Tag Archives: dementia

Broken Bone

Doodicus turned 13 earlier this month. A week ago he broke his first bone: the middle finger of his thumb. Funnily enough, he did it playing dodgeball at school. I got the call while I was at the farm visiting my mom. It was a good excuse to clear out. I had just asked her if she knew who I was.(1) She didn’t. It confirmed my suspicisons.

The nurse said that Dood probably sprained his thumb, but he was in a lot of pain and it was swollen. He has a tendency to dramatize so I decided to just pop into a convenient clinic to have it examined. The doc’s guess was that he had hyper-extended it when the ball hit his hand, but they took x-rays to confirm. Both the doctor and nurse were surprised when the film developed and the bone was clearly broken.

He fashioned a finger splint that he can remove when he showers, and in two weeks we will see his pediatrician to see how it’s healing up.

(1) I was helping mom get together an outfit for her Christmas Party with her Red Hat Society ladies. She kept asking “What are we doing?” and I’d tell her. Over and over again she’d ask, and over and over again, I’d tell her. Even though I remained calm, inside my patience was strained. We all took her nodding and giggling as interaction and passive acknowledgement to what was going on around her. It wasn’t. It isn’t.

Grandma

I read the headline of an article on how documenting your day helps maintain your memory. I didn’t read it nor will I link to it for a couple of reasons.

1.) It’s so obviously true. Reading something that you wrote down based on personal experience returns you to that moment, even if it’s like looking through a hazy mirror.
2.) Because my memory is so foggy, I need to practice using it and not rely on the internet to fill in the blanks.
3.) I want to write more on what’s in my head right now; not what use to be or even what could be.

That means things won’t be that interesting here because they will be garbled, hashed, and more sloppily thrown into the white space than ever before. Worse, I’m going to try literally working through lost words in my vocabulary as I type instead of depending on an electronic thesauruses. I’m tired of the words always on the tip of my tongue but never passing my lips. I’m sure that has a medical term. In fact, I know I’ve looked it up before, but I’m not going to now. I will use spellcheck, so for that at least you can be grateful.

According to my TimeHop app, it was three years ago I scheduled a neurological appointment for my mom to discuss her own edge-teetering dementia. The doctor said Alzheimer’s but my sisters refuse to make that leap. There’s a difference and I suppose as an outsider you can say it’s obvious what those differences are, but I can feel it. It makes no difference when you see her hazel eyes clouded with the inability to recognize me, even if it’s for a moment or several seconds. I see confusion and hurt.

At Thanksgiving, she and my six-year-old daughter, Aitch, disappeared into her room. I was busy with prepping the meal, but later Aitch said that grandma Jean sat on the floor and watched her play, giggling at her antics. There was no conversation. I think that’s why grandma slipped away. Aitch has no expectations from her grandma to answer questions about what craft she’s been keeping herself busy with, or if she’s done Christmas shopping, or has she started baking cookies.

After we ate, I asked my mom who was seated at the table, if she wanted apple or pumpkin pie. She chose apple. I went to the kitchen and plated up a slice and added a dollop of ice cream. I then asked her if she wanted a fork or a spoon. She looked up and through me, her face blank, and shrugged. In that instant, I knew…I knew that she didn’t know why I’d ask her if she wanted a fork or a spoon. I calmly rephrased the question, “With your apple pie and ice cream, would you rather use a fork or a spoon to eat it?” Inside I crumbled.

The mother of a friend of mine died a couple weeks ago after losing a painful battle with cancer. Following the visitation as I was walking away from the church with my husband, Sparring Partner, I must have made said something trite like “I can’t imagine what she’s going through,” and in an uncharacteristically harsh response, Sparring Partner said, “No, you can’t. Some day you will.” His dad’s death a year and a half ago still leaves him raw.

The thing is I have already lost my mom. Physically she can sit beside me, warm in the way that a body pumping blood is, but she’s gone. I can’t talk to her like she’s my mom anymore. She doesn’t care that Aitch is a first grader and wants to be a clothing designer. A few years ago, she’d laugh and tell stories the hundreds magazine clippings of fashions I have glued to into tablets, or of the dozens of dress sketches I had that to were in a cardboard box in the attic. She doesn’t care that my son, Doodicus, is a year away from a school driving permit or that he went to his school dance. My son will never hear the story from grandma Jean about my first traffic ticket even though she was in the passenger seat when it happened. There’s no reflection or magnification of my pride, fear, humor in her eyes that anyone else might get when they talk about their family.

It’s Not Just Forgetting Birthdays Anymore

3:25 p.m. – My cousin calls my cell phone, but I’m with a client so I let it go to voicemail.

3:41 pm – I listen to voicemail. Cousin ran into a friend of Mom’s. Mom dropped off Dad for a doctor appointment and can’t find him.

3:44 pm –  I call Cousin, because what? What do you mean Mom can’t find Dad?? Cousin is on her way back home 25 miles away and asks I call her when I find them.

3:45 pm – I call Friend (who works at the hospital). She says the same thing: Mom said she dropped off Dad for a doctor’s appointment but can’t remember which doctor or WHERE. Friend said Mom can’t even remember Dad’s birthday in order for Friend to look it up in registration.

3:46 pm –  I call Brother. No, he didn’t know Dad had a doctor’s appointment. Call Brother when I find Parents.

4:00 pm – I leave office citing “family emergency” and drive to the hospital’s physician’s offices, which is just next door to my office building. Go inside and speak with registration to see if they can locate Dad in any of their offices. I should note that Dad’s been seeing a lot of doctors lately. He had a pathological crushed vertebra in January. Clerk calls Security as I explained that Mom is out driving around godonlyknowswhere looking for Dad and she has Alzheimer’s. We’re on the look out for an elderly couple. She’s driving an old white cadillac. He’s likely wearing a cowboy hat. Later I’ll discover I was half-right with that description.

4:10 pm – I start driving around the hospital’s and the adjoining offices’ parking lots looking for their car.

4:27 pm – I call the farm. Maybe they’ve found each other since the original phone call and are both home, safe and sound. No, neither of them have a cell phone. No answer.

4:36 pm – Brother calls. Have I found them yet? No. I update him on what I’m doing. He informs me they’re in the Towncar. I do another parking lot sweep.

4:41 pm – I call the farm again. Mom answers!

“So you found Dad!”
“No.”
“What do you mean, ‘No.’??”
“I couldn’t remember what doctor’s office I dropped him off at so I left.”
“You just left him in City and went home?? How was that suppose to work, Mom?!”
“I don’t know.”

4:43 pm – Text message from Sparring Partner: “Your mom just called me. She’s looking for you. Wants you to call her right away. All she said was I don’t have [Dad]. She said she doesn’t know where he is.”

4:45 pm – I head back to my office. Just for shits and giggles I go next door to my office to the office of the urologist. There stands Dad at the front desk. He was no more than 50 feet away from me this whole time! He sees me and asks what I’m doing there. He is not wearing his cowboy hat today.

No more than two hours after they went missing, I drove Dad home. He said he would never have thought she’d forgotten where he was. She had dropped him off and wanted to run errands since she was in the City. She finished shopping and then simply forgotten where she was to return. It’s a small city, a close community. We were lucky.

This time.

Head Games

I’m sitting here at the kitchen counter with my laptop in front of me, Aitch is next to me eating MY pizza, and a glass of wine (I’m drinking the wine). And before you start thinking how fancy we are, the pizza WAS frozen.

Also in front of me is the paperwork I was going to go over with my mom. It’s the pre-registration packet for her neurology appointment next Monday. We, the family, know its Alzheimer’s, but I guess we think there’s a magic answer to our frustrations by taking her and getting that confirmation. Grandma came up yesterday so she could go to Doodicus’s Winter School Concert and then spend the night to avoid making two trips (she drives 20 miles one way to be here each Monday). We are getting more and more concerned about her in the house alone with Aitch. She “forgets” to feed her lunch or if she took a nap.

When she’s not here, she’s often waiting for my brother to show up on the farm and help her with something, except she can’t remember what it is she asked him to stop over for. She received a rather substantial refund from an insurance policy a few months ago, and after my dad followed up on it, he found it hadn’t been deposited. When he asked her about it, she had no idea what he was talking about and then became upset when HE became upset about her forgetting.

If you have personally experienced someone with Alzheimer’s then you know when they get agitated, the symptoms get worse. Well, it hasn’t been JUST the missing check, but a litany of topics that get brought up by my dad who tends to be a bit of an asshole. This past year has NOT been a good one for my mom.

So I finally decided to make an appointment for my mom to see a neurologist. She needs medication to help stabilize her moods while the disease progresses. But I wasn’t sure how to tell her she had the appointment. While a year ago she was wondering what was wrong with her and why she was forgetting more and more things, she is now at the point where she doesn’t realize there is a problem. When I finally steeled my nerves to tell her and go over the paperwork, it didn’t go quite as well as I had planned.

“I made an appointment with Dr. Braindude next Monday.”

“What for?”

“Uh…well… you know how you said you aren’t feeling well lately….”

“I feel just fine.”

“Well, you mentioned that you thought you were forgetting things.”

“That’s called getting old.”

And the topic was effectively dropped because I totally lost my balls. I put the appointment page in her purse and didn’t say another word. I’ll let the rest of the family know how it went and they can bring it up over the week with her. On the upside, she’ll probably forget that it was me who brought it up in the first place.

Imbalanced

My mom was in and out of the hospital  this winter and with me the second closest in distance to her and my dad, I’ve been heavily involved in updating the rest of the family as to her current health. I am lucky that my brother, the only son, married a wonderful lady who has also been very hands-on throughout the ordeal. She and my brother live the closest to my parents, only a couple miles up the highway on their own farm so they check on my parents to make sure they have groceries and are eating and especially that my mother is taking her medications.

I went with my mom to see her family doctor who runs the tiny clinic in the town near the farm. He’s run the clinic for a few years now and they are very lucky to have him. The rubberbanding my mom was doing, the repeated hospital admissions, was most like due to her unchecked depression. The problem was cyclical:

  • Depressed
  • Not eating or keeping hydrated
  • Sepsis set in
  • Admission
  • Sepsis treated (but not the depression)
  • Discharged
  • Depressed about the admission
  • Not eating/hydrating
  • Readmission
  • Treated
  • Discharged
  • Depressed…

This last time she was taken to the emergency department at the hospital in the city I live instead of the very tiny critical access hospital in the above admissions. When I caught up with the ER doc, her analysis, which was backed up by lab work, indicated that all physically was fine with my mom. The infection from the sepsis was gone; blood pressure and thyroid levels good; but psychologically? She was “dead”. She wouldn’t look at the doctor and she wouldn’t answer any questions. It was following this appointment that we met up with the family doctor I mentioned previously.

If we didn’t get the symptoms of depression under control, she would continue the cyclical pattern already well established. He had a wonderful way of describing the depression to my mother, who I recall telling me many years to “get over it” when I was diagnosed with mild depression.

Diabetes is a chemical imbalance in the pancreas. Renal failure is a chemical imbalance in the kidneys. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It’s a disease of a major organ and shouldn’t be stigmatized, even though he knows it is, especially when one lives in a community made up of mostly farmers and their wives who never saw a need for a secondary education, at least in the peer group of my parents.

We reviewed her meds, one by one, discontinuing a couple and adding a couple in the hope that once her depression becomes manageable, her health (and memory, which has been declining in a frightfully rapid manner) would level out. In fact, he told us that one of the first signs of depression is memory loss or the appearance of senility especially in a geriatric patient. I have to believe this as my mom’s memory and recollection has improved, but I definitely see the early symptoms of dementia. I have to admit that I’m so glad Aitch is old enough to self-entertain herself on the days my mom comes up to spend time with her. In other words, she will tell grandma that her diaper needs to be changed instead of me coming home and finding her diaper heavy with several hours of urine.

I see a little back-sliding in the improvements that had been made after her hospital admissions due to her rapidly deteriorating dental health and related mounting expenses. A couple weeks ago, one of her front teeth broke. According to the dentist, it had failed due to fatigue. An odd, but fitting description. My mom was faced with making the decision to get a partial bridge or a permanent one (a cost difference of a couple thousand dollars) when even more problems were found. Unfortunately, antidepressants can accelerate dental decay.

The decline of my mother’s health has been gradual but steady.  I have a couple of siblings who see her very rarely as they live overseas and while I think it’s hard for me to see my mom like that, I can’t imagine what it’s like for them to see her age so drastically and radically between the time they saw her last and now.