Parental Journal 44 from Planet Elderly: “What Is His Disease?”

Saturday, February 13, 2016 10 p.m.
Dad groggy today, but we managed to have him awake for lunch. A few bites of salad with ranch dressing helped wake him up. We ordered a hamburger for him because the other entrée options would not have been of interest to him. He’s a burger guy…so that’s usually a good bet, plus we asked him if he wanted a burger and he said, “That’s fine.”
Learned today that in the evenings is when he is most agitated. Sundown syndrome. When I asked what behaviors he exhibits, I was told yelling and hitting. Mom was devastated to hear this, but we tried to explain that this is “part of the disease.”

“What is his disease?” she asked with a tone of anxiousness.

“Alzheimer’s,” I said. She teared up.

Had the oil/filter change done on Mom’s car. Tires were rotated. Also had new wiper blades put on. When finished, I was told the car needs new brakes. These are folks who have taken care of Mom and the car for quite a while, so we trust them. She’s almost at 100,000 so needing new brakes is not a surprise. It’s scheduled for next Tuesday.

Things on Mom’s mind these past couple days:

Maybe get a job because on some days she is bored.

Yesterday she claimed that Dad called her “about three months ago.” She was positive. I just went with the flow…”Oh really? I don’t remember you saying anything about Dad calling you.” He has no phone access, he cannot hear on the phone, he cannot follow a conversation on the phone, he cannot dial a phone…but I did not say these things to her.
Confusion about income sources and where money is automatically deposited. At one point in that discussion I said, “I wish I could help you find a way to remember.” Bank books are labeled, a written list has been provided, we talk about money matters several times a week…and it just doesn’t stick. She tries…but it’s as if her brain is a sieve.

Confusion about what year it is. Today she thought it was 1996, so I suggested she check the calendar. All she could figure out was “2” as in the second month. I confirmed February, but I did not tell her it was 2016, not 1996. I was too tired.
I’m having more difficulty watching her short term memory problems get worse. Sometimes she is so child-like and I just want to hold her and tell her everything is as good as it can be for now. I wonder how quickly her confusion will progress and I’m hoping she will be okay until I return in April. I hope her annual exam in April will include more assessments of her cognitive functioning. I will write another confidential letter to her new doctor, list recent observations, and request additional assessments.

Recently, during one of our “coaching” discussions about money matters, I told Mom, “It’s important for you to be able to understand what banks you use, what day it is, and what appointments you have if you are going to live independently.” I thought she might react defensively when I said that, but she didn’t. She was rather quiet. She knows she is changing. I know she is changing.

How precious are the calm, tender moments and the laughter.

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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