Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Truly at a loss for words.

 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

My daughter is learning the above Bible verse this week in Bible class at school and quoted it to me today. It was something I especially needed to hear after the visit with my dad today, and it encouraged me.

Ever feel like you're at a loss for words? You know what you want to say, but aren't quite sure how to say it?

It takes on a whole new meaning with Alzheimer's. You are, quite literally, at a loss for words. Even if you do know what you want to say, you can't remember the right words to say it with. During the visit with my dad this afternoon, one thing really stood out to me. The quiet. The quiet caused by Alzheimer's. The eerie, lonely quiet.

Even when my dad spoke the few times that he did, it was still "quiet," because the words didn't make sense.

I felt weary of it all today, not only the quiet, but also of my dad having to be there at all, in the assisted living home, with others who had Alzheimer's or dementia, with the awful smells, and the gut-wrenching sounds of minds gone mad or emotions run amuck.

"Mr. A" was especially belligerent and moody today, yelling at another resident there. A resident who somehow got her hands on a cookie from the cookie tray being passed around at snack time, a cookie she wasn't supposed to have due to her swallowing issue. But she probably didn't remember she had a swallowing issue, and even said, "Why not?" when the worker that was taking the cookie away from her told her she couldn't have it. When "Mr. A" saw that the woman was fighting the worker and wouldn't let go of the cookie, he practically ran over to her with his walker and started to threaten her (she was in a wheelchair, by the way), but the worker told him to calm down and go sit down and she would handle it.

He calmed down for a few minutes, but just as soon as the woman (who lost the cookie battle, by the way ~ the worker crumbled it in her hand) wheeled herself to a table not far from Mr. A, he walked over to her and started yelling at her again, and the worker had to calm him down again. He finally walked off in a huff and said he was going to his room. "Good," I thought to myself, not wanting my daughter to hear his yelling and name-calling anymore. But at the same time, I felt bad for him. It wasn't his fault, at least not totally.

I wanted to take my dad out of there today and take him home with me, and make it all go way. All of it. But of course, I could not. He needs to be there, for his safety. It is not ideal, but there is no other alternative at this time.

Do you have loved ones you can talk to today? Talk to them. Talk a LOT. Spend time with them. In your cozy home or theirs. If they have done something to hurt you, forgive them, and talk. It is a precious gift.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dancing in the rain.

Yesterday's visit with my dad was like being in the rain, instead of a storm. I tried to dance in it. Sometimes, you are thankful that it is "just raining."

When I arrived with my daughter at the assisted living home at about 12:45pm, I held my breath as we pushed the doorbell of the Alzheimer's living area and waited to be let in. I was hoping to find him doing well today. At first, we couldn't find him, so I enlisted the help of a worker there, who checked a nearby room to his own and found him in the bathroom there. When he came out and saw me, at first I cringed at the sour look on his face and lack of recognition of me, but then suddenly, it was like a light came on, and his face lit up and we hugged. My first little dance.

Almost immediately he said, "It's been awhile." I did a second little dance, because I was amazed that he realized it had been longer this time between visits. Then I did another little dance as I noticed he was walking much better again, and without his walker. I mentioned it to the worker, who said that he had been walking much better for awhile now. I directed him to some comfortable chairs in the carpeted hallway, lined with plants and various end tables and made to feel somewhat like a living room. We sat and "talked," as talking goes for those in this stage of Alzheimer's. He actually responded to a few of my questions appropriately, though. When he tried to talk to me, however, I couldn't understand what he meant, so I had to just pretend that I did.

After a few minutes, my daughter asked if he wanted to go for a walk, so I figured we would take a stroll to the courtyard outside, and my daughter picked a flower and gave it to him. He received it with a smile. I danced yet again. My dad quickly became hot, though, since he was wearing a flannel shirt and it was a warm day, so back inside we went after only a few minutes. I was glad to see that my daughter was able to have a decent visit with her grandpa this time around, and that the other residents stayed pretty calm for the most part. Well, except for "Mr. A," of course. At one point he started yelling, convinced that the chairs lining the wall in the activity room needed to be moved or they were going to take the paint off the walls. I tried to see the humor in it as a worker there quickly calmed him down.

During the visit I noticed that the end of my dad's nose was quite red. I asked him if he had bumped it on something, and he nodded and said, "Yes. It did." Later I found out from my step mom on the phone that they had noticed it when they had woken him up the morning before, except what I had seen was actually much better than how it had looked the day before. She wasn't sure how he had done it.

We visited for about 45 minutes, then had to leave since my daughter was getting quite restless. One of the workers had to take him to his bathroom to get him "changed," and I figured it would be a good time to go. I tried to give him a hug, but he wouldn't stop walking. He was on a mission. But after we said our goodbyes and started to head for the door, he suddenly turned around and looked for us. I walked back and tried to give him another hug, but he turned back again and started walking, and wouldn't stop. I looked at the worker and we shrugged shoulders, and I just went ahead and left at that point, telling him we would see him later. Maybe somehow he knew we were leaving.

Thank you to anyone out there who might be reading this and praying for him. I appreciate it more than you could ever know.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My dad looked older today; not walking as good anymore

My dad's walking seems to have taken a turn for the worse again. Today he was having to use his walker to even just balance while standing up, and when he did walk, it was more of a shuffle. He tried to pick his feet up, but was only able to mostly drag them.

He was in his room with my step mom when I arrived. She had arrived right before me. He was sitting in a chair with his head dropped down, and at first, I feared the worst, but when I looked at my step mom, her facial expression told me all was okay and that he was only sleeping. I walked to his side and put my arm around him gently, so as not to wake him up. My step mom took out a can of chocolate-flavored Ensure then, and woke him up so he could drink it. He was all too happy to oblige. Apparently it's one of his favorite drinks.

He didn't look so good today. It's hard to explain, but his overall appearance seemed older, more tired, and weaker. He didn't light up with acknowledgement of me like he normally does, I could see confusion in his eyes when he looked at me as I greeted him. But maybe somewhere, deep down, he knew who I was. I can only hope that it was just another bad day for him, and not a worsening of the Alzheimer's, or that his body is just starting to give out. I always hold out hope that the medication he's on will stop the progression of Alzheimer's at some point. It certainly can't cure it, but it can help slow it down.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Another trip to the E.R.

This time, thankfully, it was just a urinary tract infection. He went to the emergency room Thursday morning because they saw blood in his urine. He was back at the assisted living home early that afternoon, with a prescription for antibiotics. So far so good, the blood seems to be slowly clearing up.

He was asleep when I went to see him in the E.R. on Thursday, so I went back yesterday morning to the assisted living home. It wasn't one of his better days, so we mostly just sat in silence, but every now and then he would look over at me and smile and nod, and reached out his hand for mine a couple of times, took it, and kissed it. I am always so thankful for those moments.