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Archive for July, 2012

Mom complained of burning when she urinated this week so dad called Dr. L’s office for medication.  I knew nothing about this until they canceled the trip they were planning because of it.  Later both told me that the medication had caused an allergic reaction.  Dad went into detail, telling me that a few hours after taking the first dose of the antibiotics mom began to shake profusely.  Dad wanted to take her to the emergency room, but she refused.  Around midnight when mom was still shaking uncontrollably he suggested that they call me to, “come pass the time.”  Mom refused, telling dad that she was certain I would insist on her going to the ER and she didn’t want to go.  She was correct, I would have.

Mom became anxious, asking to go outside and walk, so off they went down the sidewalk in front of their house next to a busy street, dad in his pajamas and mom in her nightgown.  A few feet into the walk mom had enough and they returned to the house.  She then wanted to go for a ride in the car.  Once again, off they went, still in gown and pajamas.  A couple of miles into the trip mom was ready to return home and dad turned onto the nearest street and headed in that direction.  The street on which he turned ran along side a graveyard and mom soon began yelling for dad to stop the car.   Confused, dad slammed on the brakes bringing the car to a stop.  “Look, there’s my mother and father,” mom said pointing out of the front window.  “They are calling for me.”  Dad tried to calm her, reassuring her that there was nothing there.  “Yes, they are right there.  They are calling for me to go with them.  I want to go.  I’m just so tired,” mom answered.  At this point dad choked up, tears springing to his eyes.  “I told your mother that we would go home and change out of her nightgown then come back.”  Once home mom never mentioned it again.

I’ve never met my grandfather as he died when I was a baby and my grandmother died 28 years ago.  But that was the very graveyard in which they are buried.  Mom’s dementia has caused her to see many people and many things, however up until that point they were all living beings.  Are things changing?  Is mom moving into the land of the dead?  I pray not.

For now Mom is back in the land of the living and today they left on their little trip.  When I spoke to dad he sounded a bit flustered but couldn’t elaborate since mom was near.  He did say that mom didn’t sleep at all last night – she was too excited about their trip.  He woke at 5:00 a.m. to find her side of the bed empty.  Mom was already up and dressed.  Lately he hasn’t been able to get her out of bed until after noon.  I remember those days when I was a child, when I too could not sleep in anticipation of an exciting event.  I think perhaps mom has returned to her inner child.

It truly is a circle in the path.

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Yesterday dad left home for a while to run an errand.  He goes early in the morning while mom sleeps because she tends to get anxious if he leaves her alone.  When he returned he couldn’t find mom.  She was not in bed which was unusual for that time of the morning.  The light was on in the bathroom, but she wasn’t in it.  Dad began to panic, running around the house calling for her.  Finally he heard her answer and found her in the laundry room moving clothes from the washer to the dryer.  It has been probably two years since mom has done laundry, or any type of housework for that matter.  Dad was so relieved and excited to tell me about mom’s morning activity.  As he told me the story Mom just sat there beaming, looking quite proud of herself.

Such a small thing, yet so big!

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As mom’s mental health continues to decline, so does dad’s physical health.  A recent trip to the cardiologist shook him up a bit.  His A-fib problem has grown much worse.  The occasional irregular heart beat that was being controlled by medication has become chronic.  The EKG showed a constant irregularity.  The cardiologist was concerned, telling dad that if the condition is not brought under control it could lead to a stroke.  Dad was then put on a much stronger medication.  Yes, dad was scared.  He called me aside, away from mom and told me the news.  I can’t say I was surprised.  Dad is under constant stress, his eating habits have become extremely poor, partially due to mom’s insistence on getting beignets almost daily and the numerous trips to the casino at which they eat the casino buffet or a variety of fried foods.  In addition, dad has slowed down considerably, no longer riding his bike daily as he began doing shortly after his last cardiac scare.  “Dad, did you not feel your heart fluttering or beating rapidly?” I asked.  “No, but after I took the first new pill it was like I felt my chest open up,” he responded.  I stressed the importance of beginning his exercise routine again and the necessity of a better diet.  I’m not sure I got through.  At this point he is just in survival mode.

And mom’s mental decline seems to have accelerated.  One day last week dad asked me to call Dr. L to see if there was a stronger dementia medication for mom.  The answer, no, she is on as strong a dose as possible and there is nothing better to give mom for her condition.  Dad calls me when he’s at his wit’s end.   “I just wanted you to know what I’m living with.  Your mother is sitting in the car and refuses to get out.  She wants to go to the casino.  If I had all the money in the world I’d drop her off in the morning and pick her up at night, but I don’t.”  My response, “Just leave her dad.  When she gets tired of sitting in the car she’ll come out.”  Is that the right thing to say?  Is that the correct thing to do?  Who the hell knows?

Dad’s frustration with mom and with his situation has grown more apparent.  He snaps at her, he fusses about her behavior, he talks about her and down to her in front of whoever is around.  I pulled him aside recently and talked to him about how mom has become childlike and we need to treat her as gently as we would a child.  I suggested that when he got frustrated he stop and think of the many good years that they’ve shared and the reasons why he has always loved mom so dearly, before dementia stole her from him.  I’m not sure he heard me, or maybe it’s just too much for him.  Today, his frustration exploded.  Sitting on my patio, mom anxious, wanting to leave, again asking to go to the casino, dad just couldn’t deal with it for another moment.  He raised his voice, “I’m tired of this shit!” He ranted, he told her how sick and tired he was of the damn casino.  He asked me to get him the number to Gambler’s Anonymous because he was going to put her in it.  He can try, but by tomorrow she will have forgotten that Gambler’s Anonymous exists.

It is so difficult for me to watch.  Until recently I had never seen dad raise his voice to mom.  I rarely saw him disagree with her.  She was his queen.  And now here mom sits, being berated by the man who has adored her for 60 years, simply looking at me and shrugging her shoulders, not caring much about anything other than getting to that casino.

Maybe I need to speak to someone about how to handle this situation, how to help dad handle his frustration.  Certainly there are others struggling with the issue of a dementia patient and gambling.  We can’t possibly be the only people dealing with this.  I’ve tried researching “dementia and gambling”, but nothing much really comes up.  I’m pretty sure the gambling industry has a hand in that.

My hope for today is that the casino is the one thing mom does forget – and soon!

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