Monday, May 21, 2007

Dealing with Alzheimer's

I thought I might write about dealing with a family member with Alzheimer's. Drummer's dad was diagnosed with it about 1-1/2 or 2 years ago. His wife (they have been married for about 14 years or so, marrying within the year of Drummer's mother's death) is very dedicated and I know that she doesn't leave her husband alone very much. In fact, we do worry about that. They live in Sun City West (north of Phoenix), and we do know that there are adult day-care services available, or even respite care (meaning someone to come in for a few hours or so). So far she has not taken advantage of that - she feels guilty if her hubby is left with a stranger, I guess.

Anyway, we visited with them last October. We had driven out (a 2-day journey each way) because his dad wanted us to take some things back with us. And it turned out that his dad just could not relinquish some things, such as photo albums (where he could not remember many folks in the photos anyway), so we probably could have flown. But oh well. We just tried to have a nice visit and did some fix-up things for them - Drummer replaced some of their old lamp parts, which had worn out and would not function as 3-way lights anymore and I oiled their patio chairs (the squeaking was drivin' me crazy!). His dad was much more responsive than we had hoped for. His wife said that he will sometimes "rise" when they have company - maybe that is from outside stimulation?

Drummer phones his dad each Sunday, and last Sunday his dad's wife asked Drummer to consider a visit towards the end of July. She would like to attend her eldest son's wedding in Wisconsin and doesn't feel that his dad will be able to go with her. So we talked it over, and Drummer agreed that he would try to help out - 7 to 10 days. He and I discussed it, and it will be pretty much isolation for him. He loves music and likes his tv, too. And his dad does not like the tv on nor (I think) music, either. Aucccckkkkk! So he thinks he will go stir crazy. And with his dad's dwindling vocabulary, that will pose another dilemma. I expect a LOT of phone calls.

Plus in yesterday's phone call, we learned that his dad had flooded the laundry room and some adjoining rooms, when he left a faucet on. And we do know that he "roams" the house at night, which I guess is typical for Alzheimer's patients. So there are many things to address. Drummer will go out there ahead of time to get a drill in day-to-day care, etc. I know that he is not looking forward to this, but he is doing it out of obligation.

The bad thing is that his dad's father also had dementia/Alzheimer's (how do they tell the difference, anyway?) and then died in his early 90's. So Drummer and his brother are probably wondering (as many would do, of course) if this fate awaits either of them.

Anyway, we are not "up close and personal" with this disease and only know of it via phone calls. Plus I have a co-worker whose mother was diagnosed years ago and finally had to go into a private care home (only licensed for 6 people). I know that Drummer's dad will eventually face some sort of care facility in his future. Not an easy choice to make for his wife and (most probably) his sons.

Obviously, I'll be writing about this in the future.

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