Thursday, January 24, 2013
My Famly's Alzhiemer's Journey Continues
When I spent the day with Dad last Thursday, he was more "here" than I have seen in weeks. He was still sad, still cried, but he and I were able to stitch small words together into sentences so I understood that he is tired of trying and that he doesn't know why this has happened to him. I was able to recount to him the many successes he has had in his life, but that in no way makes up for what he is enduring now. He is existing in a living nightmare.
Mom wanted so badly to bring Dad home for the day, so this past Monday we did it. It wasn't a good day. He spent about five hours in his own house and I'm not even certain he realized where he was. When we brought him home on Christmas Day there was at least an emotional reaction from him; a recognition of the feel of his home, a memory that made him look around and smile- this last visit, all of that was lacking. He could have been anywhere. There was no cognitive or emotional attachment left in his eyes, his face, his demeanor that gave any indication that he knew he was in his own house.
My daughter placed my grandchild, Cash, in Dad's lap and let him feel the baby's cheek against his; we ate a home cooked meal of roast and chocolate pie for dessert; Mom played soft music in the sun room while Dad mostly slipped in and out of awareness; Mom and I fought to "walk" Dad to the restroom where Mom had to take over while I waited outside the bathroom door (there are some things a daughter shouldn't have to do unless there is no other choice); a friend, Buddy, from my dad's long ago days, came over and gave Dad a haircut.
photo taken: Jan. 21, 2013:
Surprisingly, Dad interacted a bit with Buddy. Dad also perked up a little when the next door neighbor came to visit. There's almost a dream quality to how Dad can be so out of it, but the second he realizes that he has a visitor, outside of the family, his old social charms struggle to surface. You can see the Herculean effort he is putting forth to try and reclaim his old self for a few precious minutes. You can see the strain in his eyes. You can see it written on his gaunt face. He still doesn't want people to know that he is not as he once was. He still tries to pretend, even though it is alarmingly apparent to anyone who sees him that he is a very sick man. He isn't aware that the charade is long over. I feel my heart tighten when I see him reach down so very deep and pull a sliver of his old self out into the light. Afterwards, he sleeps for hours, then wakes and cries.
I don't think we will be able to bring Dad home again. It is too much of a drain on my mom, and it just makes Dad so very tired, and to what end? This past Monday Dad was asking to "go back" to the V.A. by 4:30 p.m. And then on the way to the V.A (I was driving while Mom sat with Dad in the backseat), he told her, "You don't want me". Of course, the words didn't come out that coherent, but I knew what he was saying and so did mom. She started crying. One second he is asking to "go back" and the next he is accusing her of not wanting him. He does this occasionally. He will tell her, "You don't love me", but it's not my dad speaking. It is the crumbling synapses in his brain. It is the dying connections. It is the electrical misfirings. It is the lack of norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin.
On the drive back to the V.A Dad kept asking where we were going. At first Mom told him we were "going for a drive", then she told him we were going to the V.A so he could see his doctor. Each time he nodded and would momentarily accept this information, but then five minutes later he would ask again where we were going. When we finally got Dad back to the hospital and his floor, all the nurses were there to greet him and tell him how happy they were to see him. They joked with him, they chatted, they patted his arm, and my dad actually lifted his head and smiled and his eyes brightened. Sometimes when a memory is being made you know that the moment is being etched deep in your brain. That is how that one moment was for me. I will carry this picture with me in my mind always: My dad in the black seated V.A issued wheelchair; his red, white and blue Veteran's cap plopped almost tent-like on his head; his brown eyes sparking with life; his smile lighting the hallway as the staff spoke to him.
And there was Mom standing beside him, looking stunned and empty. Lost in her new role. Not knowing how to walk out of the hospital. Not knowing how to stay.. And I am watching all of this take place from twenty feet away. I am a witness. I am an observer. But I am also his daughter.
I keep the observer walls fortified thick and high so I will not cry. It works most of the time.
photo taken Dec. 31, 2012:
Posted by Liti