Monday, August 28, 2006

93 Freud & at the car wash

I was thinking about how my dad's AD is progressing. If you look at it from a perspective of superego/ego/id, it seems like the superego is already gone. The ego is being stripped away. All that's going to be left soon is the id--the primal part. Already his filters are gone--the way he farts outrageously and pretends he doesn't know, how querulous he is about everything, the way he will just get up and walk away (or say something is bullshit and then walk away) if he doesn't like it--the way he did at the senior center.
The Id is a base (basic) creature of wants and needs, essentially thoughtless. I wish I could put a tape recorder into my dad's head to see what's in there, how does he think, does he think? When he seems to be "not there" is anything happening in his head? Last week I brought my car over to their house to wash it. My dad's got all the buckets, sponges, cleaning fluids etc. He used to love to wash cars. He had no interest. My mom had to go find him and he was in the backyard talking to the cat about butterflies (typical). She asked him to come and help us wash the car and he answered "I have to go to the bathroom."
So her and I washed my car. She got me pretty wet--she's not at all careful where she aims the hose. Then she decided since we had the bucket of solution already made we might as well wash her car too. So I backed my car to the bottom of the driveway and we started washing her car. By then my dad came to the front yard. My mom asked him to do my windows. He just stared at her. I decided to go pick up my husband's car and wash that too (he only works a short distance away). I switched cars and came back. My mom had thoroughly soaped her car and was rinsing it. My father re-did the whole car and rinsed it again. She sprayed him with the hose by accident and he had a conniption. I didn't much care about getting wet--I had just come from swimming at the gym and was going to go home and shower anyway. But you'd think someone had sprayed him with toxic waste. Or poop. He just over-reacts to everything (that filter thing---lack thereof-- again).
He took over washing my husband's car and did his windows without being asked. So not sure what the disconnect was about washing MY car windows.
Since I wasn't needed to finish Will's car I went in the house and got the dog, who was flipping out and whining at the door to the garage. I sat on the steps with him and we were singing. He loves me and he loves to "sing" with me. He obviously had an owner he sang with before. He has rules about singing. You MUST be holding him and he has to have his head higher than yours. This means he climbs up onto your chest or shoulder, squirming madly with joy, and puts his head back in true wolf fashion and lets out these wondrous howls. All the person has to do is make fake howling noises to keep him going. In between howls he whines and licks and nibbles your nose, face and ears. It's truly hilarious and he does it most enthustically with me. (My grandmother gets upset because he won't "sing" with her but she doesn't pick him up so that's why he won't do it.)
When Ace and I get going with our wolf-song, my dad gets angry, puts his hands over his ears, glares at us and will eventually get up and leave the room or shout for us to shut up. Whenever the dog barks that's his reaction. And Ace doesn't bark any louder or more than Alf and Alf's barking never bothered my dad.
Last week I planned to go somewhere different for Friday lunch with my mom, since my dad was supposed to be at the Senior Center. But he got kicked out so he came along for pizza. It's a fun place decorated with pictures of old cars which he should have liked. I used to go to school with the guy who opened it (he doesn't own it anymore) and my dad worked with his dad back when the two of us were born. Of course my dad couldn't remember that. They have a nice little lunch special of a personal pizza w/ 2 toppings, soda and salad for $6 when usually the pizza alone is $7.25 (no toppings). And I had a coupon for $2 off.
Literally it took 25 minutes for us to get my father to decide what he wanted. He wanted a tuna sandwich. I said no, that if he ordered that I would just leave because I wouldn't be able to eat. We showed him the chicken and broccoli pasta, which he likes everywhere. No, he wanted the goddamn tuna fish. Tuna is so repulsive to me that just thinking about it makes me gag. My mom tried to get him to order a lunch special with us. He couldn't understand what it was. We ordered garlic bread with cheese while we argued with him. He twice started to get up to walk home because he couldn't have his stinking fish. Then he said he would go sit across the room "since you don't want me here." I explained that I want HIM there, just not TUNA FISH. We were going to get him a cheese-only pizza but he couldn't understand what the cheese was. We said "it's what's on the garlic bread" (of course he had taken one bit of a piece and thrown it aside in disgust) and he said "no, I don't want that." So we ordered him a sauce-only pizza. He ate his salad with double dressing (ew) and then when the pizza came he didn't like it because it had no cheese and he ate my mom's pizza instead, which had cheese and meatballs on it.
This week we went to Friendly's. Again with the tuna fish and the fight over it. The one time we let him get tuna there and I didn't eat and ended up leaving, driven away by the stench, he got very upset. But he can't remember that. We offered him a choice of a couple of things on the menu but his finger kept going back to the tuna. Finally I just ordered something else for him that I knew he'd eat. We got mozzarella sticks and for some reason he hates them, and when the waitress put a plate in front of him to eat off of he said "no, no" like we were poisoning him. He used to eat them, once upon a time. At least they don't stink. It's the stench of fish that offends me. Eat it all you want, but I don't want to smell what you're eating from across the room.

Only a small bit of AD news. Scientists have tinkered with mouse brains so that the cells shed the plaque before it kills them.
By tinkering with an enzyme in the brains of mice afflicted with the rough equivalent of Alzheimer's in humans, scientists were able to improve the rodents' memories. ... the new research expands on previous findings that suggested a shortage of an enzyme in the brain may be connected to Alzheimer's. The enzyme, known as Uch-L1, appears to be crucial to a cell's ability to get rid of malformed proteins and maintain memory.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

92 Day care disaster & in the news

Yesterday was my dad's first and last day in the Alzheimer's program at the senior center. He lasted 2 hours and was asked to leave.
My mother said as soon as she pulled into the parking lot he started screaming at her "you bitch I'm going to get you for this, you're going to be sorry". I wonder if he thought she was putting him into a home?
Evidently he refused to listen or do anything that was asked of him, he stalked around instead of sitting with the others and was just generally a brat--6 instead of 66. By 11:15 (it started at 9:00) he was home again. My mom is so angry. I am too. I wanted her to have those 15 hours a week to herself.
In the news, a high-copper high-fat diet contributes to cognitive decline.
A high-fat, copper-rich diet may increase the risk of cognitive decline in older adults....Food with high copper levels include organ meats (such as liver), shellfish, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, potatoes, chocolate and some fruits.
My dad cuts the fat off his meat (and the char marks) but then he pours gravy on the de-fatted meat, drinks the gravy, and drinks the high-fat salad dressing. But he also eats a LOT of shellfish--clams and shrimp mostly. He eats potatoes and peanut butter.
Among those who consumed the most saturated and trans fats, cognitive function declined more rapidly with the more copper they had in their diets.
"The increase in rate for the high-fat consumers whose total copper intake was in the top 20 percent (greater than or equal to 1.6 milligrams per day) was equivalent to 19 more years of age," the study authors wrote.

It was a six year study. 19 years of decline in 6 years. That is SCARY.
But I know I wouldn't be able to get my dad to stop doing anything he does now. I could tell my mom to stop letting him eat clams ("shells" and shrimp and peanut butter, and not to drink salad dressing or gravy anymore. But she won't tell him that, and even if she did, he wouldn't stop.
Just like he won't stop farting and rarely acknowledges that he did it.

Monday, August 14, 2006

91 Vacation-all I never wanted & plaque news

My parents are back from their vacation.
It's destined to be their last vacation.
Two years ago, the year he was diagnosed with AD, my dad complained constantly that he wanted to go home and he had a bad time. Last year we went with them and he complained less. This year I couldn't go because I just took a week off to go to Vegas for the wedding disaster. So my parents took my mom's best friend.
She hurt her leg and couldn't walk. So my parents didn't walk on the beach as much as they like or uptown. Now, they left me behind, or forced me to walk with them, but apparently that's not okay with a friend, just a daughter.
My mom said when my father had to go to the bathroom during the night he'd go out in the balcony instead of into the bathroom (I guess he didn't pee out there, he realized his mistake, but still). He was very confused by everything. Without his newspapers he didn't know what day it was. (I don't know why my mom didn't just buy him a paper--they have newspapers in Massachusetts!). They had a great time on the whale watch--they saw some outrageous number of whales, like fifty, breaching and sounding and even a baby and mommy finback. Did they bring the camera? No.
My father told my mother "no more water" and that he didn't like it there and didn't want to anymore (the beach). My dad's whole reason for going used to be to walk on the beach. I feel sad but at the same time I don't. I tried to explain it to my mom. Yes, he loved the beach. But if he's forgotten he loved it, he won't miss it. Right? Is that mean?
The dog was happy to see them & be home. When I went over Friday night all he wanted to do was play fetch with his toy, the "Baby". My dad was happy to be home too. He even came and worked on the puzzle with us.
But he is clearly fading.
Yesterday we took him out for his birthday, to the Pacific Buffet, where he can get a plethora of "shells" (steamed clams-stinky and yuckky) and shrimp (double yuck). He ate plates and plates of each, dipped in probably a pint total of "red sauce" (cocktail sauce). But he was confused there too, wandering with an empty plate in his hand, even taking the wrong food and being unhappy with it sometimes. I had a plate of fruit, a plate of vegetable lo mein, vegetable fried rice and chicken fingers and then another plate of mashed potatoes with a bun, and half a piece of cake. Me, my husband and my mom had finished eating (including dessert) and paid the bill and my dad was still going back for more shrimp and shells. He eats so much yet he's down to around 150 lbs. My husband said it's because my dad eats mostly protein and fat and hardly any carbs so he's basically on a form of Atkins. That might explain the farts too. Although they haven't been quite as bad lately.
For supper at grandma's he complained when my mother put chicken on his plate. "I said I only wanted green things." And of course my mother had forgotten the salad. Actually she asked HIM to carry the salad and he walked away without it. He ate his warm veggies and the rest of the potatoes (drenched in gravy) and then my mom got him to eat a little chicken.
I took some new pictures of my dad yesterday (look in the sidebar) and looking at them brings on the same feeling of loss and unfairness as looking at a picture of my beloved Zen-zen cat who died 13 days ago. Taken too soon. Not fair. Why should I have to bear all this loss? My husband never knew his father, who died in a car accident when he was 14 months old. I asked him which he would rather have--to watch his father be eaten, or to have him die quickly like he did. He couldn't answer, he said, because he didn't know his father. I asked him about his mother. He said she's already crazy (which she is, but it's benign) but he wouldn't want her to be in any pain. That really didn't answer the question. My dad might not be physical pain but he is in great mental anguish.

Alzheimer's news today:
Scientists have discovered molecular janitors that clear away a sticky gunk blamed for Alzheimer's disease until they get old and quit sweeping up. The finding helps explain why Alzheimer's is a disease of aging. More importantly, it suggests a new weapon: drugs that give nature's cleanup crews a boost..... Nor does anyone know what causes Alzheimer's. The lead suspect is a gooey protein called beta-amyloid. All brains contain it, although healthy cells somehow get rid of excess amounts. But beta-amyloid builds up in Alzheimer's patients, both inside their brain cells and forming clumps that coat the cells (in the) plaque that is the disease's hallmark. Thursday's study reveals one way that cells fend off amyloid buildup, and that natural aging gradually erodes that detoxification process.... So in slowing down normal aging, something also slowed the buildup of toxic amyloid. But what? Enter those cellular janitors, two proteins in that gene pathway. One, named HSF-1, breaks apart amyloid and disposes of it, the researchers discovered. Natural aging slows HSF-1, so it can't keep up with the necessary detoxification. Another protein called DAF-16 jumps in to help buy a little more time, by clumping extra amyloid together in a way that makes it less toxic....Until recently, scientists thought amyloid clumps, or plaques, were the bigger problem. His research supports more recent findings that smaller amyloid tendrils inside cells are the really poisonous form....By the time you see the plaques, it's too late.
Of course, right now, the only way to see the plaque is in the autopsy. Talk about "too late." :(

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

90 "tell the people" & Alzheimer's Mad Libs

My mom ordered some hand lotion from my body shop page for my dad (if his skin is soft he doesn't pick at it). It came in on Friday but I forgot to bring it over. I went to see An Inconvenient Truth on Saturday(review coming--check my Shamanism blog or the new review page on my website) by myself at the Cine 1-2-3-4 so on the way back I stopped at my grandmother's to drop off the lotion. At least the dog knows who I am and is happy to see me. Remember that my dad just saw me the night before, and for lunch the day before. He says "Are you coming to Wallingford again?" (A rare, articulate sentence) I say, gently, "I live in Wallingford. I'm going there right now. I'm going home."
Blank look. I start to walk away. He calls to me, "Tell the people!" I stop and ask, "What people?"
"The people." He waves his arms. "Tell them what?" "Tell them." My mother suggests the Mad-Lib plug in of "Tell Willy he says hello." That seems to be correct, so I make my way out to the car. As I put it in reverse, I hear my grandmother shouting, and I turn around to see that I'm about to run my dad over. He does that--he stands behind moving cars or too close to them.
He comes up to my window and starts laughing and talking about black bags. I have no idea what he's referring to. He explains "I'm just making a joke" and laughs again. I'm glad he's amused. Taking a guess, I tell him he can come to my house and take my returnable bottles and cans and that I'll leave a black trash bag out for him. He agrees and nods but they don't come over so I guess he forgot or didn't understand.
My mother claims he doesn't know I'm his daughter. I don't believe that. I believe that he's forgotten my name, but when he sees me he knows I'm someone he wants around. I think if she says "Berta, your daughter" he might be totally blank on that concept, but not when I'm standing there. Same with my husband. He knows Willy's that "guy who eats with us sometime", and that he's supposed to be there, even if he doesn't exactly know Will's name or function.
They went on vacation and what a debacle. My mom called me in hysterics. She was crying because she loves the dog and he was unhappy to be left at the dog hotel. Then the dog hotel wouldn't take the cat because he got his rabies shot 13 months ago even though it's a 3 year vaccine. So I had to truck over there every day before work and feed him and he cries because he can't go outside so I have to go again and let him out for a while. One day I couldn't find him at all. My mother started to tell my father that and I stopped her. No need to borrow trouble, isn't that the old saying? I said "Tell him the cat is fine." Then he was flipping out because he forget to take the garbage bin to the curb. No doubt he was ready to come home and do it. I got Will to do it on the way home.
Then I found Japser (he found ME) with no problem and he was even purring and letting me carry him which means he's lonely. I called the hotel to tell my parents and my mom put my dad on the phone. He asked "Talk to the people for me." After a few minutes of Mad-Libs, my mom figured out he meant to check on the cat. I explained that the cat was right there, purring. I tried to get the cat to meow into the phone but he wouldn't. "Oh, I'm glad, I'm so glad, I was worried." Yes, I know, he worries about that damn mean little cat. The other day I tried to pet him because he was on top of the freezer in the basement crying for attention and the $*er bit me.

Mad-Libs is a game I played when I was little. You bought a book of very short stories, with the key words left out. Under each blank was a part of speech, like "noun" or "verb" or something like "body part" or "Place" or "Man's name". So from a story like this:
(Man's name) went to the (place) to buy some (noun), (noun), and (adjective)(noun), only he got more than he bargained for. The (adjective) checkout girl (verb -ed) his (body part) and then hit him with a (noun).
you could get a variety of stories, most of them dirty because that's human nature.
Alzheimer's mad-libs is a little different. I know not all AD sufferers have the verbal impairment of my dad so everyone might not get to play this lovely game.
My dad says, "They went to that place with the thing." Another common variation is "they went to the place for that thing."
They=person's name
That place=some common location or activity
The thing=could be anything
They is usually my mom, especially if I just called on the phone.
That place and that thing rely heavily on each other. If you can figure one out, you can figure out the other. Common meanings: went for a walk with the dog. Took the cat (or dog) to the vet. Took grandma to the store/doctor. Took the car for a oil change. You can see the possibilities are endless.
Yes, my life is an endless round of fun. Dead pets, insane parents--something for everyone.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

89 another major loss

My father and I took the cats to the vet for their shots on Monday. Zen-Zen hadn't been getting much better on his thyroid medicine so I wanted him looked at again. He had been very lethargic, not himself at all. My father came with me supposedly to help. But he won't hold Zen because he insisted Zen will bite or claw him. Just because HIS cat clawed him. I was so impatient, I said, "He's sick, he won't bite you." But he held the poor cat at arm's length when Zen is a cuddler and wants to be hugged. Then he was carrying the box with Nutter in it sideways.
The vet poked at Zen, took his temperature which I thought would be high (it was low) and took him to weigh him. From there, my kitty was wisked away to stay overnight. I didn't get to say goodbye or kiss him again. The vet called after we left to say Zen had fluid in his chest from congestive heart failure and that he was going to draw out the fluid. He called again the next morning to say he'd drawn out a lot of the fluid and then Zen was breathing much better and I could pick him up after work.
Then he called at noon to say Zen had just died of a heart attack.
I can't process the loss of my cat so soon on the heels of losing Prism after only 3 weeks, and my beloved Goober I raised from an egg, and Gwennie last summer. That's 4 pets in 11 months. Add in my dad's illness and it's a wonder I'm not a total wreck.
I posted a lot about Zen on my other blog, including pictures.