced to watch the descent into madness and powerless to stop it.

In many ways, the man I have cherished all my life is gone. But he will forever be my hero. My role model. My dad. As long as he is alive, he deserves to be treated with love, caring, respect and above all, dignity.

And so I helped prepare a room for my father. Because it was all that I could do.

This post originally appeared on It is part of a series I will be sharing here concerning my family's journey with dementia.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

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