Parental Journal 11 from Planet Elderly: A Frisky Day for Dad

April 30, 2014 5:30 a.m.

Into a fairly regular routine with its good days and bad days. When Mom gets snappy or angry about a question or suggestion, I just go into quiet mode. There’s no point in trying to explain when she is excited. She’ll just start yelling. She’s under a lot of stress and has always been easily excitable. It doesn’t take long for her to apologize, and when she does I say something like, “I understand. This is a difficult time for you.” Yesterday she got mad and told me to go home if I didn’t want to be there. No one wants to “be there” in this situation, but it is what it is. I told her to calm down and then I sat down while she cried. Eventually she calmed down enough and we had a good talk. It was almost like a mini counseling session because she talked about all the things she’s worried about. I just listened. I didn’t reassure or explain. She just needed an opportunity to verbalize what’s eating away at her inside.

Dad sleeps a lot and is on oxygen. Mom was told that the staff will stop giving him the medicine he gets that stimulates his appetite, so we’ll see how he does on his own. If he doesn’t eat, Mom will be quite upset. The medicine to reduce swelling in his legs is working well.

The Director of Social Services, Peggy, gave me two booklets that explain memory loss and Alzheimer’s. We were chatting recently and I mentioned that my Mom didn’t really understand Dad’s condition. The booklets have sat around for a few days. I, of course, read through them right away. Yesterday Mom looked at one. Both were set on the couch where I keep some of my electronic stuff, so I’m not sure she read the second one. My main source of information has been the book The 36-Hour Day, highly recommended on Amazon and by me. I mention it all the time to folks I meet at Victory Lakes.

Speaking of folks I meet, there is Gail. He’s in his 50’s I think and is a very dedicated “caretaker.” He assists the staff with getting residents in and out of chairs and beds…dressing…toileting…feeding, etc. His first words to anyone he meets for the first time is, “God’s blessings to you!” He’s a devout Christian…but not tolerant of evangelists we’ve seen on the TV screen Sunday mornings. He considers his work a calling and takes a personal interest in all the residents. I’d be interested in knowing more about his “story”…his life…because he is quite intelligent. We often discuss news events. Yesterday he showed me photos of his dining room table which was set for Easter dinner. He lives in a house once owned by his grandparents. It’s in a historic area of Waukegan and he has kept the Victorian look to a “T.” The pictures showed a very ornate and beautiful dining room. He’s quite proud of the house and his efforts to maintain historic integrity. He’s also an organist and pianist at church. There’s an old piano in the TV area, and one day he was sitting there playing a Barry Manilow tune. Of course, I stood by and hummed along. It was fun. Unit C at The Village at Victory Lakes is fortunate to have Gail on board. He’s a skilled caretaker who has a committed work ethic based on his faith.

Afternoon:

Well, hallelujah! We received two original copies of a letter from Dr. D. based on the draft I gave to his assistant, Jose . It states that dad is 92 and due to his medical condition, he cannot make decisions for himself, and it states that Dr. D. has been treating him for 17 years. Mission accomplished!

Dad was “frisky” today. It’s the first time I could use that word. When we arrived he was alert and looking around. We were told that there was a bit of trouble in the morning when he said he was going to hit someone. He’s not an eager medicine taker. Most there are not. It’s quite a challenge for the nursing staff at times.

Mom was beside herself with joy when she asked Dad, “Do you know who I am?” It took a bit, but he managed to say “Pearl.” Then he told her that she’s a good kid…smiled at her…wiggled his left index finger… winked…and then chuckled. Well, we all laughed.

A regular visitor came by this morning, as well. I’ve seen her before. She looks quite elderly and frail. She carries a purse on one shoulder and drags a small overnight case on wheels behind her. It’s her oxygen. She goes over to each resident and blesses each one. If the resident is awake, she introduces herself and asks how they are doing. Whether they respond or not, she gently tells them that she wishes them well and will keep them in her prayers. So she stopped by Dad and took his hand. He couldn’t hear her, but he was wide eyed as she conveyed her usual message. After she moved on to the next resident, Dad said, “Say…she’s a nice looking girl.” Of course, I practically roared , and my mom spoke up to remind Dad that she is the only one he’s supposed to say that to. Then I wondered: Is Dad going to be one of those dementia fellas who hits on ladies? Let’s hope not. At least he can’t walk by himself and chase anyone.

So…it was nice seeing Dad more animated today—much better than sleeping upright in a chair and not responding to Mom’s pleas to open his eyes and talk to her.

About jjmummert

Just another voice in the wilderness from someone who's lived on this planet for over 60 years and faces permanent residency on Planet Elderly. Update: As of March 2, 2017, I turned 70. I'm now an official resident of Planet Elderly. Dad passed away September 22, 2016. I view the Parental Journal entries as part therapy, part family history, sort of a case study of what our family experiences with one parent in a memory care unit, another living independently with short-term memory loss, and me, the only child daughter who lives 400 miles away. It's quite an adventure. Recommended readings for others who have loved ones who live with some form of dementia: The 36-Hour Day, The Myth of Alzheimer's - What You Aren't Being Told About Today's Most Dreaded Diagnosis, Alzheimer's Early Stages.
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