Friday, November 27, 2009
Well, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I had a great day with some really good friends that I'm so grateful for. As I was stirring the gravy, though, I couldn't help but think about the last time I actually had a holiday dinner with my family. I've been either cooking my own meal, or arranging to be with friends for what feels like forever. The last Thanksgiving with the whole family was right before my Mom died. I don't remember much about it, when you're young you don't think about the future. I'm sure it seemed just like every other Thanksgiving we'd celebrated. My last Thanksgiving with Dad turned out to be a nightmare; the two of us at a restaurant with me an uncomfortable witness to the growing symptoms of his disease. I doubt he realized it was Thanksgiving as he ate his turkey yesterday with the rest of the residents, so I'll be grateful on his behalf! I'm grateful for the facility and all the hardworking caregivers, I'm grateful for his friend Del and his great doctor who looks after him.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Yesterday I received the paperwork that permits the mental health nurses to do Dad's psychiatric evaluation and monitoring. I've signed plenty of forms for myself, giving people permission to do things or know things on my behalf, and that's fine, its what we do as adults. For the last six years or so I've signed a lot of things in Dad's name, checks, tax returns, intake forms. But as I was signing these forms that give someone permission to examine and evaluate Dad, a person other than myself, I was struck yet again by how odd it is to be making decisions for someone else. I am literally responsible for another adult's life, and the decisions I make have an impact on that person, not on me. What if I make the wrong decision, what if I choose the wrong thing? If I do that for myself, that's one thing, but its not easy knowing my wrong choices could damage my Dad.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thinking about the possibility of moving Dad is stressful for many reasons. I think the only thing NOT stressful about it is the same thing that stressed me out the first time I moved him; whether he would get really angry or refuse to stay. I think we're pretty much past that point. What might happen, though, is that a new environment after four years would throw him completely and irretrievably off balance. After all, the facility is his home, regardless of how much he hates it there. Would the benefits of moving outweigh the drawbacks? And will the debate even matter if the situation gets worse. The director of his facility has already told me that they have resources and places they can send me if Dad gets too violent for them to handle; although I know they like him and will keep him as long as they can. It wasn't a threat, exactly, but it was a heads-up. Given Dad's manifesto of 'staying in control' I wonder just how much repressed anger and emotion is in him, considering how much is coming out now. Or is it just anger about what's happening in the present; bitterness at the indignity and loss of control. I don't suppose I will ever really know.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I had a meeting about Dad today, and then I went to see him while he was having lunch. He has become territorial and aggressive, to the point that we have ordered a psychiatric evaluation to determine what changes to environment or medication would help him; and help the people who care for him. There have been several times recently that he has almost hit either a resident or caregiver. Needless to say, this would be a very bad thing. I sat with him as he ate. He's now at the point where a fork needs to be put in his hand and he needs to be reminded often to actually eat the food in front of him. I spoke to him occasionally but, remembering how we had discussed our mutual love of just being silent together, I just sat with him, trying to radiate calm. Mostly because the environment around him was not. Residents around us screamed, slapped their heads, hummed tunelessly, and groaned as they sat at their tables. It was never quiet, and I could see that some of the screams and physical actions were bothering him. It made me think once again about the possibility of moving him, of finding a smaller facility with fewer residents. I'm sure these vocal and kinetic symptoms of dementia will show up in any facility, but perhaps just having fewer people around and less commotion would be better for him. Its just so hard to know.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Once again, Dad is taking the difficult road, and he's making us take it with him! I finally spoke to the director of the Alzheimer's wing where he lives and she alerted me to some things that were going on with him. On the whole, his facility is an excellent one, but they seem to repeatedly drop the ball in little ways, and I find that really frustrating. I haven't been able to see him for a few weeks, and since I hadn't heard anything, I assumed all was well. Turns out it really wasn't, and no one at the facility had seen fit to give me a simple phone call to let me know! For what other reason are we paying $7,000 a month than to provide a phone and phone service so that the people in charge of my Dad can use it to call me when something is wrong?!
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Over the last few months, I have been both preparing my house for possible flooding, and cleaning it out after the departure of my ex-partner. I've packed up my non-essential, yet much-loved artifacts, mementos, and photo albums and stored them in Seattle. I also thought it would be a good opportunity to go through closets and storage areas and get rid of some stuff. As I did so, I reflected on how cleaning out my Dad's house left me so well equipped to clean out my own! I got very good at deciding what to keep and what to toss, and quite expert at packing the things I did keep in small boxes. I think I inherited that skill from my Dad who had the talents of a Tetris master when it came to packing a car or suitcase. After seeing what Dad's house became, and then having to clear it, I've also become quicker about clearing out clutter and non-essentials. When I had thrown out, packed, stored, or rearranged everything to my satisfaction, I called my friends at GotJunk, another resource discovered during the Great House Clear Out. They came and in one hour spirited away the huge pile of junk I had made in the back yard, including the deflated and damp rubber swimming pool. My house is now clean, organized, and (hopefully) water-tight. Who would have thought that such an annoying and exhausting task as completely dismantling a house would pay off so well in the future? :)
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Alzheimer's literally involves a gradual, complete loss of self. The body forgets details, words, events, people, and eventually how to breathe, eat, and function altogether. If people are containers for their own personalities, experiences, beliefs; their own souls, even. Then Alzheimer's becomes the fissure in that container, allowing everything to slowly leak out. If you choose to become a care-giver for that person, you will become the living repository of everything that person was or did, hampered only by what you know of or can remember about, them. I am an imperfect repository for my father because his story started long before mine, all I have are the bits and pieces he or others have given me. In addition, I have sometimes altered these bits and pieces, and I view him through filters of my own. But I am doing my best to hold on for him to all the things he used to be and do and know. I know that he liked waffles for breakfast, especially if they were brown and crispy. I know that he loved to fly and that the best part of a flight for him was the take-off, when the plane was going its fastest. I know that he had a brilliant mind, and that he loved roller coasters. None of these things are particularly important, but they are all part of what made up an individual, who is slowly losing his individuality. I am an imperfect repository, but a necessary one.