Wednesday, April 11, 2007

121 news: Alzheimer's patient and dead rat

I have no idea of the truth of this story (you know the Internet), but it's been everywhere the last couple of days. There's a germ of truth in everything, so I wonder what it is in this case?
Staffing was so inadequate at a California senior center that a rat crawled into an Alzheimer's patient's mouth and died there before staff noticed, a lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday on behalf of 90-year-old Sigmund Bock, alleges that administrators at the Paragon Gardens Assisted Living and Memory Care Community in Mission Viejo overbooked their facility to receive corporate bonuses, but cut back on staff to increase profits.
Hmm. Remember my last post, about running nursing homes for profit?
Melody Chatelle, a spokeswoman for Sunwest Management Inc., the Oregon-based company that operates Paragon, denied the allegations....Chatelle said that Bock was found holding a glue trap that had been placed in his room by a pest control company to catch a single field mouse. She said the dead field mouse was inside the trap when Bock picked it up.
So how did it get from the trap into his mouth if that is the truth? I can see how it changed from a mouse to a rat in the telling (a dead rat stuffed into your mouth is so much more impressive than a dead mouse...although it must have been a very small rat or he had a very big mouth).
Bock's attorney... said two traps were placed in Bock's room and both were laced with poison, not glue....Paragon records show a staff person noticed Bock "playing with a rat in his room and eating candy ... with the rat".... A short time later...paramedics called to the scene noted "possible ingestion of rat poison" in their report and an emergency room file says that Bock was "found in room in care facility with dead rat in mouth."
Obviously he thought the rat was some kind of pet. But that still doesn't explain how it got into his mouth. I assume it died because it ate the poison. Can a person with AD be so far gone he'd stuff a dead/dying rat into his mouth? Would such a person be capable of playing with a rat and eating candy with it? Seems like two different levels of functioning to me.

As far as my dad goes, his anti-anxiety medicine has been tripled AND he's on the "real" medicine now as part of the study (all this time he's gotten the placebo). He seems a bit improved. He's better at puzzles. He seems to be farting less often and less loudly. He still picks incessantly at his hands, ripping off the skin and then licking at the wound. Because of the blood thinners, sometimes he really starts bleeding. We all (semi-automatically) say "Don't pick," and touch his hands to get his attention, but after a moment he's back to digging away and licking. The licking bothers me more than the digging--there's something so primal about it.
His OCD seems slightly better. At lunch on Friday, he dropped something on the floor and didn't care, unlike the time at the other place where he fixated on the dropped paper. Yesterday I saw him pick up every crumb and piece of lint from the carpet and put it all in a pile on the coffee table. My mom inadvertently knocked the pile back onto the carpet. He picked some of it back up, but not all, and my mom threw it away, and he seemed to lose interest. But then I saw him picking up various papers and magazines and hiding them under the couch cushions. He did it so quickly and so casually that if I hadn't been sitting right there I never would have noticed. He had a different bunch of magazines in plastic bags that he was trying to show me on Easter but no one could understand WHAT about the magazines was important, why he had them in individual bags or what he wanted to show me.
He still gets excited out of proportion, especially when it comes to anything concerning the car. If my mom hits a bump or hole in the road, he winces and says "ooh" loudly (even if the car barely moves) and he's still a little nuts about her parking far away from the door wherever they go (which was always his thing) and parking exactly between the lines.
He wears a ratty old hand-knitted green hat all the time, inside the house and out. Often in the house he'll have his winter coat on (on top of the 3 or 4 shirts he's wearing, and his fleece with the pockets bulging with special things he likes to carry everywhere). One night we let the dog sleep on his coat on a chair at the table while doing a puzzle. He came in, saw the dog sleeping on his coat, made me put the dog on the floor and then put his coat on. I swear it was because he didn't want the dog on the coat!
The dog is getting fat. He's not as fat as our last dachshund, but he's still chunkier than he should be. When we got him in June, he was thin and his ribs showed. (Too thin, but he'd been on the run for who knows how long.) Now he's got blubber. My mom says my dad feeds him all the time, whenever my dad has food the dog has some too. She's stopped feeding him wet food (due to the pet recall), which makes up for some of the calories, but he's still getting blobby. I am concerned because we don't know his medicine history (other than the injuries he had when we got him and the obvious scars on his body) and we don't know how his back will do with all that weight on it. Anyway, back to my dad, this isn't my pets blog.
His speech hasn't improved. When he wants something he's just as likely to point to it and say "that". We gently tell him the name. "Corn. Here you go." But it doesn't "stick". I noticed when I was there the other day he's got my mom's name written on a piece of paper next to where he sits. He never uses it, though, always calling her "hey" and grabbing her arm. I'm "hey" and an arm-grab too. For some reason he remembers my grandma's name sometimes, though. He never grabs her arm or calls her "hey". The cat and dog are both "baby", as are any of my birds he comes in contact with. He asks if every bird is the "original" one (meaning the one I've had for over 18 years) so he does remember that much.


Anonymous said...

While I have no way of knowing if the article about finding a dead rat in a nursing home resident's mouth is true or not, I can say that it is common, every day, ordinary to find Alzheimer's people putting all kinds of things in their mouths.

If, for instance, a person held a small object in their hand and brought it to their lips for a kiss, the action can easily trigger the response not of kissing but perhaps of biting or eating or chewing. It's close, right? We use our mouth for all kinds of things and from the time the thought launches to the time it lands it can become ANYTHING in transition. While playing catch with my father with a tennis ball I learned this. He threw it back and forth a few times, catching and throwing perfectly, and then he just held it in his hand and tried to bite it like an apple. If he was given a spoon, there is NOTHING he wouldn't eat - mayonnaisse, salad dressing, would motor oil be any different? It's a very dangerous disease in that respect, they are much like babes in the woods even though they're standing in the middle of a house they've lived in their entire lives. And we don't see them as babies, we see them as grown, mature men - our fathers.

Remember, everything is lost, the synapses aren't firing as they should and what starts out as one thought and idea can wind up as something entirely different. I asked my father to get me a screwdriver and he brought me two bananas. He knew I needed something and bananas are what he brought. Why? Who knows. No one deliberately gets lost, they just keep looking for home. No one forgets their wife, they just don't recognize her when she's right next to them. Everything, all thoughts, all recollections are misfiring. It's a wonder they survive as long as they do without intervention.

We must be sisters, my father called me "Hey", too.

Keep writing, you are just so talented in expressing where this disease takes you. I appreciate your blog and your voice tremendously.


Gail Rae said...

I'm riveted on your use of the word "primal" to describe his hand licking behavior after he's picked the skin off. Picking the skin off also seems like primal behavior to me.

I'm so intrigued by this I'm afraid I'm stuck on it. There is something so right about describing a lot of demented behavior as "primal", I think.

Thanks, Gert, for a unique and incredible point of view on this. You've got me thinking...and thinking...

Anonymous said...

Bert, you really make this description of life with your dad come alive. I hope the "real" medicine improves his quality of life. Either way, you're a good daughter to just be with your parents so much.

ng2000 said...

Another resource for you:

Anonymous said...

My wife and I have been taking care of my mother who has Alzheimer's for about 2 yrs now. she has exhibited all the same things most people write about of there family member. However she has developed this never thing of picking her skin off and telling us it needs to come off. When I try to explain that her skin needs to stay on she says right. And my wife very slowly says to me she has Alzheimer's. It's humorous however its seems unsafe to have open wounds all over her face, I don't know what to do. I don't want to resort to taping oven mits to her hands like the dog cone so it won't lick its wounds. But what other options do we have.