Tuesday, July 10, 2007

127 piles of flesh

My birthday was last weekend (thank you) and we went out to dinner with my parents. My mom gave me the money up front so my dad wouldn't see her pay and have another meltdown. He doesn't care about me spending money, only her.
My mom had a huge bruise on her upper arm. My husband asked her what happened and she said my father did it. As he was shaking her, she told him to stop, that he was hurting her, and he denied it. The next day, when he saw the bruise, he asked her about it, and when she told him that HE did it, he said "no" and walked away.
A couple of days later, the bruise had faded from one huge blotch to a clear hand print.
I am not happy about this at all. I can't be there to protect my mom. In fact, seeing how ineffectual I was at the restaurant when he flipped out, I can' t protect her at all.
He has been doing some funny things, but I don't feel like laughing at them. He gets up in the middle of the night, gets fully dressed including his shoes and then gets back into bed. One morning he was in the bathroom swearing and my mother asked what was wrong. He told her he'd lost his foot. One of his sneakers had come off in the bed while he slept. Some nights he wears pajamas, some nights his clothes, some nights his underwear. He won't brush his teeth. He doesn't shower every day or change his clothes every day. He puts his clothes on over his pajamas, or wears a belt with his pajama bottoms.
It's all funny yes, haha, harmless and silly, but also so sad.
My mom wanted to go to a concert with her friend so I agreed to come over and stay with my dad, an 8 hour odyssey (my mom went out to dinner with her friend first, and the concert was over an hour's drive away). My husband came over for a little while too, and I made dinner (pizza). I made a plain pizza for my father (he won't eat regular pork sausage anymore, only turkey, but my husband and I like it) and one with sausage, peppers and pepperoni for us, figuring if we finished that pizza we'd eat some of the plain. My husband ate his half of the meat pizza, and I ate all but one slice of my half. My father ate all but one slice of the plain pizza.
Perhaps I should have put "ate" in quotes.
It turned out I wasn't in a sausage mood. I like sausage, but sometimes pork makes me sick. I picked some of the sausage off my pieces and gave it to the dog. Yes, I know, I'm the one who goes on and one about how fat the dog is and how we shouldn't feed him from the table. When my husband pointed that out, I gave the rest of my sausage to him.
Meanwhile my father was steadily devouring his plain cheese pieces. I guess my feeding the dog clued him in that the dog was there. He wanted a dish to feed the dog with (not that he could SAY that, but it was Bob-speak that I could figure out). I got the plastic "feed the pets" dish we've had my whole life (Nippy, Streaker, Alf, Patches, Jasper and Ace have all eaten off it) and my father cut up some of his pizza and gave it to the dog (crust and all). I put my and my husband's dishes in the sink, moved my leftover piece of pizza to the other pan and started doing the dishes including the plastic pet dish.
My father sat at the table and looked around. Then he looked on the nearby counter. Finally he got up and stood in front of the stove, where the rest of the pizza was. He looked at the leftover piece with sausage and peppers. "I don't want that," he said, flapping his hand at it. "No." I replied, "you don't have to eat it. It's not for you." He kept standing there looking at the pizza. The serving utensil was right there but I guess he couldn't figure it out. "Do you want another piece?" I finally asked him. "Yeah."
I put another piece on his plate. He sat down, removed the crusts, and put them far away. (Crusts, like grill marks on meat, are fat and he cuts them off and refuses to have them on his plate.) He cut the pizza up into little pieces (copying me, I believe) and then he started swearing because I had taken the dog's dish. I gave it back to him and he fed the entire slice of pizza to the dog. That pissed me off for a few reasons--wasteful, the dog's fat, and now there wasn't enough to take home for another meal.
My father wanted another piece. He indicated this by looking over at the stove, where two lonely pieces resided. Without acknowledging that I knew he wanted more, I put them in the fridge. Then it was another battle to get him to take his pills. Over and over during the meal I'd put the shot glass with his pills into his hand and said "you have to take these" and he'd say "yeah" and put it down. Now the meal was done and the pills were in the shot glass and not in Bob. "Take the pills." "Yeah." "You have to take these pills." "Yeah." Finally my husband got him to take them, I don't know how.
We went into the living room to watch movies. My mom has HBO so we watched some HBO On Demand stuff. Of course my dad didn't like any of it and complained mightily and grumbled and wandered around the house. He came back in with his hands smeared with blood. "Look." He showed us his bloody hands. We cleaned them with a wet cloth but couldn't find the wound. Then my husband saw that my dad's leg was bleeding. So we cleaned his knee and applied a bandaid. Within a few minutes he started digging at the skin on his knee just beneath the bandaid. He'd pull off a chunk of skin and put it on the coffee table. He'd switch to his other knee, and then to either hand, just making these macabre little piles of flesh. (It reminded me a little of an old George Carlin skit, where he talks about hoarding his scabs.) We'd say "stop picking" and then go back to the movie and a minute later he'd be digging. And no, these weren't scabs, these were flesh, tiny chunks of living flesh gouged off by his nails. It was gross beyond words. He would watch the movie for a minute, captivated by a space battle (Serenity) or wizard battle (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), or a fat girl (Date Movie) and then lose interest, muttering how he didn't like it.
And if there was a way to entertain him, I would have done it. Even if I put on a baseball game (and yeah, I could have) he'd still rip his flesh, fart and fall asleep (the holy trinity of F's). So why can't I at least be entertained if he's not going to be?
I guess none of this is really exciting, but it's real life. It's not like the movies, where the person suddenly "gets better" for a few magical moments and knows and remembers everyone (my main beef with movies like The Notebook). It's a long slow slide into oblivion, with no brakes.


Patty McNally Doherty said...

Dear Bert,

What an awful time for you. And your mom. And your poor father. And your husband. And your pets. Truly so awful and yet so familiar, not that knowing that helps.

I agree with your final point. There is a tendency to romanticize Alzheimer's disease - in books, film, and even some blogs. Those who have lived through it will tell you, there is NOTHING at any time that even closely resembles anything that isn't horrific.

Sure there are some absolutely hysterically funny incidents, but it is the kind of laugh that could just as easily be a cry.

We need a cure for this disease. Now.


Mauigirl said...

It was nice you went over to stay with your dad so your mom could get out for a break. I know that is so hard for the caregiver, to ever get time for themselves. I'm sure it was very stressful for you though. My father didn't pick at his flesh but he obsessively ripped up paper. He also did the getting up in the middle of the night and getting dressed thing, although he would just stay up, not go back to bed. It's so hard to watch the deterioration.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your posts. I just found them and because of them I have found the strength to finally accept my own father's diagnosis. After reading all your posts, I sat and cried and mourned the inevitable loss of my dad. I wept for my mom who will have to go through this at his side.

My own situation is similar to yours. We just got his diagnosis and I am 35 and he is 63. My father seems to be in the very early stages so I cling the fact that I get to keep my dad for a few more years. I plan to make the most of the time I have while he is still the dad I know.

Marvel said...

We're in the same sinking boat Bert. However, here are a few ideas for keeping your father's hands busy.

1. Give him a "lovey". For men, a teddy bear or stuffed dog is appropriate, especially if they had one as a child.

2. Grandma stays busy with word search puzzles. We get the large print ones and always have a new one handy.

3. Try a more simplistic version of his old hobbies. Did he build models? Tie knots?

4. Give him "paperwork" to do. Perhaps working in a scrapbook.

5. Some people respond to textures. All you would need to do is give him pieces of fabric. (Keep some in reserve.)

Sending virtual hugs and positive thoughts!