It has been almost 4 years since my father was formally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Cognitive Disorder. And I imagine for my mother and sister it seems like a lifetime.
My father is still living at home and over the past 4 to 6 months he has started to exhibit more Dementia. On any given day he will ask about his mother, who died in February 1982. Sometimes he will awake in the middle of the night, walk outside his bedroom and start having conversations with someone and everyone is sleeping.
His day consists of morning stretching, reading the newspaper from cover to cover; however, he couldn’t tell you the day of the week or what month it is afterward and its listed on each page of the newspaper. He will then clean up and sit in the chair and watch TV. His Alzheimer’s has made his hearing loss worse and even when he is wearing his hearing aides its difficult for him to hear what you are saying at times.
Over the course of the last 12 months or thereabouts my father has become more and more resistant to taking a shower. From reading some articles online and talking with friends whose parents or loved ones who have also been afflicted with this same disease, it seems as if they become afraid of the water…almost like a child. That being said, its always an uphill battle to get dad to shower. When he finally gets into the shower he can’t remember if he shampooed his hair and my mother will have to tell him over and over again that he has already washed his hair. His short-term memory loss has progressed significantly, and when I forget things it scares the hell out of me that perhaps I have this to look forward to in the future and I am not quite 60 years old.
The one thing that has not been impacted by the Alzheimer’s and Dementia is his appetite. Dad loves to eat and will often have his lunch, get up from the table and go to the bathroom. When he returns back to the table he will ask mom, “when are we going to eat?”
When friends and family get together to visit either at their home or at mine, dad will be in the room with everyone else and listen but very rarely does he speak. If you engage him in conversation directly he may reply with merely a few words.
If I take mom and dad to the doctors or somewhere such as that and they are together he will sit in the backseat and mom always sit in the front. When I took dad to the VA Hospital for his hearing aids it was just the two of us, so he sat in the front seat with me.
I made it a point to drive by the Teamsters Union Hall to see if he knew where we were going. When we got in front of the structure I asked him, “dad do you know what that building is over there” and he saw the bold letters on the front of the building and replied “TEAMSTERS”. I then asked him if he recalled ever being there before and he just looked at me and never replied. Dad spent many hours in that building attending union meetings while employed at UPS. Dad was a Union Steward for may years and he also served as Recording Secretary of Teamsters Local 41 during the years that Danny Johnson served as President. I was always proud of how strong he felt about his UNION.
After leaving the hospital he saw a United Parcel Service truck parked along the street, this is where he was employed before he retired. He said to me, “look its a UPS Truck”. I asked dad, do you remember driving a package car at UPS and he did not respond. As we entered Downtown KC and started northbound on I-35 the Bond Bridge over the Missouri River came into view. My dad looked at me and asked me in a very troubling voice “where are you taking me” I said, dad I am taking you home. He questioned me again and said I have never seen that before, he was referring to the bridge. It became apparent to me at that moment in time that dad was very confused and quite worried about where I was taking him. That is the first time I have ever experienced this reaction or this state of confusion when we were alone together in the car. Dad has always had a history of telling me how to drive to a certain location or questioning why I took this route as opposed to a route that he would have chosen if he was driving himself. Over the past year he has abandoned the backseat driving and merely just sits back and complains about it being too cold or too warm…
I will apologize if I am repeating myself if I have said this before in earlier postings but as I was walking into the VA Hospital and holding onto Dads arm and hand I had a flashback to my early days as a child. It was Dad who was leading the way and he had my hand and I was holding on for dear life, now the roles have changed and I was leading the way. Dad is getting feeble and since he doesn’t get any real daily exercise in the form of walking a trip to the VA Hospital is like an excursion. They do have a shuttle bus; however, the day that we were there we just couldn’t time it right to get a ride to the door or to our car.
My parents were at our home on Thanksgiving and they will be with us again on Christmas Eve. This will be the last Holiday that we spend here in our home as we are in the process of moving soon. The newer home will have easier access for mom and dad but I am also concerned that the new surroundings may in fact confuse him even more.
None of us know from day to day what is in the cards or what hand we will be dealt. We are truly blessed to have both of our parents still alive and living at home. I don’t know what my parents would do without my sister and the sacrifices that she makes to put them first.
Sooner or later we will be faced with making a decision as a family of what we will need to do to provide dad the care that he needs and to take some of the physical and mental burden off of our mom. Although dad is the one who is sick, my siblings and I have to also consider whats in the best interest of both of our parents. I hope and pray that neither of our parents will ever have to go and live in an assisted living facility.
Right here in the northland where we currently reside we have seen an overwhelming amount of Assisted Living facilities being built, many of which include Memory Care Living. This in itself is proof that there is a greater need for Americans who are living longer and are afflicted with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. According to data that I have read from the Alzheimer’s Association, there are over 5 million Americans living today with this disease in 2017; they estimate that by the year 2050 that number will rise to 16 million. Read more here.
Thank you for taking the time to read my latest Blog Post and I would like to wish you all a Happy Holiday Season and a Happy New Year, from our family to yours.