Although many things have changed about my father in the last few years, his willfulness is not one of them. Having spent his career as a sailboat captain, he’s used to being master of his domain, the boat being the tiny universe in which he reigned. When he gave orders, the crew jumped into action. But the last few years have been a gradual loss of control: first the slow disappearance of his neurological faculties and now the spiraling derailing of his entire world.

A few months later, an MRI of his brain confirmed our deepest fears: dementia, vascular, early onset. He wasn’t even old enough to qualify for Medicare.

These early stages were the hardest, but I suppose every stage has been hard in its own way. After his diagnosis, he still possessed enough self-awareness to believe that he did not need any help from anyone because he was perfectly fine. We put him in an assisted living facility (ALF) near my sister’s home in Atlanta, a move he fought with vigor, pushing furniture against his door so the nurses couldn’t check on him and threatening suicide anytime my sister and I called. He refused to eat the food provided by the dining hall, choosing instead to eat his meals at a steakhouse nearby. Eventually, he persuaded the waiter who’d become his friend to drive him to the airport so that he could take a flight back to Miami.

ALFs didn’t want patients like my father: strong-willed, young, and combative.

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Featured image: Brussels, Belgium – December 6, 2019: Christmas market in Place Sainte Catherine at night. Sainte Catherine is a must-see area of Brussels and a paradise for seafood lovers. Albert Pego/ Shutterstock