Tuesday, July 31, 2007

128 "don't hit her"

I'm not writing as much, not just because I am busy with other things, but because my dad doesn't DO anything anymore. He hardly speaks. He picks his skin, stares at his hands, pees on himself, gets violent when he's frustrated.
Last Sunday, I don't know what set him off, but he started poking at my mother at the dinner table, smacking her arm. My husband grabbed my father's arm and started saying, very firmly, "Don't hit her," over and over, finally saying that if he kept hitting my mother, he'd end up in a nursing home. My dad sat there sullenly like a spoiled child, and then he went to the bathroom for a while. (He has no problem finding my grandmother's bathroom.) When he came out, he went and stood near the back door, wanting to go home immediately, so my mom packed up their stuff and the dog and took him home.
As soon as they were gone, my grandmother freaked out, started crying, getting all dramatic. We had to spend half an hour calming her down. She fusses at my father like he's 3--always wanting someone to wipe his face, fix his plate, he's using the wrong utensil or eating with his hands. I tried to explain to her to LET ALL THAT GO. None of that is important. He can't understand why he's being fussed at and corrected and frankly, who cares? I don't care if he eats with his hands or spills food on the table or puts gravy on his salad. I do care when he smacks my mother, or me, or lashes out in other ways. He only grabs and pinches her arms, not her face (so far), or once in a while her side or back. But it's wrong, and annoying, and it pisses me off to see her bruised. But when he is like that he is so strong--my husband wasn't there the night he flipped out in the restaurant. It's like a dual personality.
When I see him for lunch on Fridays, he recognizes my car and me (not as his daughter, or as "Bert" but as someone he knows) but after shaking my hand, he doesn't talk to me at all. Sometimes he doesn't even LOOK at me again, until we're leaving, and then he wants to know "when are you coming again?"
My mom told me that on Saturday, when she started to go to my grandmother's, my father said he didn't want to go there anymore and that if she made him go, he'd leave and walk home. Clearly he remembered was that he got yelled at there, therefore he doesn't want to return. He doesn't associate being yelled at with hitting my mom. Of course once he got there, he was fine and didn't go home. He was okay on Sunday too, didn't refer to the incident in any way (and did behave).
Friday night, my mom and I were playing a video game in the basement (I joined the Game Club at Big Fish games, so we can buy them for $6.99 rather than $20). My dad came downstairs in his usual confused way. We invited him to sit down and play the game with us. He didn't want to. He went into the other room and stood where the cat usually sleeps on the shelf, but the cat wasn't there (he was on a different shelf). My mom went into that room and showed him where the cat was. She came back and sat with me. We could hear my dad talking to the cat. Then he started swearing as if he had broken something--I don't remember the exact words, but basically oh shit-oh no-look at that-damn it. Actually my first thought was that he had hurt the cat, I don't know why. I don't think he would hurt the cat, he loves the cat.
My mom went in there and he had peed on himself. Not taken it out and peed, just let go where he was. I deliberately sat there and kept playing and ignored it, knowing he was embarrassed. Yelling at him for that does no good. He didn't want to change his clothes or take a shower. Finally my mom got him upstairs and got his pajamas on him, but he wasn't washed. She said he claimed that I was "laughing" at him for peeing himself. (I wasn't. I would never.) He came downstairs again and sat on the stairs watching us play the game, or sitting with his head down. He knows it's wrong to go in his pants and he gets very upset. But we think sometimes he can't find the bathroom. If he would do the little-boy thing and hold himself, it would be a clue and we could get him to the bathroom (there's even one downstairs, not 10 feet from where he peed on Friday).


Patty McNally Doherty said...

Hi Bert,

Your story is so familiar to my own. My father and mother lived together through his entire voyage through Alzheimer's. I think you hit the nail on the head when you say sometimes he knows what he's doing, sometimes he doesn't. There's no rhyme or reason to it. My father adored my mother and it was a shock to hear him and see him be threatening towards her. He just didn't know what was happening, couldn't decipher the code anymore.

Have you tried always agreeing with him? When he pees and starts swearing just tell him, Yeah, I know what you mean. You're right. Or when he goes to pinch your mom's arm, put something in his hand that he loves to eat - a cookie, some kind of treat. When we had to maneuver my father through something he didn't like, such as bathing or changing clothes, a cookie in each hand solved the problem when all the reasoning/arguing in the world couldn't. Maybe it was having two things at once in his hands interrupted his thought process, challenging him to pick a hand to get to his mouth.

Like all the "tricks" of Alzheimer's care, some days they work, some days they don't.

Hang in there, kiddo.


Mauigirl said...

So much the same as my father; he got so nasty to my mother. And now my mother-in-law. My father-in-law tells us that she is getting to the point where he thinks she sometimes doesn't know who he is, and she starts swearing at him, words he didn't even know she knew. But she knows enough to know that if he tells us about it, she is embarrassed, so she tells him to "shut his face" in the background when he's on the phone with me telling me something she did. And this is a woman who worshipped her husband and attended to his every need for over 50 years.