The Alzheimer’s Threat

Since Doodicus was a baby, his grandma, my mom, has spent one day of the week watching the kids. It’s been a wonderful opportunity for all of us. As you know, my mother’s declining mental health has made many day-to-day tasks challenging. Initially diagnosed with early dementia, she is now in the early, but moderate, stages of Alzheimer’s and on several different medications.

These were prescribed with the intent to slow the affects of the disease, but they only work when they are taken consistently. How do you get someone who cannot remember what day or time it is to take their Monday morning dose? My brother who lives within a couple minutes from the farm, stops in almost daily to see if she’s taken her medicines, but he’s reported there are times he hasn’t been over for two or three days to discover she’s not taken anything.

When I talk to her on the phone, I can tell when she’s been taking her medicine as prescribed. She happy, content, talkative and rarely repeats herself. Without, she’s brusque, bitchy and can’t remember what the topic was from the five minutes before, if she even stays on the phone that long without hanging up without so much as a "good-bye" or "Love you". A couple weeks ago, I had asked if she could come to watch Aitch on Tuesdays instead of Mondays because I have Tuesday afternoons off. I can keep a better eye on her and let her go home earlier as she’s so exhausted by noon. She remembered and I was relieved. Tuesday passed without a hitch except she left her glasses behind. Two days later, as we were eating breakfast, she rang the bell and I went to the door puzzled by her unexpected visit (mind you, it’s a 25 mile drive). I thought it was because she had forgotten her glasses and she had some kind of appointment in town and was stopping by to pick them up. I asked if she wanted to spend the day with Aitch since she was in town. She said, "Well, that’s why I’m here. Your dad said I was suppose to come up." I hadn’t talked to my dad in a couple of weeks and certainly had not told him that mom was to be at our house that day.

We discovered she wasn’t taking her medication again. Sunday I called her, and since I was in a shit mood, having sat at the table with Doodicus for four hours trying to get him through his homework, I told her simply that if she didn’t take her medicine as prescribed, she couldn’t watch the kids anymore. I feared for her safety and I feared for the welfare of my kids. She’s incapable of using the cell-phone we leave at the house for emergencies. Against my repeated requests, she lets Aitch play in her car, which seems to always result in the key getting turned over or the lights turned on leaving her a dead car battery at the end of the day. (Yes, grandma stays with her, but what if mom collapses in the car and my daughter has the key or can’t open the door on a hot day…I go into a panic just thinking about it.)

Sparring Partner has had enough, too. He will drive home over lunch to make sure they are eating and almost always finds Aitch sitting in the living room in front of the TV with a glass of soda (which we don’t allow her to have, much less have in the living room, much, MUCH less in an open glass!) eating marshmallows out of the bag or he’s picking up a dozen tootsie roll wrappers littered across the house. It’s like grandma just doesn’t give a shit.

My mom use to talk with so much scorn about the people who would end up in the nursing home "batshit crazy and not knowing what day it is" and claiming she would never want to end up that way, and yet here she is, one step away, and it’s pissing me off. My mom and dad despise each other (another long story) so they only live in the same house, refusing to help each other. Dad’s not going to remind her to take her medicine; mom won’t ask dad to remind her to take her medicine. I’ve offered to buy my mom a pill dispenser that has an audio alarm, but she doesn’t want it. Won’t use it. And sure, I can threaten that she can’t come up and spend the day alone with the kids, but what good does that do when she doesn’t even remember the threat?

The thoughts I have about the situation are selfish and ugly. I am already feeling the crushing weight from what is going on with Doodicus, and frankly I just want someone else to just make it all go away.


14 thoughts on “The Alzheimer’s Threat”

  1. Sorry – I know it’s hard having to take care of children and parents too. I’m in a similar situation. I agree with the suggestion to use a home health agency if your parents can afford it. It’s a much cheaper alternative to assisted living as long as it meets your mother’s needs.

  2. Yeah antropologa. I can’t say it any better.
    Also, 4 hours of working on homework in one day???? There is just no way that’s reasonable – for you or the Dood (or anyone else short of college).

  3. I think you HAVE to be selfish at this point. I mean shit, she’s not going to remember it anyway. Your family has to be your first priority.

  4. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s and I couldn’t really even let her in the same room with my kid without a lot of interference (towards the end), much less let her watch my kid. She was mercurial and mean and violent and forgetful and irresponsible and unpredictable.

    She hated taking her medicine and certainly wouldn’t do it on her own. My mom had to cajole her every time. But they helped in the long run.

    When my mom couldn’t do everything for her mom she had ladies come in part-time and help. Not cheap.

    Asking your mom to remember to take her meds won’t work and threatening her if she doesn’t take them won’t work. She just can’t take care of herself, so honestly it sounds like she can’t take care of your kids. Even if she did take her meds regularly, since her condition will just get worse she’s probably not going to be a good caregiver for them.

    So there’s that issue to worry about (caregiving) and then there is getting her to take her meds. To my mind they are unrelated issues. Carrots and sticks don’t work with Alzheimer’s patients. The reason and the capability are gone.

    Basically there’s no good way to handle Alzheimer’s. They all suck and it’s all a downhill road. It’s just horrible. But your kids–it can be uphill for them. My mom just about killed herself trying to make her mother’s life better and with Alzheimer’s that’s not really possible. But it’s you and your children that have a future.

    I’m being kind of bossy and know-it-all and even a little Mommy Drive-by here. I’m sorry for that. That’s really not what I mean. It’s just that I just saw all this kind of thing happen before and I know it’s really hard not to let it go too late before you realize how incapacitated someone is and stop treating them like they used to be. And a lot of bad can happen before that change in how you treat them comes around.

    1. I never considered this as a drive-by, but a response to my call for help. This is just what I needed to know. I need to make sure I’m still not sniffing around for roses when I’m nose-deep in a pile of crap.

  5. my heart goes out to you…and i’m afraid we’re going to be in the exact same boat in a few years. my son is 3.

  6. Is there a home health care option available? I mean, obviously Alzheimer’s patients can’t remember stuff, and remembering to take the medication is vital, so maybe there is another option?

    1. First of all, my mom would never agree to go to a nursing home and since she has not yet been ruled incompacitated, we can’t force her to go. My sibling is the POA and she also doesn’t not consider mom incompacitated at this time. Secondly, the cost is extremely prohibitive at $3-5,000 a month. Mom doesn’t qualify for nursing home insurance either. Lastly, if my dad, the stubborn prick that he is, would have signed off ownership of the farm and house a few years ago when we had suggested it, they would have qualified for Medicaid. Even if he signed it today, which he never would, it would have to be out of their names for a total of 5 years before they would qualify for assistance.

      1. Does the sibling that is the POA live close enough to monitor mom? If she doesn’t think mom is incapacitated she should spend a day or two with her when she isn’t taking her meds.

        Do you have Visiting Nurse Service where you live? If the doc orders it, I believe Medicare usually picks up the tab. I am guessing your mom and dad will bristle at the idea but that’s too bad. Their safety is an issue now. If your mom “forgets” that she was there on Tuesday and shows up on Thursday (assuming she drove herself, which is another issue all together), will she remember to turn off the stove?

        If your sister is POA of your mom does she have the right to sell the farm to pay for extended care?

        My heart just breaks for you. Sadly you are the ‘perfect’ example of the sandwich generation. Caring for kid and parents at the same time. Hardest. Job. Ever.

      2. The POA lives about 4 hours away and gets only bits of information based on the two of us that live the closest. Is she still self-sufficient? As far as I know. She shows up dressed normally, but she never talks about what she’s been doing because I’m sure she wonders if the topic is something that happened last weekend or 10 years ago. My brother’s wife has looked into what it would take to be a care provider for her as she has no clinical experience, but I guess none is required for this type of situation. That way, my SIL can be very close and also get some kind of reimbursement, which I am all for. Right now, just to make sure she takes her medication and that they eat is the most important.

      3. Would it be any more affordable to have a visiting nurse service come in every day or every other day? So you don’t have to try to force her into a home but there would be someone who would check on her and make sure she’s taking her meds?

        Taking off assvice hat…so sorry you’re dealing with this on top of everything else.

  7. Oh man, I’m sorry. From everything I’ve read, Alzheimer’s is SO much worse on the caregivers than it is on the patients themselves.

    I totally get the ugly thoughts and I really feel for you. Wish I could wave a wand and make everything better.

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