Saturday, January 12, 2013

If it's not one thing...


 Today took an emotional toll on me. Missing Mary and holding her daughter, Elaine, in our hearts was part of it. Talking with and trying to comfort a new Memory Care resident, who is desperately confused and unhappy, was another. (I hate to see their loneliness. My heart aches for them.) And hearing about Dad's fairly new behavior issues was another.

As the Alzheimer's progresses, it attacks different parts of the brain. There is no logic or pattern to its progression, though, so there's no way to predict what changes will occur, and when. Up to now, we've been very fortunate that Dad has remained pretty much on an even keel emotionally, joking and laughing, flirting with the aides, smiling and winking.

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Now, though, we are beginning to get feedback from staff about anger issues. Dad has always had a temper, though few outside the immediate family ever saw it. But the Alzheimer's is breaking down his filters and the anger is surfacing again, more and more often, and is being directed at the aides and anyone else who tries to talk to him or get him to do something when he's just not in the mood. It's a concern. We don't want him lashing out at anyone if he gets angry enough, and we certainly don't want him hurting himself. (He was evidently kicking walls the other day.)

All the more perplexing is the fact that Sis and I aren't seeing this behavior. Dad is very calm when we see him, to the point of sleeping through parts of our visits while we sit with him. It's hard to know if it's our presence that helps calm him, or if our presence merely reminds him to be on good behavior.

Anyway, the point of this long rant is that we are at another stage of the journey where we have to ask, "Medicate the behavior, or not?" Always a tricky thing. Any kind of change in medication can create new problems, sometimes worse than the original problem. It's like playing Russian Roulette with pills, not guns. And Dad's been very fortunate not to need a lot of drugs as he ages. I don't want that to change.

It's always two steps forward, one step back with Alzheimer's. Never a clean win. We will do what we can to help Dad with his anger issues, and hope for the best. It's all we can do.

Yeah, today was an emotional day for me.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

RIP Mary

Mary and her daughter, Elaine.
Friendships are inevitable when you see the same people time after time. So it is with the other residents and their family members that we see when we visit Dad. Sometimes, the friendships are deep, born of shared experiences, shared frustrations, shared fears. Such was the case with Elaine and her mother, Mary.

This picture was taken just last week. Mary had been slipping, her frail 83-year-old body grown too tired to carry on much longer. She had fallen days before and the bruising was still quite apparent on her lovely face.

Mary passed away last Friday. We had been in to visit Dad that day, saw Mary and Elaine, saw the knowledge in Elaine's eyes that her Mom's time was short. It was later that evening when she slipped away.

I'll miss Mary. She was a lovely, dignified, woman, who  -- when she felt up to it -- would smile and hold your hand, and kiss people who were nice to her. I can recall a number of times I left the residence with her lipstick kisses still on my cheek.

Godspeed to Elaine and her family. Your Mom was a beautiful spirit. I'm so glad to have known her...and you. xoxo