Thursday, September 28, 2006

101 “It was awful”

My dad came through the angioplasty as well as can be expected. He had to have a stent put in because one artery was almost completely blocked. He's back home now.
So I’ll back up to Tuesday morning.
My parents picked me up at 5:45 a.m. which is about an hour earlier than I am usually awake, much less out the door. We found Hartford Hospital without much trouble; there wasn’t a lot of traffic yet. (My dad thought there was but I think it was just that everyone had their lights on, which for some reason makes it look like there are more vehicles.)
Going to the hospital is like going to the airport. Hurry up and wait.
They put him in a room on the 8th floor first. They told us the wrong room and then said they were doing the procedure there in the room in front of us. Eww. No way. But it was the wrong room, wrong procedure, so we got moved to another room. He had to put on the little gown and cool little blue sockies with tread on them (I wanted to keep the sockies; I don’t know what happened to them.) and get into bed. They hooked him up to all sorts of IVs and things. Then we had to sit around and wait.
Finally they came to get him and moved us to another floor and a waiting room. My mom and I just sat there. The TV was on really loud, annoying morning talk shows and then the same news stories over and over. A few other people were in there and we talked to them a little. I tried to read.
The doctor, Dr Farrell, came and explained they were going to have to put a stent in because of the blockage, a medicated one which meant he’d have to be on more medicine (why a medicated stent requires more drugs then an unmedicated one will remain one of life’s great mysteries). The doctor was concerned about dad's compliance with taking the pills. But my mom watches out for all that for my dad.
We got to watch a video of the procedure afterward, how the dye floods the arteries and outlines the heart, and where they seem to disappear or get smaller is where they are blocked. He has several others which are partially blocked but the doctor didn’t put stents in them. He understood what my mom wanted—keep him comfortable, nothing heroic or crazy. He was awake (slightly sedated) for the procedure and the doctor said he did really well.
Once my dad was all done they took my mom away to sit with him but wouldn’t let me come in because it was “too crowded” so I probably sat for another hour alone. By then the TV was off, thank god. Then they moved him to the 10th floor. That took a while because they wanted to put him next to the nurses’ station so they could keep a close eye on him due to the Alzheimer’s. He also had a private room. By then it was after 1:00 p.m. We got him situated and then my mom and I left to have lunch, let the dog out, and I had to go to school. Plus I was exhausted because I didn’t fall asleep until after 2 a.m. (I don’t sleep well anymore without my Zen-Zen kitty).
When my mom went back up at suppertime, there were a bunch of psychologists waiting with my father. They were trying to “evaluate” him, whatever the hell that means. They wanted my mom to stay overnight with him. She refused-she’s got the dog, the cat and the crazy grandma to deal with. She can’t sleep up in Hartford on a whim.
These people had no idea what to do with him. My mom got mad and said “Don’t you have any other Alzheimer’s patients here?” and they said “yes but not on this floor.” Well then GO to the other floor and say “WHAT DO WE DO WITH THIS GUY?” How hard is that?
So my mom told him she’d be back to pick him up around 9:00 a.m. and went home.
When she got there the next morning she found out that he had been agitated and kept trying to pull out his IV and catheter so they put him in restraints and sedated him. She was a little late getting there due to traffic and having to stop at a gas station, and he was totally upset, saying that they told him she was dead and she wasn’t coming for him.
The thought of my poor gentle daddy drugged in restraints is so upsetting to me I can’t even put it into words. Yes he can yell and get upset but he doesn’t DO anything.
I went to see him last night after work and asked him how he was. His succinct answer? “It was awful.”
My mom said she will NEVER ever put him through that again. He’s already fighting his diet changes, fighting taking more medicine (she started last Friday with all that). She says 1-2 years and he’ll have “the big one” and that will be it. She switched his salad dressing with low fat (put low fat in the other bottle) because we’ll never be able to get him to stop drinking it. She’s going to switch his cookies to low-fat too, but she said he reads the package so it will be my job to buy low-fat cookies and empty the package into the cookie jar. He refuses to eat the baked potato chips (she’s already tried) so it will be no potato chips for him.


Anonymous said...

I'm reminded after reading your story that it's all about the quality of one's life, not the duration. I'm in a similar situation with my Mom and I ask myself every day "Will this improve her life or not?". She's 79 and I believe she deserves that.
My prayers are with you and your family.

Mona Johnson said...


I hope your dad is more comfortable and alert now, and that things are settling down. I'm thinking about you and your family.

Patty Doherty said...


Something that might help with taking meds is to get a pill crusher, available at any drugstore. My father was incapable/reluctant to take his pills. My family's solution was to crush them and mix them into something he loved to eat, like Cool Whip - he LOVED the stuff - and down the hatch it would go. JUST BE CERTAIN that the medication you're crushing isn't altered by crushing it - such as a time-release component. Your pharmacist becomes a great source of information and can help guide you with their knowledge.

Expecting my father to be compliant and cognizant of the purpose of his medication was asking for way more than he could deliver. Just another area of mental functioning an AD person drops and a family member must catch. Once we were able to give him his medication this way - in his case, he took very little - we avoided the hours we used to have to spend cajoling him into swallowing a pill.

Hope this helps.



Deb Peterson said...

Bert--Reading what you and your family went through makes me very angry. Eight years ago my father was in the hospital for a week with severe back pain due to spinal stenosis. He had also been diagnosed earlier in the year with congestive heart failure, so back surgery was out of the question. My father did not have dementia at the time, but the experience of being in the hospital induced delirium in him. He'd tell us all kinds of wild stories when we visited--that he'd been on a train, that he'd been on TV, etc. He was also agitated and, like your father, was restrained. I know the feeling you had! What makes me so mad is that even elderly without dementia OFTEN become agitated and delusional in a hospital--the medical profession KNOWS this. So why are they still so baffled about the best way to handle them? It's really inexcusable!! It was tough enough for you and your family to go through an angioplasty, but you should NEVER have had to deal with the restraints. I know part of the reason is that they don't hire enough nurses, and the nurses they do have are so overextended.

Bert, I agree with your Mom and you--do the best you can to help your father eat right. You are already doing more than enough to give him a good life. The medical field has GOT to help us deal with situations like this, rather than put us through further grief.