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The Deep End of a Short Pier

December 2, 2013

Dad and I worked as a team in keeping Mom safe and happy after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1987.  She died in 1999.    Many opportunities arose for Dad and me to consider and discuss our own wishes.  Throughout it all Dad would say “Before I get to that point, I want to walk off the deep end of a short pier”.

Dad has been in a nursing home now for more than 2 years. He needs help with all of his personal care, he can no longer communicate and he doesn’t remember his loved ones.  He would never have wanted to live like this.  But where is the short pier he was counting on?

My first trip through Alzheimer’s

November 25, 2013

Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1987.  She was only 62.  There were so many little signs:

  • staying just outside of conversations and not being on top of the discussion
  • forgetting family birthdays
  • getting lost on the way to a friend’s house
  • the smoke alarm going off from things left on the stove
  • forgetting which day she had made plans to be somewhere

Dad and I talked frequently about the changes we were seeing and finally arranged for an assessment. We “broke” her car when it was time for her to stop driving.  I set up full outfits on hangers so that he could take away the dirty clothes and give her a fresh outfit.  I took frozen meals to them and soon enough Dad learned to cook. We worked as a team to keep her happy and safe.

Mom would never allow anyone to live in her home caring for her.  So Dad was her primary caregiver.  His stress levels worried me.  By late 1999, Mom’s disease had progressed and we needed help.  Mom was scheduled for minor surgery.  We arranged for a live-in to move in during her recuperation.  We believed that Mom’s recuperation would be a perfect time for her to adjust.  Unfortunately, Mom died as a result of complications from her surgery.

Eavesdropping…… on my Family

November 18, 2013

Every Sunday, for the past 15 years, Dad called his children. For a while his live-in caregiver reminded him it was Sunday and that we were waiting.  When Dad moved in with me, I would sit with him, dial, and hand the phone to him.  I’d stay in the vicinity ready to make the next call.  Since Dad’ hearing is so bad we always used the speaker. I could hear everything, but tried not to listen.

More recently, I sit next to Dad holding the phone while he talks to each sibling.  Now it is impossible not to listen!  Dad isn’t able to communicate anymore.  He doesn’t talk much and when he does there are lots of nonsense words mixed up with some real ones.   I tell them, “he smiled at that.”  “Now he is laughing.” I make sure they know what has distracted him and when he is falling asleep.

Where is Peanut?

November 11, 2013

Dad has always lived with dogs.  Even as a child.  During my childhood we usually had two at any given time.  Cocker Spaniels were the rule.

Peanut was a cute little Cocker Spaniel.  Dad gave her to Mom for her birthday two years before her death.  She was Mom’s constant companion.  After Mom died, Peanut and Dad were inseparable. Peanut died 2 years ago.  She was 15.  Dad still looks for her.  Each time I have to tell him that Peanut is gone, he mourns her death again.

Where is My Car?

November 4, 2013

It seems that we are always discussing Dad’s car.  He is ready to go north and needs his car.  Explaining that the car is in his garage up north is very confusing.  How did we get here without his car??  Who is using his car up north??  Did you sell my car??  Did my son take the car??

Explaining that we don’t need the car until spring when we go up North will sometimes calm him down.  Reminding him of the snow up north may help.  But then again any explanation may make him angry.

Sometimes I can change the subject.  I take him for a walk.  We go to the store.  He helps with dinner.   Other days, he won’t let go.  Those are the worst days.

Where will all of These People Sleep?

October 28, 2013

Every summer our extended family gets together at Dad’s house for a week.  Mom and Dad started this when I was a baby.  It is a special time for all of us.  It has always been Dad’s favorite week of the year.

For the last several years, Dad has had a lot of questions.  Where will everyone sleep? When is Joe arriving?  Who will pick Sara up at the airport? Who is that man?  Did I invite him?  Does everyone have a chair?

He no longer recognizes people. There are continual questions about who people are and how they are related. Cousins may sound familiar but their spouses are lost.  The third generation is totally overwhelming.

Helping him to enjoy his week now requires my constant attention but more importantly, is he enjoying it at all anymore?

How Can I Put Him In a Home?

October 21, 2013

It’s wasn’t safe for Dad to be alone anymore.  I just never knew what he would do.  My daughter and I had split up the days.  We knew just who was responsible at every moment.  We have a schedule posted to assure we stay on track.  She works so the nights and longer days are mine.

Nights have really become a problem. We have alarms on the doors but he has left the house at 2 or 3 am more than once.  One night at 1:30 am, the lights were all on.  He was doing electrical repairs.  Another night he was checking every room.  His parents were “just there a minute ago”.

Then, I found a pair of his boxer shorts draped over a lamp shade. The light was on to help them dry.  The lamp shade and the boxers were scorched.

How could I keep him safe anymore?

I was exhausted. I began to accept that I couldn’t do it anymore.   It was too much.  Taking care of Dad had become my whole world.  I couldn’t let my daughter continue to dedicate so much of her life to his care.  I wanted time with my husband.  It wasn’t working anymore.

But how could I put Dad in a home?