Monday, September 3, 2012

Another Day in the Life Of...

Everyday I walk in to the building where my dad lives.  I am typically greeted by several residents who all tell me that they think Dad is doing really well.  They see him at all the functions.  They know he takes several walks a day and they even watch for him to return.  One lady is trying to get her husband to walk with Dad but says he probably won't get around to it.

I'm blessed that even though Dad is not in an assisted living facility, he is watched and cared for daily.  Many people have my cell phone number if they need me for anything.  They go out of their way to talk with him and include him in all the 'reindeer games'.  He enjoys it there but lately he says he is getting bored for stuff to do.

Dad tells me each day that he doesn't participate in the activities there but I know that its just his memory not recalling his participation.  The residents and the manager, Jill, tell me otherwise.  It's ok and I just tell him that he can go when he is comfortable. I try and make sure he has a few singles on him every day so he can make the donation when they have events.

Interestingly enough I had a wonderful talk with the neuro-psychologist, Dr Ebem Schwartz, during Dad's recent extensive testing.  He is a recent transplant from Lebano, NH and is a really nice individual to talk with.  While I explained things to him and told him I want to get Dad to an assisted living facility he kindly interrupted me and said, "don't kid yourself, Kurt.  You are providing an assisted living facility for your father - we need to get YOU the help to provide for your father".   I was totally blown away by what he said but it was also a great affirmation that so far, we are doing things well.  Mom would be pleased.

Still, Dad's short-term memory issues are of great concern.  Dr. Schwartz said that I did not have to call for a follow-up appointment, that all information would be forwarded to the neuro-surgeon, unless I wanted to.  The very next morning he called me and said he would like to talk with me about Dad's results.  Not exactly encouraging BUT I'm glad he went out of his way to contact me.  Typically the results can take up to two weeks to process but they rushed this one for me, knowing I was meeting with the neuro-surgeon this week.

I have done a lot of research on dementia/Alzheimer's VS hydrocephalus and so far, I'm not truly convinced that hydrocephalus is our culprit.  It is true that the two cross paths in many symptoms and characteristics but I'm not convinced yet.  Maybe my mind will be changed this week.

Our biggest concern is what will happen to Dad if we elect surgery to help with the hydrocephalus.  It is highly documented that dementia patients who undergo surgery have a very difficult time coming back as a result of the anesthetic.  We are not making any hasty decisions.  The bottom line is this:  with hydrocephalus and dementia/Alzheimer the end result is the same...nursing care and eventual death.  If surgery to help the first one puts him on a fast track to the end result, why would we choose that?

I am keeping my commitment to my parents by keeping them informed.  It is tough because I know Dad doesn't recall my telling him things and he is always surprised to hear about them.  But I MUST stay focused on my commitment.  A wonderful family member recently told me that its important to live in HIS reality, not mine.  What wonderful words of advice from a lady who is watching her beloved slowly taken away by Alzheimer's disease.

Dad and I talked about nursing care.  He doesn't want it but he knows that if he goes its because he has to. He trusts me that I'm not going to drop him off somewhere and leave him be.  That's not what I promised and I'm not going to do that.

If I could give one piece of advice to people about aging, it is this:  prepare financially.  It is very expensive to grow old in this country.  Whether we can have our elders under our same roof or in the care of professionals it takes a lot of money and its just going to get more expensive.  Plan.  Prepare.  Make the commitment today to not be a financial burden but more important make the commitment to YOURSELF to have enough financial resources so that YOU, in the autumn and winter seasons of your life, are as comfortable as possible.

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