Wednesday, August 29, 2007

131 "he's not your father anymore"

I look back through this blog and smile sadly at some of my posts, where my dad did things that were kind of goofy and funny and we laughed a little at him, but in a loving way.
My dad is not funny anymore, not in the least.
He is incontinent, combative, possessive and completely inarticulate. And that's on a good day.
If he's not watched constantly, he goes in his pants. But now there's a twist. He won't take the dirty pants and underpants off. He won't shower. He sleeps fully dressed, in pee-soaked clothes. My mom is at her wits' end. Even if she could get him to wear diapers, how would she change him if she can't even get him to take off underwear soaked with pee or worse?
Sunday we had just gotten home from hiking at Sleeping Giant when my mom called for us to come over immediately. They were out in the yard and my dad attacked my mother, screaming at her that she'd stolen his money. (What money? Who knows?) Their neighbor saw or heard or somehow realized what was going on and rushed into their yard to pull my father away. In the melee the dog bit the neighbor (not badly), probably protecting my father.
We got there to find the kindly helpful neighbor with a slightly bloody leg, my father with his "mean face" on and fists clenched, ready to rumble and my mom in tears.
Typical Sunday.
My father turns to look at us as we walk up the sidewalk and demands to know, "Why are they here?" I finally do what I said I wouldn't do. I say, "I'm your daughter. Don't you know who I am?" Blank stare. My husband starts trying to talk to him and calm him down, but the mean face is getting worse and the fists come up. Remembering what several people have said to me about giving him things to hold, I take both his hands in mine and try to smooth out his fists. He yanks his hands back and fists them again like he' s going to go for me. I almost wish he would. My husband steps in, grabs my father, and starts saying emphatically that we're there because we love him and we want to help him but he can't hit people. Of course we have said this to him so many times and he won't learn. As Will is talking, my father is looking around him making the mean face at me and my mom is apologizing a million times to the neighbor for the dog. In return the neighbor apologizes for not realizing what was going on sooner and getting there quicker. Nothing is being accomplished.
The neighbor leaves. I sit on the steps. Will is still giving every version of his "do you want to live here with the cat and dog? Then stop hitting your wife" speech to my dad who is not listening. My mom explains that my father thought she stole his money. I give my father $3. He makes the mean face at everyone and then squirrels it away in his wallet.
The sad fact is that Sunday was my parents' 40th wedding anniversary. We should have gone out to a nice restaurant and celebrated. But there is no way.
My dad has my mom's engagement picture next to his bed. She saw him looking at it and asked who it was. He said, "my wife." And then he admitted knowing the picture was of her. So he knows that she's his wife. But he acts like she's his jailer.
I told my mom to leave, go anywhere, shopping, walk in the park, Sunday drive, just to get away. She went out shopping for about 90 minutes, leaving us to sit with my dad while he watched a ball game and pretended we weren't there.
In grandma news, we brought our new kitten Sputz over her house a few weeks ago to visit. She thought he was "very wild" but he was actually well-behaved. He ended up laying on the table sleeping while we did the puzzle. (At our house, the cats sleep on the kitchen table all the time--they have a bed there by the window--we never eat at our table.) Since all Grandma did was complain about the kitten, I won't bring him anymore. I thought that was the end of the story.
A few days later, something happened with my parents' cat. My dad let him outside without his leash and when my mom went to retrieve the cat, for whatever reason he freaked out and bit her hand pretty badly. It was swollen and infected. She took some antibiotics and it got better. End of story with that, too, right?
No. Grandma saw Mom's hand before it was healed and got it in her head that my fuzzy cuddly Sputz bit her, not crazy Jasper, and said she didn't want Sputz coming over again (which he already wasn't) since he'd bitten my mom so bad! My mom couldn't get her to understand that Sputz is a very good kitten and he did not bite her.
Back to dad.
So Sunday we have dinner as usual with grandma. My father leaned over and either karate chopped my mom's arm or pinched it (he does both, I didn't quite see which this time) and once again my husband explained IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE TO HIT OR HURT PEOPLE.
Blank stare.
We get ready to leave. My mom collects most of the empty soda cans in a bag. My dad's can is empty. She tries to take it. He resists. She gives up for the moment. We all go outside. My husband and I get in our car and start to back out of the spot. My mom tries again to get the empty can and my dad whacks her. My husband stopped the car dead, rolled down the window and yelled at him, getting the mean face in return.
In the car on the way home, I said, "I hate being mean to my father." My husband replied, "he's not your father anymore."
His rages always about "his" things. You are trying to take something from him (his soda can, his filthy pee-stained underwear) and that makes you the enemy in his mind. Or he thinks you have taken something that either he never had or he just can't find or is confused about.
And it's not just my dad. This was in News of the Weird a few weeks ago. It's mainly meant to be a humorous column, but this section didn't strike me as funny:

At a Toronto nursing home in May, a 69-year-old resident angrily kicked a 79-year-old fellow resident, causing him to fall and fatally hit his head. The victim had taken up with a female resident, thinking she was his wife, but the jealous younger man thought the woman was his own wife. She was actually married to neither; all three had Alzheimer's disease. (No charges were filed.) [The Star (Toronto), 6-21-07]

"That's my wife." "No, that's my wife." Kick. Thump.
In other news, I somehow came across this on the web: Project Lifesaver. I am probably going to explain it badly, but it is a GPS project aimed at dementia/Alzheimers, autism and Down's Syndrome people. They get a wristband which looks like a watch that has a GPS beacon in it. If the person goes missing, they check that person's GPS beacon frequency, dial it into some special machines and go looking. They sent me a nice DVD for free with some written material and asked me to give it to the local police, which I did. Whether they will sign up for it, I don't know. No police station in Connecticut has yet, although the Project Lifesaver guy who sent it to me said Stamford might. They can network the GPS info with the Safe Return data.
If you haven't got this in your area, write to them, get the info package and bring it to your police station. The Wallingford police had never heard of it, although they knew about Safe Return. I also found that my dad is not flagged as a dementia patient in their computer so I had them do that. I'm not sure why, since they have his safe return info.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

130 "Get in the shower"

Monday my mom called, frantic, saying "get over here and deal with your father."
He couldn't find the bathroom, couldn't ask for it, and pooped himself. Fine, no reason to make a big deal, right? But he refused to remove his soiled clothes or take a shower. My poor husband was in the bathroom with this smelly wreck of a man for a good half hour. He started off asking nicely and then progressed to threats (I will cut your clothes off with scissors) and yelling (take off your clothes! Get in the shower!). I just sat there in the living room like a useless lump, knowing that going in there would make things worse --remember how he freaked out when he peed himself a few weeks ago and I was there?
I can't say how much it sucks--you've heard it all, and if you're in this situation, you already know.
Here's another perspective: a friend of mine saw my dad recently. She had known him before he was diagnosed, not well, just as a friend's dad. This is what she wrote me when I told her about the above incident:

I can’t even say how I feel about your father. Seeing him that day ... just opened my eyes to what “Alzheimer’s” is/can be. I probably shouldn’t say this but I start to get all teary eyed when I think about him/it. I just can’t even image how that must be for him. In Monday’s case all he sees (lack of “knowing”) are people yelling at him & not understanding why these “people” are there and upset at him.

I just don’t get it/understand/know why things like this happen. What the hell are you/your mom etc supposed to “learn” from this. Isn’t that what they say “You learn something from your life experiences”? ahhhhh………. I’m just going to stop there because I think it’s something you could go on & on about.

My dad is having more and more trouble articulating even the most simple things. I've decided to bring my camera over there tomorrow and take pictures of everything he looks for: pens, pencils, wallet, keys, dog, cat, toilet, etc, and put them in a photo album so he can just point. To be reduced to breaks my heart and more than that, it makes me so damn ANGRY. Anger makes me want to rant, and like my friend said, once you start ranting on it, you can't stop, because nothing makes the outrage go away. There is no panacea for this rage.

Last weekend, I took my dad with me to see some ragdoll kittens at a breeder in Cheshire, Willow Pond Ragdolls. Linda was very kind, not upset that I showed up towing my whole family (well, me and my parents) or that my dad was mentally impaired. He was reluctant to hold the kittens ("too small") but held one of the mama cats and enjoyed watching me sit on the couch and play with them--she's got 8, 2 litters of 4 each born about 10 days apart. How do you pick? I fell in love with one of the littler ones, a seal point. He was the size of the palm of my hand and when I held him to my face and said "I'm going to eat you, you're so cute" he rolled over so I could scratch his belly. I will be going there again this weekend, to see which one I'll actually end up buying.
I already bought one, from Bluberri Cottage Cattery in Ledyard, where the breeder is also named Linda. He is the cutest, sweetest, smartest kitten I've ever owned, a seal point mitted with a blaze on his nose. I named him Chocolate Moose, the breeder named him Andy and my husband named him Sputnik Gauntlet. We call him Sputz.
We still have Nutter. He'll be 14 next week. He's got an ear infection, and of course he's still got lung cancer. Sputz loves him, jumps on him, licks him, follows him around. Nutter is not amused, although he is happy enough to eat Sputz's premium kitten food and lay on his window shelf. Once Sputz has a friend his own age, I hope he will calm down a little and they won't gang up on my poor old kitty.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

129 "do I know you?"

I was over my mom's house yesterday dropping some things off for a project we're doing this weekend. She said my dad woke up at (at 4 a.m.) calling her name--"Ann, Ann, Ann." It's rare that he remembers her name.
Later on they were out in the yard and he walked up to her and put out his hand and said, "Hi, I'm Bob Rizza." (Imagine how many times in his life, as a car salesman for over 40 years, 6 days a week, he said and did that, to make it such an ingrained reflex now.) She replied, "Hi, I'm Ann Rizza, I'm your wife." He thought that was hilarious. He had to go and get a piece of paper to write it down.
But an hour or so later, he went up to her again and said, "Do I know you?" (Politely, not meanly.) She said yes, they had know each other for over 40 years. He was amazed at that too, but not enough to write it down.
I have to wonder what really goes on in his head. If a stranger told me he had known me for 20 years (I'm not old enough to have a 40 year friend), I wouldn't blindly believe it. If some guy told me he was my husband, I wouldn't believe that either. But my dad accepts that. "Okay." and moves on. He knows enough that he doesn't remember things to be trusting, I suppose.
But did he ask me who I was when I got there? No, he just stood up, said, "Hi! Good to see you!" and shook my hand (a typical Bob greeting to anyone who is even remotely familiar to him.)
Aside: Today is the 1 year anniversary of my cat Zen's death. :(