Monday, June 6, 2016

Beginning of Change | Dealing with an elderly parent (6/6/16, part I)

June 6th: We've been gradually seeing it for some time now, the fading short-term recall and the forgetfulness of the present. Unwilling to force a move too soon and risk upsetting mom, we tried to cope and do more, limited the difficult situations and as much as was possible, reduce her need to make decisions. And when opportunity arose, we attempted to reason, explain and point out what was happening - and over and over again, we failed.

Looking back now I guess that was a mistake. When you see people beginning to forget multiple things in a five minute conversation that's probably not something that's going to improve, right? So as adults, we should all be ready to move forward with the steps that need to be taken. But vaguely knowing that things change "down the road" and accurately assessing just how much is "elderly person" vs. true onset of dementia isn't a skill we all possess. That's where medical professionals come in, right? this case, when those ideas are brought up and sneered at, suggestions of possible treatments laughed off, appointments cancelled and so on, you tend to give up. I fell into the trap of struggling to make my case for trying drugs to perhaps slow the process of what seemed to be advancing, at least going to a doctor - any doctor, but with each conversation the condescending attitude and angry behavior - and the statements about how maybe I was crazy rather than her, led to nothing. I blame myself somewhat for not handling it better; for not being more firm and unyielding but the communication process was already breaking down and I wasn't good at managing this situation. Instead of pushing forward, we backed down and just waited for something to happen.

And then it was her 80th birthday; a milestone and important event to acknowledge and celebrate. We arrived on a hot Sunday afternoon to temperatures well into the nineties, only to find the house almost as hot and the dogs panting and visibly distressed. Not only was she refusing to use the air conditioning, the heat was running and yet nothing was alerting her to the fact that anything was wrong. We went to dinner, answered the same questions over and over, fielded the same conversation seven times; tried to dig deep and find ways to stay patient. Mom gets dehydrated easily and that increases her confusion, so with the house temperature at 86 degrees perhaps that explained the worsening of the forgetfulness. Even if it didn't explain it, like drowning people I guess we grasped at the straws of hope that this too was "just the aging process".

After cake and presents even though it was late, I headed home. It's hard to stay there and get any sleep since her dogs roam around and engage in barking matches with ours, and I felt my patience wearing thin. It was better to stop and grab a few minutes of sleep at Royal Farms on the way home rather than stay and face the same questions again in the morning. Around noon the next day mom called. She was in the ER, having fallen and hurt her knee, and she announced it would be a quick stay and then she'd be back home. She explained how she had driven herself there despite the injury being to the right (driving) leg, and then offered mixed descriptions of the ambulance trip along with her good decision to have brought her own car.

Over the next four hours she called five times, with each conversation getting more irritable at the "poor quality of the medical staff". During the last call she was enraged and had demanded paperwork be brought so she could sign herself out since "no doctor had ever been in to visit her during the four hours". After the final outburst she hung up the phone on me after stating that I needed to come pick her up, and when I explained the 3-1/2 hour drive time, cut me off. A few minutes later the phone rang again, only this time it was a nurse at the facility. She explained that mom seemed agitated and confused, asking how much of this behavior was "normal" for her. Then the nurse mentioned the doctor had indeed been in the room not once or twice but three times that day - and yet there was no recollection of anything like that from mom's viewpoint.

I took the chance to say this was worse than usual, that things had been going downhill and I'm pretty sure I blurted out that my mother has become mean, bitter and manipulative; shutting down all chances for discussion of evaluation or treatment. I thought that perhaps this was a chance for someone; anyone; to see what we saw, in a setting where mom couldn't just storm out. When a short time later the medical staff decided to transfer her to the hospital for admittance overnight, I felt that was wise and could also give us another chance to explain what has been happening. I was convinced that the next day would mark the first step of progress on a new journey.....(to be continued)

A couple of links I'd come across....

"15 Ways to Stay Sane While Caring For an Elderly Parent" ~

"8 Things Not to Say to Your Aging Parents" ~

"Life on Delmarva" • #delmarvausa