Saturday, May 24, 2014

Quiet Dangers.

A few years ago, my father had emergency surgery for an infected boil. I happened to be out of town at the time, but the surgery went well and he was out of the hospital in a few days. When I went to see him the morning he got back home, he looked just awful. Gray, a little clammy, stiff, and obviously still in a great deal of pain in his nether region. He looked like he’d been through the ringer. A few hours later, I got a call from his caregiver that he was concerned about Dad, who wasn’t eating, was sweating profusely, couldn’t go to the bathroom, and just seemed ill. I told Greg to take him to the ER and I took off.

When they came into the lobby, poor Dad looked like a spooked horse. Eyes rolling, showing the whites, stumbling, and obviously in distress. We got him into a wheelchair and the nurse took him back. As I waited next to him, I felt so helpless. After hours and tests, it was determined that the problem was excessive pain: Greg hadn’t given him enough pain meds because he hates to drug up his residents. Once the doctor-administered pain med started to work, Dad was a lot better. I made sure that Dad got all the pain meds he needed after that.

What too many people don’t know, caregivers and non-caregivers alike, are the life-threatening effects that things like pain, discomfort, infections, and surgeries can have on those with dementia. An infection can cause unexpected of behavior issues, acting out, total withdrawal, catatonia, and, of course, death from the dangers of the infection. The effects of anesthesia can include permanent muscles stiffness, Parkinson’s symptoms, and cognitive breakdown. Pain can cause some of the same things, as well as making the individual unable to do things like eat, go to the bathroom and sleep. 

For us, these are relatively simple things, (usually) easily fixed. But for a person with dementia, it becomes a whole other, serious, issue. Because, the problem is, they can’t tell us what is going on! We have to guess and make mistakes and cause even greater discomfort before we figure it out. They, and we, have to rely on their bodies to help us understand. I felt so bad for Dad, having to suffer for so long, not knowing why, and not able to tell anyone about it, bewildered and in pain. I know what it’s like to be in pain, and it’s something you want to go away ASAP.

This is why the more articles, and blog posts, and forum topics, and Facebook posts I see warning people of the dangers and effects of pain, infections, and surgeries, the better. We need to keep getting the word out, not only to family caregivers, but to professional facilities so they know exactly what they are looking at when they are looking at it, and can act as soon as possible. Nobody deserves to be in pain or discomfort, and everyone deserves to be heard and cared for – we need to listen to what they may be trying to tell us.

 Here is a link to a great article recently on another possible effect of UTIs.



  1. Exactly! it is a daily excersize for me to go over my mother. ears, nails, teeth, listening at bathroom door, looking at underwear. If she goes 'ouch' walking a long she will deny it, so i have to observe all the time. She will also deny being tired!

  2. Ugh... reminds me of the time MIL had an ulcer and didn't tell us of any pain or any symptoms until it burst. And then her house flooded while she was in hospital. Nightmare six months would NEVER want to repeat, but wrote about it here... :)

    DG x