Archive for June, 2014
This past Sunday was Father’s Day and while I still miss my father, I wasn’t that broken up about it…this time. How emotional I get about certain holidays and birthdays varies; I think I am moving on and I am not that saddened when these certain times come around. Oh sure I still and will always miss him but I just don’t cry like I used to. But on to what this post is really about.
Dad, like mom, was not about going to the doctor for anything. Home remedies where their mantra even though they did take me to the doctor because I had asthma but as for them? Short of something major – and I do mean major like needing stitches – they never went. So as mom continued to spiral down into Alzheimer’s, his body was failing him and an insidious disease was beginning to creep through his body.
I had noticed that dad was limping more and my concerns were brushed off with the cursory “I’m fine, just getting old!” At the time he really wasn’t that old (late 60’s, very early 70’s) but I knew something was wrong; again as with mom not what. Push came to shove and after some pleading and nagging and his realizing things were not getting better I found a doctor to take him to. I believe he was an internist and I regret that I ever took him there.
Why? Well it took hell and high water to get him and mom to that office (I had to beg them for a time period when other people wouldn’t be there as by this time her behavior from the dementia was getting out of hand; more about that side of the visit later) and once there I had to stay out in the waiting room with mom to keep her from bolting or doing something not socially acceptable. Therefore I couldn’t go back with dad to ask any questions or to express my concerns.
Dad was having great difficulty walking by this time which was so different from how they both had been a few years earlier before mom’s dementia came calling, when they used to go mall walking; and he often had to hold onto things like walls or chairs or whatever was handy to move around. When he came out from the exam room mom made straight for him and began to tug at him faster than he could walk towards the door out.
I had to try and do three things at once: watch out for mom, watch out for dad being pulled by mom, and try to have a conversation with the doctor. The doctor told me that he felt that dad had the beginnings of Parkinson’s based upon his quick assessment of taking vitals and watching him walk back and forth; he had the shuffle walk, stiffness, and poor balance which can be attributed to Parkinson’s. I don’t recall if he was given a prescription or not although I do have a vague memory of trying to keep the two of them together at a pharmacy one time.
If there was a prescription given I am sure daddy took it for a few days, didn’t feel any change in his condition, and then stopped taking the medication – sigh. As time went on his ability to walk became more and more difficult with him having to use a cane and then…. I will save the and then for a future post because guess what? He didn’t have Parkinson’s. It was something else, something that eventually took both of his legs and eventually his life – diabetes. What he was experiencing were the nerves (neuropathy) and blood circulation in his legs being damaged by that disease.
What I am trying to encourage you who are at any stage of caregiving is this. No doctor on this planet is God. They make mistakes and some of them are really crappy. This doctor didn’t test dad for anything; he just had him walk back and forth. I’m sure dad did not tell him everything about his symptoms and that is why I wish I could’ve gone back there with him. Maybe if he had gotten a proper diagnosis the diabetes might have been controlled and his standard of living might have been better. Maybe. I implore you that have loved one you are caring for to do your damnedest to talk to their doctors (if and when you can get them in) about the symptoms and signs you see about their health.
True, medical professionals go a bit bonkers over patients who come in with a self diagnosis after having seen one commercial too many or after having surfed WebMD.com but I’d rather you drive them crazy and ask them to rule out something than to miss it all together. You have to be your and your loved ones advocate when it comes to medical care. Doctors don’t always get it right, patients who are afraid, elderly, sick, or with dementia don’t always tell the full story.
When in doubt (and if you can afford it) get a second opinion!
Oh the things she would do when dementia first started in on her. Some of them were funny as heck and others were scary and downright dangerous. I have a friend whose mother had Alzheimer’s too and her mom would put things like the dishes in the freezer. My mother never did that but she developed other weird quirks.
I’ve mentioned the calling me to look up a phone number for her but she had others. She was afraid of direct deposit of their retirement checks into the bank and HAD to take the check straight from their mailbox to the bank and then take out a wad of money to keep in the house and on her for whatever reason she had.
I begged her to do direct deposit for their safety sake but she never did it. She would lay in wait for the mailman when it was time for the checks to arrive, would grab the mail, and then make poor daddy drive them to the bank, do business there and then back home. Only to go right back out again to pay their utility bills – with cash – at the grocery store as soon as those bills arrived.
It was like something in her head was telling her that if she didn’t pay the light bill on the day it arrived they’d cut off their power. But that money thing was terrible! She always hid some money in the house; like with some old TV programs where they kept the money in the mattress, she would hide it wrapped in foil in the flour canister or even wrapped in foil again (what was it with her and foil?) and buried in the crisper under the veggies. Part of that was because she was a child of the great depression but that was compounded by her increasing dementia.
Mom and Dad never had a checking account or a credit card and they paid for everything in cash or money orders. It wasn’t until her dementia had really progressed that I was able to get dad to do direct deposit but that was as far as I could get with them. We never knew how much money mom carried around on her (yes! on her) in that wallet of hers that she either had in a front jeans pocket or tucked in her bra (that used to embarrass the heck out of me and my sister) until she had to be admitted/committed to a psych ward because of something she had done (more about that one later).
It took me and two big burly orderlies to wrangle that wallet away from mom when she was admitted and once I took the myriad of rubber bands she had wrapped around it off, I discovered that she had been walking around with almost $500 dollars on her all in twenties! I nearly freaked out thinking that mom had been walking around with all of that money on her and “what if” someone had tried to hurt her as she was out and about.
Here being put into that psych ward and separated from dad for the first time since he was in the military was heartbreaking for me and Dad and I’m sure in some kind of way Mom was hurt by it all too. It wasn’t a pleasant or beneficial experience and another that I shall delve into later. But it was yet another thing we had to worry about and deal with with my parents until they both entered homes.
Finances are a big sticky thing to deal with when the person is your parent and it can get very complicated when your loved one has dementia regardless of your relation to them. There can be so many variables at work at any given time. They can lose the ability to manage funds and either over spend, fall prey to con artists (and some of those might even be other relatives), or hoard the money in some interesting places. When you try to help they may vacillate between appreciating the help to accusing you of theft all in one breath.
If you can get the legal papers to let you help or fully take over their finances then life will be so much easier but up until that time all you can do is continue to try – exasperating as it may become – to help them as best you can and to watch out for warning signs that something might be wrong. But however you deal with your person and finances try to be kind with them even if you want to scream sometimes because losing the ability to do things that they have done for a very long time is embarrassing, depressing, and scary to them.