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Saturday, June 9, 2012

A prompt from Real Toads: dementia

go away, she said,
you’re no fun any more,
sometimes I think
you’re losing your mind!
  
mom, I said,
mom, please listen to me,
that’s exactly what’s happening,
dad is sick, and his mind is going.
From the movie Tangled.
  
she brushed me off
and wouldn’t listen.
  
they saw a doctor.
then a visiting nurse
came to test dad.
Alzheimer’s Disease, she said.
  
they saw another doctor,
who then tested mom.
Alzheimer’s Disease also,
the doctor said.
  
they brushed him off
and wouldn’t listen.
  
my brother had found
an apartment for them,
near his house, but
it couldn't work out.
  
my brother then found
assisted living for them,
but dad was kicked out
of there three times.
  
he brushed us all off
and just couldn’t listen.
  
  
This was the beginning of the end for our parents. When they moved into a care facility, they got wonderful care. The staff loved them, and there were lots of visitors, and plenty of activities.
But they were in different parts of the building. Mom had physical illnesses, plus mild Alzheimer's.
Dad was physically healthy, but he had more advanced Alzheimer's and also vascular dementia. Different problems, different needs, different units.
They missed one another terribly. Dad coped by imagining she was still with him. Mother put up a good front, but her heart was broken. He didn't recognize her any more. How could he? She lived in another part of the complex, so she couldn't be the wife who was still with him, in his mind.
It was so sad for everyone, except Dad of course, because he couldn't see that anything was wrong.
Mom died seven months later, of a combination of her physical problems plus a fall, and then pneumonia. And a broken heart.
Dad lived for two and a half more years, but the part of his brain that controlled his heart would forget to control it every now and then. He would be walking along, then suddenly fall straight down, like a tree, when his heart stopped. He had been a musician, a horn player, so he had good lungs. Every time his heart stopped, and then he fell, his excellent lungs would cause his heart to beat again. He never remembered these episodes. When shown his bandaged face and head, black eyes and bleeding nose, he said, "Pretty good, eh?" as if he'd survived 10 rounds with Ali.

Laurie's prompt for A Word with Laurie at the online writers' group Imaginary Garden with Real Toads definitely resonated with me: the word dementia. However, it frightened me, too, because it made me remember my parents' journey through the disease, in particular my father's, which lasted until he was no longer himself but was still a sweet old fella ("a real gentleman" the staff told us) whom we loved; and then it lasted until he was no longer that person, either. Finally, he needed complete care, like an ungainly infant.
I was with him when he died, when his lungs could no longer jump-start his heart. I was dozing in a chair beside his bed, listening for him to breathe, stop, breathe again, until the time came when he didn't breathe again.
When I think about Dad, I like to think about a conversation with my youngest brother, who surprised Dad, and delighted Mom, and horrified the rest of us, by being born when we were 21, 19, and 15. After Dad died, I said, "You know, Clint and I were just saying the other day, he was a really good dad," and Rob replied, "You're right, he really was."
Unconventional (eccentric even), full of ideas and the talents with which to express those ideas, he really was a really good dad.

13 comments:

diane b said...

A touching story. My mother died from dementia but it was not Alzheimer's. It was caused by many little strokes and blocked arteries in her brain. It was awful and scary to think I might end up like that.

Phil said...

Kay, that's just so sad but good to explain. You obviously loved your mum and dad very much.

By the way don't come over to the UK yet, we have rain and floods in Wales - in June!

Kerry O'Connor said...

Such a sad story of good people brought low by a terrible side effect of growing old.
You told it with such compassion, Kay, and it can't have been easy to revisit these painful times to bring us these words.

Fran said...

A lovely tribute to your dad and I am sure he was proud of your talents, especially your talent for writing x

Leslie: said...

Very touching, Kay. My mother died from Alzheimers, too, and my Dad ended up with vascular dementia from 2 major strokes. I was the last one to be with my mother and was at my Dad's side when he passed away. It was very peaceful for both of them and neither suffered in the end. This brought back my own memories - you've written about yours so gently.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh, Kay, I cant even imagine going through a double whammy like that. Bless you for being by their sides through their long difficult passings. You were a really good daughter, too.

Crafty Green Poet said...

that's so sad, surely if they could have been kept closer together it would have been good for them?

Kay L. Davies said...

@ Crafty Green Poet —
Thanks, and you could well be right, but they could not be placed in the same section.
We used to take Mom to visit Dad, but it didn't work. He pretty much ignored her, which hurt her terribly. She told us she didn't want to go any more, so we tried taking him to visit her. That made her a little happier, but he still didn't pay attention to her.
His dementia was so much farther advanced than her mild Alzheimer's Disease that communication between them became impossible. Finally she said she didn't want to see him any more, because it was too painful.
Thanks again, though.
K

Dimple said...

Kay, you describe this awful situation, as Leslie said, so gently. Blessings to you, and thank you for sharing what must have been painful to write about.

kaykuala said...

Kay
I can relate to this. We're now tending to my MIL. It's not as bad yet.She takes care of her personal self.But she can't decide nor can she determine right from wrong. She needs to be told rather than given choices.I can well imagine the frustrations. You had done it very well.Patience is the only recourse. That's how we made it easier for both my wife and I.Thanks for sharing.

Hank

Laurie Kolp said...

Thank you so much for sharing this, Kay. I know it wasn't easy, but it is beautiful because it comes straight from the heart. Rejoice in the fact they are together now!

Daydreamertoo said...

Oh this is such a deeply moving story of your parents. Sad to have it happen to one of them but, both is just awful.
heart breaking to think they had to be separated too. Darn, even if they did get the best of care it's still heart breaking.

Heaven said...

What a moving story and thank you for sharing it. I think its difficult when old people are separated as it makes living with others even more challenging ~