Friday, April 10, 2009

Memory Loss and My Father

This is not a feel good post, nor a happy one. I'm sorry, but if you feel the need to stop reading at this point, I will understand. I beg of you who do continue to read, though, to pray....fervently, and offer whatever information you may have in the comments.

My dad. I will be blatantly honest and say that he has never been well put-together. He's been a pathological liar for far more years than I realized (until I was about 26). He created much of the strife in our dysfunctional home. However, a few years ago he began having "spells" at work. After many of these, and much time off work, the doctors began to suggest they might have been small strokes. It would be nice to believe that were true and simply have the answers, but I'm not convinced. In the last couple of years his memory has become extremely troubled. This started shortly after I confronted him about a lot of lies and mistreatment of family members. For the first time in my life, he admitted a few issues....laying the blame on his horrible childhood. He, indeed, had a terrible upbringing, and I know it to be true simply by the fact that 3 of his siblings (out of 4) who were raised by his father and mother (the youngest was an "oops" and was only 6 when their father died) were mentally "off" as well. Just odd, they are/were. Strange stories and recollections of terrible beatings....all sleeping in the cellar as children. Anyway.... my dad received counselling for a short period and I thought things were going to finally start "normalizing," but I was wrong. The mini strokes followed. His family doctor of 20 years kept insisting there was nothing wrong with him, other than him being his normal (story-telling) self. This made it difficult to feel sorry for him. Really difficult. During this period he was forced into early retirement. Financially, that was quite draining since he was....56, I think? So, finally, my mom (step-mom, but mom for all intensive purposes as she raised me) applied for disability. The doctor that "examined" him (asked lots of ?'s) at first thought there was nothing wrong with him, but after a bit realized he would get this "tick".... a faraway look in mid-conversation. She said she thought it was from the mini strokes. She gave us hope that his memory loss would not get much worse, if caused by strokes. If it was Alzheimer's, it would get worse progressively. His mother has Alzheimer's. Well....in the last 9-10 months since he saw that doctor he has gotten horrendously worse. I could give examples all day long, but he's becoming a danger to himself and that's most important. We live just down the road a bit from him, which works out well when we aren't CRAZY busy b/c I can sort of keep an eye on him. He used to walk up and down the roads all day...just getting out and hoping to run into someone to talk to. Now, he mostly stays home and sleeps....and eats. He will eat his lunches that are for a couple days all in one day b/c he doesn't remember eating. My mom has to work during the day. She has to. It's not an option. She's nearly 58 and my dad will be 60 in June. They cannot retire anytime soon. In order to be "officially" diagnosed, my dad needs an MRI. That's about $4,000.00. They have no insurance, since my dad was forced into early retirement by his company and my mother's employer does not provide insurance. With disability, you have to wait one year before applying for Medicare. Hopefully he will get that in June and be able to go for the scan....which will, again hopefully, tell us something. Anything. Just so long as we get some answers.....preferably with treatment solutions.

Meanwhile, my dad is slipping away from us so quickly. Despite whatever bad might have occurred in my childhood (he was never physically abusive or anything like that), he is still my daddy and I love him. He's really all I have left as far as family (outside my husband and children). He and my step-mom, whom I worry about constantly as her health is not that great and now she is the primary caretaker of her husband, who has become more like a child. My siblings...we've never been close. Even as children. Some of them are quite messed up, due to my birth mother's abusive ways. Some just got fed up. It's understandable. Most don't live close enough to really understand all that is happening with dad and they don't call or visit. I feel gut-wrenchingly sorry for them because they have no idea how serious things really are. At this point, we are trying to avoid putting him in a home. It's very hard when you have 3 active children (one is a teen and one is almost a teen), homeschool, and work part-time...plus having a farm. I need to find ways to spend more time with him. I've suggested he do cross-word puzzles or word searches, but he won't. I don't think he can, really. But he doesn't even try. He says he reads, but when I ask what book he's reading he simply says that he has many books to read.

Does anyone have any experience like this? Is there some way that it's NOT Alzheimer's? He seems to know when a "blip" is coming. He will stop mid-story and say, "Here it comes," and then he's forgotten what he was saying. That doesn't sound like Alzheimer's to me. But I'm no doctor, either. He talks openly with my husband about his fears of losing his mind...when they are alone. He won't talk about it with me. When I ask questions he says he's fine, or he's getting better. I think he's trying to protect his baby girl. I know he loves me dearly, which makes this all the more heart-breaking.

If you have any advice, experience, anything....please help. If you don't....please pray....with urgency. Please.

Thank you.

Jerri

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I read your blog by way of Wendy's. I am sorry to read about your dad. My grandmother had alzheimer's for several years. She was able to stay in her home with round the clock companion caregiving..food, meds, basic hygiene, and company. It become necessary for her to move to a nursing home closer to family the last few months. It was hard to do, but once she was there, she seemed happy. She was in a dementia/alzheimer unit that was secure. It was not perfect, but she was with others who were in the same mental state and they all seemed happy.
The schmeding center in springdale may have some helpful resources.I believe there is some alzhiemers association in Bella Vista that might be familiar with available resources as well.
My grandmother was very aware of her slipping mind until the final 6 months. SHe knew 'Her thinking was not right," or she was off her rockers as she liked to say. It was a very frustrating thing for her. I think it was better at the end when she was not aware of how bad her memory and thinking was. We were so blessed, because of her personality taking a sour turn as is so common with ALZ. she became sweeter an sweeter with every passing day. She was so thankful and greatful for everything which made things so much better than they could have been.
Maybe you all could have a caregiver/companion during the day while your mom is away and then once every so often to give your mom a much needed break.
I will pray for you and the changes that are taking place in your life.

Jerri Dalrymple said...

Thank you SO much! You have no idea how much your comment means to me. As I read it, it brought tears to my eyes. Much as I would like to believe that my dad does not have AD, all the research I continue to do seems to point straight to it. My mom says the hardest part is seeing him be so afraid. She says she sometimes wishes he would get to the point where he was more unaware of his problem so that maybe he wouldn't be so afraid all the time. He says "His head isn't right" and that he knows he is losing his mind (what he told my hubby). His attitude towards me and my hubby/children has improved a lot (the personality change). He is the loving and sometimes doting father that he wasn't when I was a child. He never lets a moment pass as we see each other without hugging me and telling me he loves me. It was strange and hard to get used to for a while. He is very appreciative of anything we do for him, no matter how little. However, I'm not sure he treats my mom with the same respect. I think she gets the brunt of the bad side. The irritability and confusion can be so very trying, as I'm sure you know.

My dad has a dr.'s appt. Monday morning, and my mom is okay with me going with them (I was afraid she might assume that I thought she couldn't handle it). Maybe hearing things from the dr. will somehow make me feel better? What I really feel like is yelling at the doctor for not getting him on some sort of meds or something that will slow this down and help....I know they have all kinds of treatments out there...anything would be better than nothing at all, ya know?

Thanks so much, again, for responding!!! :0)

dwaz said...

Jerri,

I am sorry to hear about your father. I lost my father to complications with Alzheimer's and now I am caring for my father-in-law. Your feelings are completely normal.

I actually just launched (4 weeks ago) a website to bring Alzheimer's caregivers together to help each other through the exchanging of experiences. I encourage you to go to the site and read through many of the posts, along with some of my experiences. Several questions have already been answered about how to diagnoses AD, going to the neurologist for the first time, medications and how to pay for some of the expenses. Below is the link to our AD page.

http://www.dxjunction.com/conditions/5-Alzheimer%27s/diagnoses

I encourage you to look around, and if you have more questions be sure to register and post a question. The site is loaded with people who have years of experience and can help.

Also, be sure to read my story. My user name is Alzwell.

I hope this helps.

Sincerely,
David