Eye Opener

Disclaimer: Uncharacteristic Serious Post 

Yesterday I put my father on a plane back home to Kansas City. I walked him to his terminal, bought him a burger and fries for lunch, and waited with him until it was time to board. As we said our goodbyes, while I knew things would be much less stressful at home, I was sad to see him go.

I have mentioned this in a previous post, but for those who don’t know my father has early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. It is in the very early stages, he still knows who we all are, and he can still take care of he basic daily needs, but there are many things he is no longer able to do. He can no longer drive himself, he has extreme difficulty reading, he can’t cook like he used to, and he is much slower than he used to be. His short term memory is pretty much nonexistent, he asks the same question over and over again, and he has picked up some habits that he never had before. But thankfully he is still the same dad I have always loved.

Since he lives at home with my mom and sister I decided that I would take him back to Chicago with me after my latest trip to KC. My sister and mom needed some time to relax and get things done around the house so I thought he would enjoy a few weeks with my husband and I. While I knew he had some difficulties and could tell his memory was getting worse, from our regular phone calls, it wasn’t really until he was living with us for a few weeks that I realized how much worse he really is. I think part of me never really accepted the Alzheimer’s diagnosis and just kept the facade that everything was still perfectly fine. As I said before he isn’t completely helpless, but he does need help with a lot of things.

First off, I am going to say that caregivers are fucking SAINTS. I was only with my dad a few weeks and I was completely exhausted. Before work each morning I had to make sure he ate and took his medicine and then make sure his lunch was made so that all he had to do was heat it up in the microwave. I can’t even count the number of conversations we had about how our Keurig works. He really wanted to work it, he just couldn’t get there. Luckily I work from home a couple days a week so I only had to worry a few days that he was alright at home while I was gone. Totally nerve wracking. At least he had our two dogs to keep him company and I think they enjoyed his daily naps as much as he did.

Since he doesn’t get to do too much back at home, we tried to show him a good time. We went out to eat a few times, he hung out with my father-in-law, whom he really enjoyed, and we even had a cookout with some of our friends.

While we had a good time, I am ashamed to say that at times I was extremely annoyed. I knew he couldn’t help it, but at night after working all day sometimes I just couldn’t hear the same question over and over. Thankfully I have a loving husband who was there to help me.

The scary thing for me is that unfortunately, he is going to get worse. I know this and I am terrified to death. Right now he still knows who I am, but there will come a day when he won’t and that is something I can’t even deal with right now. I never thought that I would be taking care of my parents, parents are suppose to take care of you. However, this is where we are at and it is something I will gladly do.

 

 

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On a Serious Note: Too Close to Home

I have had serious anxiety for years..

I over think everything, I worry when there is no reason too, and I like things to be a certain way. There are nights when I can’t sleep because my brain won’t turn off and I have panic attacks that leave me incapable of doing anything until they pass. However, as I have identified appropriate medication that works for me and met with a counselor, I am now able to manage my anxiety better than ever.

This being said I am no stranger to mental health disorders, but I was still not prepared for the news I received a few days ago.

My father is 65 years old and is my best friend. He has been there for me through everything, gave me everything he could, and I know would drop anything to come to my rescue should I need him. Lately he has been having some problems remembering little things, sometimes he would ask questions multiple times, and has been misplacing things more often. While I noticed this new behavior I shrugged it off as older age and daily stress. I know quite a bit about dementia from working in the field and from conducting numerous memory and executive functioning batteries, but I didn’t once think it was anything serious. Just to be safe my mom had him go see a neurologist who conducted many tests and brain scans. He was then sent home and told he would receive results within a few weeks.

Fast forward to a few days ago…

My dad called me early in the evening the day he went back to discuss his results with the neurologist. He paused for a moment and then said “Lauren, I have been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. They started me on this medication donepizel and that’s all I have for now.” 

My first reaction was to laugh, he tends to joke about losing his mind and so I thought he was joking, plus there was no way that he could actually have Alzheimer’s.

Unfortunately, he was serious.

I responded with “Ok, send me the information that the doctor gave you. I will talk to you later, love you.”

I hung up the phone and sat on the couch and just stared. I didn’t really react, I don’t know if it didn’t sink in or if I still just didn’t believe it. I know that Alzheimer’s is a slow disease and right now not much is going to be different, but I am having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that at some point my dad may no longer know who I am. True there are new medications and treatments available today, but this disease is not curable and the reality is he is going to get much worse over time.

The good news (you always have to try to find the good in a bad situation) is that it was caught early and he has started treatment. If you suspect that someone you love potentially has some form of dementia get them tested as soon as possible so that they are able to start a treatment regimen that will help them better manage their symptoms.