Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Alzheimer's Aunt gets a new phone & fails to eat dinner

I'm beginning to think that either we were really LUCKY with my dad (remember, he tried to kill my mom AND a doctor) or (Alzheimer's) Aunt (AA) does not have dementia.
Although I had a meeting scheduled last night, I was basically pulled out of it to go to Verizon to get Alzheimer's Aunt a new cell phone.  Why?  Because she broke the old one in her "frustration" (that word gets thrown around a lot by my cousins) over the voice mail issue.
I'm having a lot of trouble reconstructing the events of yesterday.  Apparently Alzheimer's Aunt tried to use Skype on her computer to call one of her children who is out of state.  She couldn't manage to do it.  Whether that means that she couldn't get Skype to start, or that her child wasn't answering, I don't know.  So "in her frustration" she once again unplugged everything.  WHY does she think that solves ANYTHING?  The landline was disconnected as part of this madness.  Then she panicked when she realized she had no phone and, if I'm understanding correctly, attempted to use the (unplugged) landline phone to Skype her out-of-state child to have him call ME to tell me she has no phone.  That makes absolutely  NO SENSE so I'm guessing either I don't understand the story, or she doesn't even know what she was doing.
Although she had no phone, somehow my cousin found out that AA needed a cell phone immediately (unless the outing was already planned) and I got the call to "drop everything" and go to Verizon. Apparently because I can help my (perfectly cognizant) mom with her cell phone needs, I'm the go-to cell phone person in the family for crazy people.  And I had to prove I'm "helpful" apparently since usually apparently my brand of help is too bossy and horrible and unhelpful.  
So off to Verizon.   On the way, I politely asked Alzheimer's Aunt how she was doing.  She started in with a litany of whining "I'm not having a good week" (it's MONDAY) and I tuned out. Then I found out that she needs a phone jack splitter. I offered to walk over to a department store while they were waiting to be called by Verizon and get one.  I couldn't find one unfortunately--too old school I guess.  I came back and looked at some basic phones (although her daughter insisted that she wanted to get her mom an i-phone, that daughter wasn't there that night and no i-phone was happening for someone who smashes a cheap flip phone "in frustration" over not being able to use it) to see if any had big button or displays or voice dialing but I did NOT point out my choices to AA, only to my cousin.  Alzheimer's Aunt stared blankly at the display of "basic phones" (not smart phones).  She refused to even pick any of them up to see if she liked them or could use them.  She wanted a "stylus" to dial with because her fingers go on the wrong keys (because she's BLIND remember) but somehow she can aim a pointed stick accurately.  She finally settled on a phone that talks when you push the buttons (two-zero-three) and a $50 a month unlimited minutes plan.  Apparently her last cell phone bill went over by $300 because she couldn't figure out how to dial and she'd call random people and TALK TO THEM (oh, those poor people) and also call numbers from old scraps of paper and her call log (remember, she's blind, but somehow she can read when she wants to) to "find out" who they are.  She had the broken phone with her, wanting her pictures.  The guy promised to try.
We were standing by the counter waiting and when I looked over she had the most childish pout on her face, her lip stuck out, her eyes all small.  She didn't want to wait, but she had to have her pictures!  Then she said she was "exhausted" and "faint" and all this was "too much" for her (like we forced her to go there).
Finally the guy came out and said he couldn't get any data off the broken phone, causing more pouting.  She couldn't figure out how to swipe her credit card to pay, she didn't know her PIN (luckily my cousin knows it; I deliberately looked away because I don't want to know it).  She had a new big wallet and was complaining that all her credit cards don't fit.  Half the slots were empty.  We pointed that out.  "That's what my daughter says too," Alzheimer's Aunt whined, "but it's not true.  They don't fit."   Somehow I am the only person who thinks any of this is irrational.
She can barely walk.  She's flat footed and takes baby steps and sways and seems about to topple at any moment.  We finally made it to the car.  It's parked far away because she "lost" the handicapped parking application I filled out for her that needed to go to a doctor to get verified, so she has no parking placard. Probably because it was "bossy" of me to try to get her a handicapped parking pass that she could use in anyone's car so she wouldn't have to walk far.  I'm such a terrible person.
On the way home, she's going through the bag, throwing everything around, all the packaging and receipts and little booklets and cords and things.
"I don't have the phone," she announces.
"you have it," we say.
"No I don't!"  She starts yelling.  "I lost it.  Turn around right now!  I need to buy another one."
"no, you have it."
She throws the bag at me. "Is it in there?  Show it to me."
I verify that the bag is indeed EMPTY because she took everything out and flung it on the floor.  "You have the phone," we say over and over.
"You're gonna be sorry!" she's screaming "you're gonna be sorry when I get home and there's no phone!"
"you have the phone."
"No I don't have it!  I lost it!  We have to go back!"  Then, "oh, is this it?"
"yes, that's the phone"
"oh I thought that was my old phone."
I could go back and read every entry on my dad for the 4 years of his illness and I can't believe I'll find a pattern of behavior anything like this.  The ONLY time is when he lost his bundle of business cards and notes and he blamed my mom and then found them.
The night before the Verizon expedition, Alzheimer's Aunt was supposed to have dinner at my mom's house with one of her kids.  My mom cooked extra, for 2 more people--wouldn't you?  Last minute, Alzheimer's Aunt "didn't sound right on the phone" to my cousin who had to run over there.  She was "having a bad day" and started in on her pity-party poor me victim-mentality and refused to go eat because she's a "burden" on my mom and me, and kept my cousin from going either, demanding a ride in the car instead.  So my poor mom was stuck with all this food.  No apologies issued.  Even before AA was sick, my mom often had her over for meals and holidays.  AA never had her over in return (not that she would in the hoard) or even offered to reciprocate with a restaurant meal.
I am just baffled that my violent abusive dementia dad was easier to handle than Alzheimer's Aunt. I wish someone would bring her to a geriatric doctor and get a formal diagnosis so we'd all know what was really going on.

Friday, September 21, 2012

No matter what (Alzheimer's Aunt) & Alzheimer's day

I've been trying to stay away from the whole Alzheimer's Aunt (AA) situation.  It's mostly making me angry, as you can tell from my posts here.
One of my cousins told me something today, though, that I need to share.  Alzheimer's Aunt is supposed to be filling out some kind of lifestyle questionnaire for the elder care lawyer, so the lawyer can help guide her into the right paperwork, etc.  One of the questions was about being kept alive by machines, being resuscitated, etc.  Alzheimer's Aunt stated, emphatically, that  
if there is even a percent of a percent of a chance, she is to be revived and kept alive by any and all means necessary, no matter the financial or emotional hardship to her family.
This is a woman who did not hesitate to pull the plug on her own mother 20 years ago.  When my cousin, mildly, pointed that out, AA got angry and non-responsive.   
So it's okay for you to kill your mom, but not okay for your kids to kill you in the same situation?  And for your kids to go bankrupt and have their lives ruined caring for a brain-dead person?
Would you like to know WHY?
Because she thinks she's going to hell.  She doesn't agree with her church so she's decided her god is going to punish her.  I suggested that maybe, rather than hashing this out with a lawyer, she call a priest.  A very nice priest came out and talked to my grandma last year for her birthday (ironically, the last birthday present I ever gave her, who knew?) and I'm sure that same priest would come for Alzheimer's Aunt.
Today is World Alzheimer's Day.  Hope, pray, shake your rainstick, whatever it takes. for a cure.

Monday, September 17, 2012

had it with you....Alzheimer's Aunt

The Rolling Stones have a song called "Had it with You" and that's about how I feel.
I didn't attend a single minute, a single SECOND, of the lawyer's meeting.  The lawyer had said she might ask me to print some documents (when she emailed me the day before) but she didn't.  No one thanked me for setting up the elder care lawyer meeting OR for having it at MY house (nearest to AA's hoard but not in it).
As far as I can tell, someone has had to run to AA's house for "emergencies" last Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and today.  Most of the involve her not answering her phone (today's panic) or not being able to find her glasses (yesterday's).  Of course when you get there, she's found the glasses or just forgot to charge the phone.  
I was supposed to take her to another useless doctor appointment (check her blood pressure!  Really, with all that's going on, her BP is the priority?) tomorrow and I casually said, before the lawyer got there, "Can the doctor's appointment on Tuesday get rescheduled so someone else can take her?" and one of my cousins said that was already happening.
Because AA is PISSED at me.  I've got an ATTITUDE, I'm ordering her around, I'm not helping her.
She refused to speak to me when she got there for the meeting.  She didn't thank me afterward.  I was talking to one of my cousins before the meeting, and AA's phone rang.  First she says, "Oh, is that MY phone?" when no one else seems inclined to answer.  Then she starts freaking out, flinging her pocketbook around, wailing, "oh this stupid thing!" and basically acting like a 5-year-old until finally she managed to somehow (I don't know how because getting a cell phone out of a purse is probably at least a 3 person and 20 minute job, right) get out the phone and answer it.  Just then the lawyer arrived.  AA did her patented hand-wave "get away I'm on the phone" at her, and that was when -I- walked away.  Lawyers get paid.  You want to pay them while you gossip on the phone about how horrible your life is being blind and helpless, go right ahead.  I'm not paying the lawyer's bill, am I?
So I don't know and frankly don't care how the meeting turned out.  I heard a bit of talk about another meeting being scheduled for signing paperwork that evidently I'm expected to be at (as a witness, cuz you know she's not giving evil bossy me POA or anything else) but no one bothered to tell me when or where so maybe I'll be busy who knows?  I don't know and I don't care.  And I also don't care if I'm a bitch.
She invited herself to my mom's for dinner last night.  She stunk.  Body odor, putrid breath, dirty clothes.  My mom said today when I talked to her, "you didn't eat much" and I said "because AA smelled so bad!"
Today the alarm bells were ringing because she's not answering her phone.  Yesterday it was lost glasses (oh, I found them) and then a hysterical crying melt-down because no one loves her and cares about/for her. Which is such bullshit.  She's got everyone at her beck and call and she's totally abusing the privilege.  During the lawyer meeting she expected her laundry done (by me)!  I'm a fucking MAID now?  And "here's some bills that need to be mailed" that all need stamps!
Oh but she's SO DEPRESSED (but refuses to take the anti depressant that someone finally figured out she needs) she's BLIND and HELPLESS.  And she's not going to ANY doctor EXCEPT an eye doctor to fix her eyes.  She's not cleaning until her eyes are fixed.  She's doing nothing because she's BLIND.  Except, of course, when she makes comments clearly showing she can see.
Had it, had it, had it, had with you.
UPDATE:  today's emergency was that she tried to move her TV and "in her frustration she unplugged everything in the room." (including, I assume, the house phone) My simple question, "How did that make her cell phone not work?"  "She broke her cell phone."  Now, the other day, she was wailing and crying that everyone who calls on the cell "hangs up" in 4 rings and something about "automatic voice mail" and she doesn't understand voice mail and she can't control her phone so she has to control everyone who calls it (that's her words, not mine:  CONTROL).  We've told her that you only have about 30 seconds to answer the phone and no one is deliberately hanging up on her.  She expects everyone who calls and gets voice mail to simply call back over and over and over until she answers!  Because it's too difficult to carry the phone around or keep track of it (she can't keep track of her glasses, having to know where the phone was too would break her mind entirely apparently) so she locates it by the ring.  And I guess when it stops ringing she wanders off so when it rings again, the cycle starts again.  I, personally, won't call someone who puts that kind of restrictions on me.  I'm not calling 11 hundred times until you have the sense to stand next to the phone or know where it is.
In an aside, I asked one of my cousins for a favor.  I needed help with winterizing my koi pond.  You'd think, with all I do for AA, someone would throw me a bone.  Nope.  "She's not answering her phone, I have to go there, can't help you. Maybe another day."  Next time you call me, cousin, that's my answer too.  Can't help you today, maybe another time. 
My mom thinks AA is faking it or at least exaggerating whatever she does have in order to get attention.  She is totally spacey and dementia'd out at one moment and then she's looking at a letter tile game and saying "oh, can you use French words?" and spelling things in French. (Blind, what a miracle, huh?)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Even more Alzheimer's Aunt--or why should I do this again?

Last week I spent half a day at the gym, which I do quite frequently as I still have over 100 lbs to lose.  My phone is shut off when this happens, as phones aren't allowed there.  I was in the locker room changing and I turned the phone on to find it deluged with voice and text messages from various cousins:
"Go to our mom's NOW she's not answering the phone."
"She called me at work and hung up and now she's not answering."
"Been trying to call her for 4 hours, please hurry over there!"
"Where are you? you need to check on our mom NOW!"
I was SO ANGRY.  I immediately texted everyone back saying "I was at the gym for 5 hours, I need to eat.  I'll go over in an hour."
The "been trying for 4 hours" cousin sent back a really passive-aggressive message, "well I have work in an hour but I'll have to blow it off to check on her THANKS you take care of YOURSELF."  My point is, you were calling her for 4 hours and then waiting around for me to answer your angry text messages, you had over 5 hours to drive the half hour to her house and check on her yourself.  SHE IS NOT MY PROBLEM.
Turns out Alzheimer's Aunt had accidentally shut off her phone ringer.  No one apologized for ranting on my voice mail or text messages.  I pointed out to them that I don't have a key to AA's house.  So if I go there and the door's locked and she doesn't answer, what am I supposed to do?  Call the cops?  They'll break down the door, see the hoard and call in Adult Protective Services.  I think that's a wonderful idea.  My cousins don't agree.  Their solution? Here's a key.  (groan)
A few days later, Alzheimer's Aunt found some paid bills.  We went over there to deal with sorting them.  None of them were marked paid or had any notes. (When I pay my bills, I write the date paid, I circle or write the amount I sent, and if I write a check I note the check number.  Isn't that how it's done?)  She had bills from 2010, 2011, 2012 and back in the 200x's all mixed together.  She kept reply envelopes and blow-in ads.  She kept 3 years of newsletters from AARP and AAA.  Really?  When I tried to throw them out she lost her mind.  Remember, she can't READ (so she claims) but she's saving old newsletters?
I tried to talk to her about going through her books.  She has thousands.   (She can't read. Always keep that in mind.)  She said she wouldn't go through them until December (why?!) (Update: it's now the end of January and she hasn't reorganized any books, but she has purchased many more.)  She spent tens of thousands of dollars stocking up on books for her retirement and now she won't let them go even though she can't read them.  She claims to have no money and that she can't pay her bills now that her golden handshake ran out.  (Her pension and SS together [when it starts] are about 3x what my mom makes on SS and with her part time job, BTW.)
As we were sorting in the sweltering hot, stinky house, Alzheimer's Aunt got a phone call from her daughter-in-law.  We who were WORKING there kept asking her things,
"do you have a stapler?"
"Do you still use this credit card?"
"Do you have any sticky notes?"
"is this still your car insurance company?"
and her response was to impatiently wave us away: "I'm on the phone" talking loudly about absolutely NOTHING important.
Finally I got so angry I just went to sit outside in the breeze. She got off the phone and I could hear her whining (yes, whining) to my cousins about me so I stayed away.
So, in case you are wondering, I am "mean" and a "bully" and I "order" her around.  I want to "throw all the books in the garbage." I "pressure" her to clean her house and sell her car.  
I pointed out, mildly, that I am trying to HELP her.  But my cousins said Alzheimer's Aunt went into "poor me" mode (her common theme) and that she said "no one wants to help her" and I almost LOST IT.  I'm TRYING to HELP HER but she thinks I'm a BULLY.  So exactly why should I bother anymore?  She's not my mother.  She has her own kids.  But oh, wait, her kids work and I live closest to her and I don't work (no matter that I'm writing 5 books and learning to speak Spanish, none of that counts) so I'm the designated punching bag.
Friday is the big family meeting with the lawyer.  I  scheduled it but I plan on excusing myself.   Alzheimer's Aunt is not going to name me for her POA, for her medical conservatorship, or as a beneficiary of her will or life insurance, why should I waste my time sitting through the meeting?  Anything I say will be discounted because I'm not her child and because I'm a nasty bully.
I'm also beginning to be deeply suspicious of the whole "I'm blind" thing.  To reiterate, she lost her reading glasses and therefore went to the eye doctor to get new ones--not because she was having any unusual problems with her eyes.  The eye doctor examined her eyes as he usually does and saw that she had cataracts that needed treatment.  She walked out of the office saying "I'm blind, I can't see, I can't read."  That seems awfully psychosomatic to me.  It's progressed to "I can't find anything because I can't see" (I'm helpless, I'm a victim).  Her mental confusion is real (what store is this?  What bank has my accounts?) but I think the whole blindness thing is a big fat fake to get attention.  So I'm a horrible person to think so. It's either that or magically her visual cortex broke down when the eye doc said "you have cataracts."
I'm just so tired, physically and mentally.  When my cell phone rings with a call or chimes with a text, I feel dread.  I used to feel excitement: I have a friend!  Someone wants to talk to me!  Now I think, "Oh god, what manufactured 4-alarm fire are my cousins panicking about now?  She didn't answer the phone again?"
I'm going on vacation next month.  For a glorious week, no cell phone and no internet.  Don't call me, I don't want to know.
After the whole "she's not answering the phone" panic of last week, when my cousin talked to me to say Alzheimer's Aunt was fine, she just shut off her phone, he reiterated that the terror is that they'll find her dead in the hoard.  He asked me about my dad and if I ever wished he died sooner.  I told him the truth.  The time my dad ran away and said he was going to walk in front of a truck--I wish I'd let him.  The time he got attacked by the cat who cut an artery and he was spurting, bleeding to death and I saved him--I wish I hadn't.  My cousin was quiet for a while and then he said, "Maybe it will be better if we find her dead in her hoard."
Maybe, indeed.

Monday, September 03, 2012

I don't wanna

I don't want to go down this road again.  I've been down it once and that was too many times.
It's not a nice winding tranquil path through the woods.
It's ugly and sad and brutal and it ends very very badly.
There is nothing ahead but heartbreak, devastation, and loss.
And if you think that maybe I should concentrate on the happy side of dementia and Alzheimer's, let me know when you find it.

Alzheimer's Aunt, the continuing saga

In the past few days, things have continued to go downhill with my aunt.  She asked me to come over and cancel the newspaper.  But when I called and was leaving a message, she didn't know her cell phone number to have them call back.  She gave the house number, which is not working.  My cousin went over there to search for paid and/or unpaid bills but was unsuccessful.  Alzheimer's Aunt claimed to have seen an ATT bill but she couldn't read it and no one can find it.  She can't operate her cell phone. I took a photo of the buttons and blew it up huge in Photoshop, to full page size, but she can't seem to connect the button positions on the paper with what's on her phone.  She doesn't understand the pound sign (#) either.
We have made an appointment with the same wonderful elder care lawyer we used for my dad and grandma (and even my mom) for 2 weeks out to discuss what paperwork needs to be done. (If anyone is in CT and needs a great elder care lawyer I'll gladly give you her information.)
I was going to make an appointment with a geriatric doctor for basically, an emergency because that's what it's becoming, and now we find out that her health insurance from work ended a few days ago and apparently she has never applied for Medicare or Social Security so she has no income anymore (her golden handshake included a year's pay, which she spent on who knows what) or medical insurance right now.  She is supposed to have a pension from work, she doesn't know how much or how to get it, and she can't seem to manage a phone call to her place of employment and she insists on driving down there in person (which none of us want her to do).  The appointment now can't get made, meaning no solid diagnosis of what exactly is wrong with her can't happen either.  Her downward slide is very frightening.
I'm working on a plan to deal with her hoard.  It's going to have to happen.  It's a 3 bedroom house with a living room, kitchen, dining room and 2 bathrooms.  1 bathroom, at least two bedrooms, and the dining room are filled (not sure about the basement, but it's probably bad, along with the garage).  She wants to move to senior housing but she doesn't understand she'll have to get rid of 95% or more of her hoard--she'll get 2 rooms of space at a senior place--if she's lucky.  She might get a studio, which is one big room.  I'm  desperate enough to call in one of the Hoarding shows but I don't think my cousins will allow that.  Of course who will have to clean the hoard?  Oh, Bert doesn't work and she's so close, she can do it. Toxic mold?  Dead cats?  She can deal.
Apparently a few days ago Alzheimer's Aunt decided she needed to know how much money she had.  She walked uptown and went to every bank asking them if she had an account there and if not would they "go on the computer" and look up her balance and she was very angry that they "weren't nice" to her.  She is lucky no one called the cops and reported her as a crazy person.  Which, at this stage, for all intents, she is.
One of my best friends hasn't had a car in 2 months--she's a single mom on a single income and her engine blew.  I tried to get Alzheimer's Aunt to sell her car to my friend, who would gladly make payments (giving my aunt a small income, in cash even) but now she insists she'll drive again.  Which she won't.  Hopefully the doctor (when we can get her there!) will concur and then I can help AA with money (ending also her car insurance and car tax payments) and get my friend some transportation.
We took Alzheimer's Aunt shopping.
"What store are we at?" at the front door.
"Stop and shop."
Halfway through, "What store is this?"
"Stop and shop."
"This store is too big, I can't shop here, I'm too confused.  It's too crowded." (It wasn't crowded at all.)
Standing on the curb as we left the store "Where are we?"
The next day, "I need to go to the drug store, I'm out of so many things" like she hadn't just been in the grocery store.
I saw her last night and again today.  She had the same clothes on.  It's so very very sad.  Plus, to be utterly selfish, my grandma died 6 months ago, and my mom and I spent NINE YEARS between my grandma and my dad taking care of someone who wasn't quite right.  I simply don't have it in me to do this again.  If I believed in a traditional god, I would ask him, why me?  Do you really think I am this strong?  But the gods I do believe in work in different ways.  There is a purpose, but what it is I can't imagine.  Unless someone offers me a job based on my excellent blogging here. Hint, hint.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Alzheimer's Aunt?

This is the part of my blog where I lie to you.  Not because I want to, but because I have to protect this person's identity (and not that I want to do that either--I'm all about the brutal honesty).  I'm going to call her my aunt so by process of elimination you know she is probably not my aunt.  We shall call her AA for Alzheimer's Aunt to occasionally save space.
Let's set the stage.
About year ago, Alzheimer's Aunt collapsed at work.  Apparently because she had high blood pressure.  The doctor told her to "avoid stress" so she took that to mean "avoid going to work" and tried to take a 5 month leave of absence...when she was about to retire.  Her place of work did not take that well, and she ended up having to retire immediately.   She was the only person surprised by this.
Now I will take you back, down bumpy ugly memory lane.  My dad retired early too (in hindsight because of his very early stage Alzheimer's) and then once he no longer had the mental stimulation of work, he went downhill very fast.
So Alzheimer's Aunt stopped working.  She stayed home, alone, all day in her house.  She is a hoarder.  If you've seen any of the hoarder shows on A&E or TLC, you know what to expect from that.  Her house has mold in it too.
And, just like my dad in his early, pre-diagnosis days, Alzheimer's Aunt got stranger and stranger.  She started to randomly vomit while eating.  And she didn't run to the bathroom like anyone would if they vomited at the table, she'd just grab a napkin and puke into it.  And it wasn't delicately coughing up a bit of food that went down wrong or tasted bad, spitting it discreetly into a fold of the napkin.
This was full on vomit, it stunk, and pretty much if you were at the table with her, your appetite was ruined.   But if you said anything, like "wow that's gross"  you were the bad guy.  (You, in this case, obviously meaning me.)  This happened at Thanksgiving, it happened at Christmas, it happened in restaurants. (And if you are grossed out reading this, imagine how much grosser it is in person.)
Finally I spoke to my cousin after Alzheimer's Aunt and I were out together and AA vomited all over the table in a restaurant.  AA swears the doctor knows about the vomiting.  Cousin calls, doctor has no clue, but nothing is done to investigate why a grown woman in her 60s suddenly feels the need to puke everywhere like it's no big deal.
All this time, she hasn't been driving, because she's "dizzy" and then she started walking with a cane for the same reason.  The family is basically her slaves when she needs a ride, while her car sits in her driveway unused.  She is supposed to exercise but she's too dizzy to walk, plus the cane.  She lives in a hoard and she can't walk.  And later on (below) she can't see either.
She is also having hygiene issues.  I know you won't believe me, but once she was dirtier than my grandma used to be.  Lank greasy hair, smelly dirty clothes, all sorts of unpleasant bodily odors.  At least my grandma changed her clothes.
One memorable day we had to rush Alzheimer's Aunt to the ER because she was "dizzy" and "couldn't breathe" and she won't call 911 because they will report her hoard to the fire marshal.  Nine hours at Yale ER then and the ER doc says (not to my surprise) that it's a SIDE EFFECT from her BP medicine.
This spring, she said she lost her reading glasses and couldn't read anymore.  We took her to a drug store and she bought a selection of those cheap reading glasses.  But they didn't work for her.  She made an appointment at an eye doctor to get new reading glasses.   The doctor gave her a full exam because she hasn't been in many years and found out she has cataracts.  She walked into the place wanting new glasses and walked out saying "I'm blind."
Now she was blind, dizzy, couldn't walk, and couldn't breathe.  Living in a hoard.  Try to keep track.  I know I'm condensing a year into a single post.
At one point, she did drive somewhere, because of not having a phone (see below) and my cousin witnessed her literally bouncing off parked cars going 5 miles an hour.
The cataract surgeries were both very successful.  And yet she still claimed not to be able to see. (Remember, she went to the eye doctor's initially because she lost her glasses, not because she was having vision problems.  Once the doctor said "cataracts" she went blind instantly.)  The doctor made her new glasses.  She went to get them and claimed she couldn't see the enormous print the doctor held in front of her. It seemed much more likely to us that she couldn't read.
She lost her house phone and her cell phone in the hoard.  After much searching, a variety of cordless and corded house phones were located, all dismantled and broken, with exploded batteries.  The one seemingly functional corded phone did not work, no dial tone, no matter where it was plugged in.  The cell phone charger was finally found behind the stove and a place of honor made for the cell phone and its charger, where it was to live at all times except when being used or when she left the house and took it with her.
She can't read (or can't see), remember.  The ensuing conversation goes something like this:
"Did you pay your phone bill? There's no dial tone anywhere in the house."
"I pay my bills."
"When did you pay it last?"
"I don't know. I paid it."
"Who do you write the check to?"
"I don't know."
"How did you pay it if you can't see?"
"I paid it."
"Do you have ATT?"
"I don't know."
"Where are your paid and unpaid bills?"
"I don't know."
The next week, last week, she had to return to the eye doctor to see if wearing the new glasses had helped.  The eye doc thought maybe she had to get used to them, I think they are tri-focals or something.
The day before the appointment, the call to her goes like this (using the cell phone, since the house phone doesn't work):
"Don't forget about your eye doctor appointment tomorrow."
"Right, I have to get my new glasses."
"No, you got them last week.  You were supposed to be wearing them."
"I am wearing them."
"Ok, I'm coming to get you at 9:30 tomorrow."
"I don't need a ride."
"Who is taking you?"
"I'll walk."  She can't make it to the end of her driveway even with the cane.  And she has no idea where the eye doctor is because every time she gets a ride she makes sure the person driving knows in advance where it is.
"You can't walk.  It's too far and you don't know where it is."
"I'll walk.  I need my new glasses."
"You have your glasses already!"
At the eye doctor, she insists she still can't see.  He immediately sends her back to the eye surgeon who fixed her cataracts.  He says her eyes are fine and there's no reason she can't see.
That night, there's a small family meeting.  During the meeting, the words "dementia" and "Alzheimer's" and the phrase "can't live alone" are liberally strewn about.  My mom and I have thought for months that she was in the beginning stages but we knew if we said anything (family politics) an explosion would happen.
I walked out of that meeting with a lot of thoughts, none of them happy.  I'm worried that, on one hand, my vast experience with Alzheimer's (via my dad and this blog) will be ignored--she's only my "AUNT," not my parent.  On the other hand, I'm equally worried that I'll end up being her caregiver because I haven't got an outside-the-house job and I live closer to her than anyone and I have the experience.  I don't want either of those things to come to pass.
I think a couple of things about her.  I think she might have stomach or throat cancer (hence the puking) that has metastasized to her visual cortex--not only can she apparently not read, she doesn't seem to recognize objects that are right in front of her.  Or that she has dementia of some type and someone it's in both her visual cortex and whatever controls her vomiting when eating.
My mom thinks she has severe mold poisoning, which has some dementia-like symptoms.  And apparently mold poisoning is fairly permanent, once the damage is done.  I thought mold mostly impacted the lungs but some web sites do list other symptoms.
I advocated that she go to a geriatric doctor (not her family practice doctor) and get a full workup including cognitive testing and blood work. I think she needs a barium swallow (I had one once, doctor thought I had cancer because I couldn't stop coughing for 4 months) for the vomiting and an MRI or some other brain scan for her mental symptoms and (hysterical?) blindness.
I can also add in that she's been in severe depression (hence the hoarding) since the death of her husband many years ago, and she's never been treated for the depression or the hoarding.  When I tried to bring that up delicately a few years ago, pointing out that in Hartford there's a place that treats hoarding and OCD, you would have thought I said Alzheimer's Aunt was a child molester or something.  I didn't bring it up again.
I won't be changing the name of this blog--forever it will honor my dad--but I might have new fodder to write about.  Sadly.

I dreamed about my dad last night.  In the dream we were in the Yucatan visiting Mayan ruins.  And we were supposed to be in Miami the next day, only we were supposed to DRIVE there--basically from Merida, across the peninsula, up the coast of Mexico and across Texas and Louisiana, and down the Florida panhandle, in less than a day, and I was trying to find someone to fly us there.  And the ruins we visited were so cool, I wish they existed otherwhere than my dream state.  It was a fun dream-cation with my dad.