Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mornings are definitely better

This morning was cloudy and drizzly as I drove to the assisted living home, reflecting the dread I was feeling about going. I was looking forward to seeing my dad, of course, but not the condition he might be in, nor the condition of the other residents there. Me being the merciful person that I am, tend to project myself into their pain, and it is hard not to want to walk around and comfort each one of them when I am there. I want them all to be healed so badly, for the madness to stop, but of course, that is not up to me. Instead, I pray for them every day, if not more than once a day.

I have to admit, I have struggled at times with wanting to know why. Why my dad, and why anyone has to suffer with that kind of disease. To have your loved one with you, yet not with you, at least not in the way they once were. To want so badly to communicate with them freely, yet not be able to, and instead be regulated to a few choice words once in awhile, the rest of the time being spent trying to understand them or trying to figure out what they want when they are agitated and demanding, yet not being able to satisfy them and trying to keep them calm, or... simply sitting in silence.

But as long as I'm on this earth, I'll never understand all the reasons why. God's understanding is not our understanding. His ways are not our ways. He knows the reason, has His Higher Purpose, and can see the beginning and the end. So I choose to trust Him, even when I don't understand. Not that I don't still ask Him to help me understand, for I can't help but want to.

Funny how that reminds me of my five-year-old daughter, who is going through the "why" stage right now. She wants to know the reason behind every little thing, and is not shy about asking. It can be exhausting trying to explain it all to her, and sometimes, there is no explanation, at least not one that she will understand. At that point, she just has to trust me.

About halfway through my drive there, I prayed that God would help me to face whatever I had to face today with my dad. I couldn't help but pray that the visit would go well today. I arrived at about 9:30am, and was pleased and relieved to see that he was doing much better again. He was back to his old self once again, and immediately recognized me when I walked in, smiling and giving me a tight hug.

Mornings are definitely better. And maybe God answered my request, too.

Most of the visit with him was pretty quiet. He stayed in the easy chair by the window in the activity room the entire one and a half hours I was there, relaxing, and would fall asleep from time to time. Being that he doesn't sleep much at all at night, I stayed mostly quiet to encourage him to sleep when he could, and just enjoyed being with him. Every once in awhile, he'd wake up and look over at me and smile, and a couple of times he reached out his hand for mine, and kissed my hand at one point.

When he was sleeping at one point, I struck up a conversation with a couple of the workers there, whom I am getting to know, and those same workers read some interesting stories from the newspaper to the residents in the activity room. One of the residents, "Mr. A," I will call him, had plenty to say on each subject. As I've mentioned before, Mr. A is a real riot, and keeps things interesting there.

My dad would wake up from time to time and nod his head and smile in response to some of the conversation that was going on between me and the workers, and once or twice he looked over at Mr. A with an "amused" look on his face. It's amazing how, at times, my dad can be so despondent and non-responsive and appear to not even recognize us, yet at other times be so lively and responsive and, if it weren't for the communication issues he has, appear to not even have Alzheimer's.

During a quieter moment when my dad was asleep again and the workers were all busy with other things, I kept noticing this one resident there, a woman in a wheelchair, who kept making a sound that I couldn't really identify, but sounded to me like a deep, raspy sound in her lungs, like someone who had severe chest congestion, and when I watched her breathing (she was facing away from me but I could see her side profile), she was breathing quite rapidly. The workers would walk by her, one even asked how she was doing at one point, and they didn't seem to notice the sound. Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore, so I went and asked one of the workers about it. She told me that she had always been making that sound for as long as she could remember. I personally didn't recall her ever making that sound for the two months I had been coming there to visit my dad, but figured I must have missed it somehow.

There was also another sound I heard while there today, a really bizarre sound that I had never heard anywhere before, but the sound was coming from "around the corner," so I would have had to get up and go look for it, and since I didn't want to embarrass anyone if it was one of the residents, I just kept crinkling my brow every time I heard it, trying to figure out what it was. It was driving me bonkers. At one point when I had first started hearing it, I thought it was some type of machine, so I blurted out, "What is that sound?" None of the workers answered. I don't know if they were ignoring me, or just didn't hear me. When I heard it again, it started to sound more like it might just be an odd sound that one of the residents was making, so I resisted the urge to go find the source of it. I never did figure out what it was.

At about 10:45, my step mom arrived. My dad definitely recognized her right away and really perked up, saying, "Heyyyy!" with a big smile. She had a bag of clothes for him, so after greeting us and giving my dad a hug and kiss, she disappeared down the hallway to go to his room. When she got back, she put lotion on his hands, then on the top of his head (my dad is bald except for the back and sides of his head, has been since he was in his 40s), then checked his fingernails and clipped/filed where appropriate, and finally, gave him a piece of gum. My dad seemed to be used to the routine, as he appeared to anticipate each action and enjoy it.

She and I chatted a little and during the course of our conversation, she told me that my dad's doctor appointment yesterday was to review his medications, and that they had been changed again, though she wasn't sure if they had started him on the new ones yet. She also told me that he would no longer have a full-time sitter, but would still have a part-time sitter. Then she told me that he had had a pretty rough night last night and since she didn't want to say out loud what had happened, she moved only her lips to tell me (and showed me in one quick motion with her hand when my dad wasn't looking) that he had been biting himself on the hand, and I got the impression she meant he had been doing it over and over again. I cringed, and was so thankful at that moment that it was morning now, and that it was all over with.

Morning. A new beginning. A fresh start. Something to look forward to.

And one fine day, on that Celestial Shore, a very special morning. One you can fly to, one where everything will be new, and one that will last forever.

So thankful to the Lord for a good visit today.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A tough visit today

My plan was to visit my dad this morning, but I wound up not having time, so I had to go late this afternoon and take my daughter. It was a tough visit. He was agitated, quite grumpy, and restless. Communication with him was very difficult. He even got agitated with my daughter, something about her playing with a stuffed animal bothered him. There was one moment, however, when he was pulling on her shoe strings playfully, so I was thankful for that.

I don't think he knew who we were, though, or at least there was no sign of recognition except for one brief moment as we were leaving. At one point he walked into the dining room and sat at one table, then moved to another, and we sat down at the table with him. He kept wanting something from me, and I thought it might be dinner, since it was only about an hour away, but as it turned out, he was wanting the table to be set. He must have known it was getting close to that time, and was upset that it wasn't set yet, and that I wasn't the one setting it. 

Come to find out, through talking to the Sitter--who was the same one that was there last time I visited--my dad's medication has been changed. Something having to do with one of the medications having the opposite effect that it was supposed to have. I can't wait to talk to my step mom to find out more details. He was supposed to go to a doctor appointment yesterday morning, but because he had two incontinent accidents, he wasn't able to make the appointment, and the doctor's office couldn't (or wouldn't?) reschedule for the next day. His feet and ankles are beginning to swell again, so we are concerned, since that can be a sign of reduced kidney function.

The good news is, my dad is walking even better now. He doesn't need a walker anymore, or even a cane. I was amazed at how steady he was on his feet. I mean, before he had any of the falls, and before the kidney failure incident and hospital stay, he was having to use a walker. Before that, he had used a cane for a number of years, even before being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. And now he barely even needs a cane? Pretty amazing. The Sitter does, however, always walk right beside him holding his hand anyway, just in case he has a sudden relapse.

After just under an hour, it was time for us to go. I hugged my dad and told him we had to go and that we would be back later (later meaning a couple of days), and his expression suddenly changed and he reached out one arm slowly to hug me from his dining room chair (he was now sitting at a different table, satisfied that the table was now set and ready for dinner), and then my daughter came and hugged her grandpa. She then walked over to my other side and held my hand, waiting for me to leave, but my dad wouldn't let go and said he wanted to "do that for me," pointing to the chair near him. I told him we had to go and he frowned and asked in a stern voice, "Why!?" I tried to explain, but he didn't really understand, and after going back and forth with him a few times, I finally just had to leave, saying in a kind voice and with a smile, "See you later."

As I walked away, I turned back to look at him and wave again, but he had turned his attention away from me and his expression had become pleasant again. He was looking at the other two residents at his table, and at one of the workers there. It was almost like I had been inside some sort of "circle" when I was in close proximity to him, but as soon as I walked outside of that "circle," I was "gone" as far as he was concerned.

Overall, it was a pretty tough visit. Being the late afternoon hours, I was already expecting his mood to be worse, since those with Alzheimer's experience what's called the "Sundown Syndrome" (<--click to see the link with a definition), but I didn't expect it to be quite that bad. My next visit will be a morning one, to see if there is a big difference; if there is, then I will know today's tough visit was more related to the Syndrome; if not, then I will know that this is an ongoing thing, and that some days will simply be better than others.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Ray of Sunshine

The visit with my dad today was like a ray of sunshine in the darkness of the past several days. He was even more responsive and alert, and very close to being back to his old self.

When I arrived at the Assisted Living Home, he was sitting in a recliner in the activity area. He was cat-napping at that moment, so I didn't disturb him and instead introduced myself to the Sitter who was in the chair next to him. She moved over so that I could sit next to my dad, then told me that she had worked for my dad at the technical center where he was the Director. I didn't recognize her, but that was because she had worked in one of the "far-off" buildings, on the outskirts of the main campus (the technical center that my dad directed was a rather large one).

My dad woke up after only a couple of minutes, and his face lit up with recognition of me. We hugged tightly, and when I asked how he was feeling, he smiled and gave a nod and said, "Pretty good."

The sitter and I had a nice chat while my dad cat-napped periodically in the recliner. She told me that, as his sitter, there were moments when she would see my dad's "fighting spirit," like he was trying to "fight" Alzheimer's with every bone in his body, so to speak. She also told me that sometimes he would get a certain look on his face that would remind her of a look he would get during staff meetings at the technical center. I thought that was so interesting.

At one point when my dad was fully awake, I decided to try giving him the birthday cards again. Based on what I had seen with him so far, it seemed the right time. This time, he opened the cards with no problem, and wasn't looking for a "third" page. He even seemed to be reading them, and responded with a smile and a nod. I read them to him anyway, just in case.

All in all, it was a very nice visit. My dad even joked around with me, something that hasn't happened in a very long time. I am so thankful to the Lord God Almighty for giving me this ray of sunshine today. Even if my dad is worse again the next time I see him, I will always cherish days like today.

Monday, February 20, 2012

We never know....

... if someone is praying for us, or if own prayers are being answered, or if it's a combination of both.

My dad is doing a little better now. My husband, my daughter, and I went to visit him on Saturday afternoon, and he was much more responsive. My step mom had already told me on the phone that he was doing a little better, so I was looking forward to seeing the improvements. Improvements. Not something you get to see a whole lot of with Alzheimer's disease. Usually, it is only a worsening progression.

As we entered through the doors, a worker told us he was on the couch in the sitting area near the TV. He looked at us as we approached and his expression said it all: he was glad to see us. He was still not back to his old self, but able to communicate again, for which I was oh-so-thankful. His legs were a little bit stronger, too. Still quite wobbly, but he was able to walk with assistance. And walk, did he ever. First, he wanted to get up from the couch and walk over to a chair in that same area, then back to the couch, then back to the chair, then over to the TV, then back to the couch. He was giving my husband and I quite a workout.

And he wasn't done yet. Next it was a walk down the hallway to his room, where he first wanted to sit on the bed, then in his chair there, then back on his bed, then over on his roommate's bed. Then he wanted to walk to the bathroom (despite having a Depends on), so we helped him walk there -- or more like, he went there and we held him up to keep him from falling -- then he stood in front of the toilet, but then turned and wanted to go into the shower and turn it on, which we couldn't let him do, of course. So we guided him with much effort back to the wheelchair and basically made him get in it, since it was time for him to go to dinner anyway (we had tried getting him in the wheelchair prior to that, but he wouldn't have it).

I thought about trying to give him our birthday cards again, but decided otherwise. He was very restless, so I doubt he would have been able to focus on it. Instead, I focused on him and asked how he was doing and feeling, and tried to read his body language and facial expressions very carefully to try and see if he needed something. At one point when he sat still for a few minutes, my attention to him paid off, because I was able to figure out that his back was itching him and he needed someone to scratch it for him. He tried to verbalize it with, "Can you do that?" It was only his body language that helped me figure out what he really needed.

I have recent experience with reading body language and facial expressions, after all. I have a just-turned-five-year-old daughter. :-)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sudden change in personality

 "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." -Revelation 21:4

The next day after my dad was released from the hospital, I went to visit him at the assisted living home. I had my daughter with me, and we stopped on the way to pick up a balloon for him, and a card "for grandpa" from her, which she signed, and drew a picture for him on the card.

When we arrived, we found him sitting in a recliner in the activity room, fidgeting with his belt buckle. When he saw us, he looked up but didn't smile, and said something like, "Oh, another good one," then went right back to fidgeting with his belt and appeared to ignore us. My daughter was excited to give him the balloon, but he wasn't interested. I gave him a hug anyway, and then tried to help him with his belt, but he resisted my help. I finally figured out that he must have somehow wound up with another resident's belt, because it was way too small for him and was impossible to buckle. I told him that, but he ignored me and kept trying to buckle it.

I explained to my daughter that he was trying to buckle his belt so that her feelings wouldn't get hurt. He finally gave up on the belt, and I told a worker there later that he had the wrong belt on.

My dad seemed so different from when he had been in the hospital. It was like night and day. He wasn't making eye contact at all, was frowning, and wasn't responding. Then he tried to get up out of the recliner, but couldn't push the foot rest down, so he put his feet underneath it and tried to push it down with his hands. I guided him to lie back in the chair again and manually picked his feet up and put them back on the foot rest, then used the handle on the side to put the foot rest down. It wasn't easy to convince him to do it, but I finally did.

Then I asked one of the workers there if he was able to walk again yet since being back from the hospital, and they said he was very unsteady on his feet and had had a mild fall again that morning, so they didn't recommend letting him stand. Meanwhile, my dad was trying to get up and wouldn't listen to my pleas with him not to stand until I could get someone to help me. At one point, when I was pushing on his shoulders once again with just enough force to stop him from getting up and explaining why he couldn't get up, he said, "Honey... I don't understand." I wasn't sure if he meant that he didn't understand what I was saying, or didn't understand why he couldn't get up, so I tried to explain it to him again, but to no avail. He continued to try getting up.

I asked a nearby worker to go get a wheelchair quick, so she did, and between the two of us, we convinced him to get in the wheelchair, and helped him into it. He finally did settle down some then, so my daughter then tried to give him her card. I had to help him open it, and when it was finally open, he looked at it with no reaction, like it was an object he was trying to figure out, then tried to open a "third page," which of course didn't exist, yet he was determined to open it, nevertheless. My daughter and I both tried to explain that there wasn't a third page, but he wouldn't relent. Finally, I gently slid the card out of his hand and set it down next to me. I didn't bother trying to give him my card, I figured I would try again another day.

Then he started back with trying to get back up again, so I asked him if he would like to go for a ride. He finally relented, and off we went. I took him to his room and parked him near his bed, my daughter following behind with the balloon. I thought if maybe we were away from the other residents, he might focus more on us, but he only thumped at the balloon my daughter was trying to show him with a blank look on his face, then tried to get up out of the wheelchair again. I asked him what he was wanting to do, like maybe go for a walk, or use the bathroom, or get into bed, but he wouldn't (or couldn't) answer and just kept trying to get up.

I kept pleading with him not to try and get up to walk unless I had someone helping me, but he was very determined and wouldn't listen. Finally, I told him that I would feel very bad if he fell and got hurt, and it was then that he finally relented and sat back in the wheelchair, frowning. I breathed a sigh of relief and off we went to take him for another ride, my daughter by my side, helping me push, and we took him outside into the courtyard area. After a few minutes it started to rain, so we came back in. A worker came to him with his medicine to take, then suggested we take him into the dining room for a snack. He ate his banana pudding, focusing all his attention on it and not looking up at all, then when he was finished, he sat back and began to look at me, as well as his granddaughter, maybe even breaking a little smile, even if just for a moment. He knocked on the table with his knuckles and looked at me, so I smiled and knocked back, and he seemed to acknowledge that.

Then a worker offered to get some cranberry juice for my daughter, and she, in all her child-like wisdom, figured out that she could make a connection with her grandpa by taking a drink of her juice every time he took a drink of his water. She would watch him the whole time, and when they both set their glass down, she would let out an airy, "Aaaaa," then smile, still gazing at her grandpa, and say, "We're drinking together, grandpa!" It made me smile. It helped me at that moment, because I had just begun to cry quietly, trying to hide it so as not to upset my daughter. It was so hard to see my dad like that. Oh how I miss my dad, the dad I had known all my life. The dad I was able to communicate freely with.

I feel like I've already lost my dad in many ways, and I'm grieving that loss. I look around at the other residents while I'm there, too, and feel pain for them, and can't imagine the pain they are going through themselves. How very thankful I am that one day, God will wipe away every tear and there will be no more pain, and no more sickness.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Back Home

As of this afternoon, my dad is now back at the assisted living home and doing well!

I had a nice visit with him at the hospital this morning. His new "roommate" was quite the character (apparently the other man had been discharged). He was slightly combative and paranoid, convinced that the hospital was fake and that he didn't need to be there. His wife came in at one point, and after he machine-gunned a series of accusations about the hospital and staff to her, he then asked in an accusatory tone,

"Is this a psychiatric hospital?"
She said, "They have a psychiatric wing here."
"Really?" he said.
"Yeah. And if you don't behave, that's where they'll put you."

Then at another time, after he had taken a drink of water, he asked if she wanted something to drink, and she replied,

"No thanks, I'm trying to cut back on my drinking."

She had a great sense of humor, and at one point, I couldn't stifle my giggle. I'm not sure if her husband had the beginning signs of Alzheimer's, or some other issue, but she sure seemed to be handling it well with humor. I did overhear her saying to him that he had been talking crazy lately and that they were going to do a scan of his brain to find out if something was misfiring. I said a little prayer for him.

It was my dad's birthday today, so I wished him a Happy Birthday, and, with a lot of effort to think about what he wanted to say and then be able to say it, he replied, "Thank you." I had a card for him in my purse, but with all the commotion going on in the room, I didn't want to give it to him there. Tomorrow I plan to take him his card when I go to see him at the ALH, and I'll also stop by to get a balloon for him on the way there.

He smiled at me again today and took my hand and kissed it several times. They took the catheter out, then cleaned him up and got him ready for discharge. They were also going to make sure he urinated on his own at least once before letting him go. I had to leave to go pick up my daughter from school before they discharged him, but my step mom called later in the afternoon to let me know that he was then settled in at the assisted living home, sitting up in the chair in his room, and doing well. She said he kept reaching for my daughter's picture next to his bed and looking at it, and then my step mom handed the phone to him so he could talk to me. He seemed to understand what I was saying and said, "Yes," in response to me one time, then didn't say anything after that, but my step mom told me he had been nodding when she got back on the phone with me.

What a relief to know he is back "home" and doing okay.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Surgery went well; the good and bad of stubbornness

My dad's surgery went well yesterday. An new opening has now been created that will allow him to be able to urinate again on his own very soon. Right now the wait is on for the blood to clear out of his urine (caused by the surgery, which is normal), then they will remove the catheter (I had wrongly assumed, by the way, that the catheter would be removed during surgery), and when he is able to urinate on his own at least two times with no blood, he will then be cleared to go "home" (his home being the assisted living home, of course).

He was sleeping peacefully when I arrived at his new room this morning, a room he is now having to share with another man with Alzheimer's, who thankfully was also asleep. I didn't want to wake my dad, especially after finding out from my step mom that he had only been asleep for about two minutes before I arrived, and that was after not sleeping more than a few minutes all night long (according to the sitter). A nurse came in a few minutes later, however, and he woke up anyway, and was wide awake then, so I was able to visit with him.

He seemed to be in much better spirits today, and relented much easier when we told him he couldn't get out of bed yet, not to say he didn't try his hardest a few times. One thing I can say about my dad, he doesn't give up easy. He has that same stubborn streak in him that I have, and that my daughter also has. It can be a good thing when focused in the right direction, it can make you go further and do more than you otherwise might, and yet, it can also get you in big trouble if you aren't careful. My recent running injury is a good example of that. I continued to run with pain, stubbornly pushing through in hopes of continuing on the schedule of progress I wanted so badly to keep, which wound up putting me out of running altogether, and now I'm not even sure I'll ever be able to run long distance again.

I was glad to hear that they were planning to let him get out of bed this afternoon when the physical therapist came. Personally, I can't imagine having to stay in bed all the time when you feel like getting up. I would be going stir crazy.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Smile One Day, Tears the Next

Yesterday when I went to visit my dad in the hospital, there was a moment when he smiled the biggest smile at me. It meant so much to me, for it had been so long since I had seen him smile that big, much less smile that way at me. I was so grateful for it.

Today, I wiped a tear away. Something I had never in my life done until today. I've only seen my dad cry once in my entire life, and that was after my mom passed away. He wanted to get out of bed, but we couldn't let him. His blood pressure has been running high at times as of late, something that is new to him since he has always had low blood pressure, and letting him sit up in the chair by his bed would only make him want to stand up even more, and the cycle would begin -- he would keep trying to get out of the chair, be lovingly yet firmly told no with a gentle push on his shoulders, he would sit back and relent, only to try again within two to five minutes, and the cycle would repeat many, many times before he would finally just give out from exhaustion.

No, one day before surgery, we didn't want him to get worn out. So we had to coax him into staying in bed, which either frustrated him to tears, or brought him to tears because he didn't understand. Not long after that, while still staring into my eyes, eyes that were pleading with me, he stopped fighting, closed his eyes, and fell asleep. A sleep he much needed, since he had barely slept all night. It was then that I decided to leave, after being there for about two hours, my daughter and husband being there as well. My husband had taken my just-turned-five year old daughter for a walk when it happened, so I gathered our things and began walking out. My husband and daughter were returning at that moment, so I told them he was asleep. My daughter still wanted to see him before we left, so I let her look at him through the interior window since the curtain had been pulled back. She peered at him for a few moments, seemed satisfied, and we headed down the hallway with my step mom to talk with her for a few minutes before leaving.

My step mom has hired sitters to stay with my dad 24 hours a day now, to be there to watch him when family isn't in the room, in case he tries to get up, or pull his catheter out, or any other number of things he could do while the nurse isn't in the room. The sitters will also be there once he returns to the assisted living home. We are all breathing easier now, knowing that my step mom is able to take breaks, and that my dad will be okay when one of us can't be there.

His surgery is tomorrow morning. We are all hoping and praying it goes well, that recovery is quick, and that he can return to his "home" soon.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


When I didn't hear from my step mom since yesterday afternoon and through the night, I figured no news was good news, and I had a certain calm about me as I fell asleep. Sure enough, this morning when I went to visit my dad in the hospital, good news awaited me. My step mom was there -- her son had come to take over during the night so she could go home to sleep -- and we were able to talk at length since my dad was fast asleep. His kidney function was back to normal! The urologist had indeed discovered there was a blockage due to an enlarged prostate (a normal thing that happens in many older men), and that he could perform minor laser surgery to correct it. The catheter had by-passed the blockage, making is possible for his urine to be fully expelled, and therefore allowing his kidneys to return to normal.

His surgery was scheduled for Monday morning. In the meantime he will remain in the hospital, I assume because they don't want to take the risk that his catheter might get pulled out, since without the catheter, his kidneys would begin to fail again.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In the Hospital with Renal Failure

Psalm 23 came to my mind again today while I was visiting my dad in the hospital, and again while I was going for a walk this afternoon, except that time, it became a prayer:

"Lord, let my Dad know that you will be His Shepherd, and that because of that, He shall not want. That You will make him to lie down in green pastures... lead him beside the still waters... restore his soul. Lead him in the paths of righteousness for Your Name's sake. Let him know that, though he walks through the valley of the shadow of death, he need not fear any evil, real or imagined, because you will be with him. That your rod and your staff will comfort him. That you will prepare a table before him in the presence of his enemies (enemies being Alzheimer's, and now, renal failure)... that you will anoint his head with oil, that his cup shall overflow. That surely goodness and mercy shall follow him all the days of his life, and that he shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever... help him put his trust in You."

After my last update, my Dad took a turn for the worse again. He began to get weaker, had trouble walking, and lost his appetite. My step mom had planned to take him to the doctor for a check-up, but last night he fell again at the Assisted Living home. He wound up at the emergency room where they determined he was in renal failure (sudden kidney failure) and was admitted. So the fall wound up being a blessing in disguise. His kidney function was at only 4%. Had it not improved, they would have started dialysis, but it rose to 10% during the night, which was a big relief for all of us.

The doctor believed that there might be some type of blockage causing the renal failure, so he has hope that it will be reversible. We will be waiting and praying.

This morning I couldn't get to the hospital fast enough to see him after dropping my daughter off at school. When I arrived in his room, he looked better than I expected. He was sleeping, but looked peaceful. My step mom and I talked for a bit, exchanged hugs, and she left to go take a break. Then he awoke when the skin specialist came in to check on a couple of spots on his skin, and stayed awake for a good while afterward, and I was able to visit with him. He must have been feeling at least some better, because he tried to get out of bed several times, which I had to firmly yet lovingly prevent. I also tried to make sure he was comfortable, and give him water to drink when he wanted it, from a small cup with a straw. I was also able to get him to eat a little applesauce.

When it was time for me to go pick up my daughter from school, my step mom still wasn't there. She had gotten held up by traffic. So I talked to the nurse, who promised me she would keep a close eye on him, and I dragged myself away. I felt better knowing he was asleep again when I left. Turns out he was just fine until my step mom arrived, and she called me later to talk about how my visit went.

I can't wait to see him again tomorrow. I would go back tonight, but we live too far away from the hospital.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Update on my Dad since the fall

Funny how life can get so busy sometimes. I had every intention on updating on how my Dad was doing since the fall, but am just now getting around to it.

In my last post about my him, it was the morning after his fall, just hours after he had returned from the hospital, and he wasn't doing too well. Despite being doped up on four different medications to sedate him, he was trying to get out of bed and only dozing when he could no longer fight the sleep, and wasn't eating, either.

By the next morning, he was doing amazingly better. My step mom called me not long after I had dropped off my daughter at school and was on my way to see him. She said that he had finally settled down and gone to sleep during the night, which is exactly what I had prayed and hoped would happen, and she was able to go home and get some sleep herself. Then when she returned in the morning, she found him standing up beside his bed, buttoning up his shirt, and doing so much better. Then he ate a huge breakfast and drank water, coffee, juice, more coffee, and more juice. Then he went to use the bathroom without any help and did it like someone who never even had Alzheimer's. I was beyond relieved, and couldn't wait to see him.

When I arrived, I found him in the activity room, sitting in a chair. He was very happy to see me. Of course, his walker was nowhere to be found, so I went searching for it and took it to him. Then I realized his walker was loose on one side, and told one of the workers there. I couldn't help but wonder if that had contributed to his fall. I spoke with my step mom about it and, long story short, he has a new one now.

We had a nice visit, and I was so happy to see that he was doing better and seemed unaffected by the fall or the drugs. We even took a short walk outside into the courtyard area and sat out there for awhile.

At this point I'm not sure when my next visit will be. I would like it to be tomorrow, but am coughing and hacking due to a lovely chest cold, so rather than risk giving it to him, I'm going to wait a little longer. Hopefully I'll be able to visit him again soon.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Stigma Attached to Alzheimer's

Cows eat cabbage a certain way, and when it comes to how most people view those with Alzheimer's disease, there seems to be a certain way it is done. They tend to to look down on them, to see them as mentally weak, as an oddity. Not that they mean to, because, after all, it's not like they can help it. Yet, the reaction is similar to how one might react to a severely handicapped person, or to someone who was deformed in some way. Non-handicapped people tend to see the handicapped as some kind of anomaly, if you will, as peculiar. As someone they fear, because they aren't quite sure how they're supposed to act around them. Do you smile at them? Or will that make them feel like you're patronizing them? Do you just pretend they aren't there? Or will that make them feel rejected? If you do make eye contact with them, then how long before it's considered staring? Will they be able to see the pity in your eyes? It's a dilemma I'm sure a lot of people face.

One young person I know had this to say about Alzheimer's disease (in a very arrogant tone, I might add): "Alzheimer's isn't a disease. It just happens to old people. It's a genetic thing." Wow, talk about attaching a stigma. What is even more surprising is that the comment came from a very intelligent young person. Or maybe that shouldn't be surprising.

It's sad, really, the stigma that seems to be attached to Alzheimer's. At one time, I may have even been guilty of the same thing, at least to some degree. Until it happened to my dad, of course. Then it hit home. My dad -- a living, breathing person. An intelligent man, a man who accomplished great things in his life, who changed the mindset within the educational system in this State to promote greater education for the middle to lower class, to give them a chance to go beyond working at a fast food restaurant or dig ditches. To work instead as a Chefs, Nurses, and Programmers.

My dad. Not an Alzheimer's "patient." I know it's a common term, like "cancer patient," but I hate that term. For any disease. They aren't a "patient" (unless you're their doctor, of course). They aren't odd. They are a person. With a disease. That affects their brain. Called Alzheimer's.

I now know how to react. No matter what the "oddity," be it Alzheimer's, a severely handicapped person, or a homeless man on the street. I treat them like a person.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A bad fall; a trip to the hospital; restraints

After a week of not seeing my dad due to so many factors, one of which being the distance I live from the assisted living home, I find out on the way there this morning, via a phone call from my step mom, that he had fallen last night. She wasn't there when it happened, they called her not long after she had been home and she immediately went back to the assisted living home, and he wound up going to the hospital for x-rays.

He was very combative, however, even after sedation. They wound up having to use restraints to pin his arms down so that they could perform the x-rays. By the time it was over, they had to give him a total of four shots to try and sedate him enough. To their surprise, even after the four shots, he continued to fight, though at a much lesser, and manageable, degree. Not once did it put him completely out, and he stayed awake the entire night. Thankfully, the x-rays showed no broken bones and no concussion.

My step mom cautioned me on the phone that he was in bad shape, but I figured she just meant bruises and such. So I was a little surprised when I arrived at the assisted living home to find him in bed with his head arched back and mouth open, breathing only through his mouth, eyes half-closed.

It was not what you would expect to see from someone who had been sedated. He was still fighting, fidgeting with his hands and arms, legs half off the bed because he was trying to get up. Thankfully, he couldn't move his legs very far. My step mom was trying to make sure he didn't fall off the bed and make him comfortable with a blanket, which my dad was bunching up in his hands and lifting up into the air. She seemed to think he was trying to use the blanket -- in his extremely medicated state -- to pull himself up.

He did seem to know I was there when I spoke to him and tried to reach out and give me a hug, but I was the one who did the hugging; he was grasping at imaginary things in the air. He tried to talk a couple of times, but we couldn't understand his slurred speech, especially since he wasn't closing his mouth much. But from his tone of voice, it did appear that he was trying to say something coherent.

I wish I knew why my dad had resisted them so much at the hospital, and why he was fighting a simple thing like going to sleep. Is it just a normal thing for those with Alzheimer's to be so combative? (Note to self to go back and re-read the information on the stages of Alzheimer's disease). Maybe he is now entering the 3rd stage, if he hasn't already.

I am also curious as to why he isn't sleeping at night. The workers at the assisted living home said he doesn't sleep much at all during the night, and last night even with sedation, four different medications no less, he still didn't sleep. My step mom said the no-sleep thing started while he was still at home, so it's something that's been going on for quite some time. I worry about that. It can't be good for him to have gone so long now without getting the sleep he needs.

In my next Blog, I plan to talk about the stigma that seems to be attached to Alzheimer's disease and dementia in general.