Saturday, January 23, 2016

Sundowning With Dennis

Most of you know that Dennis is my Dad. Some of you know he has Alzheimer's. It is a bazaar disease. He is at a special stage right now where he goes a bit crazy after sunset. In Alzheimer's parlance, it's called sundowning.

I think I miss out on the worst of it through the week because I do not get home from work until 8 or 9 PM, but I see the results and I get to experience it on Saturday nights first hand. It's strange stuff.

One night last week I came home and he had removed the cable box to his TV and unscrewed the plate on the cable outlet on the wall. I had to hook it all up again. I am not sure what that was about and he could not explain it. On other nights, and this happens several times a week now, he takes all the items (which he uses regularly) that are on his end table next to his chair and will put them in a box and place them in the back of his Toyota Highlander. This will include his TV remotes and the telephone. The telephone is a land line that he physically has to unplug from the wall outlet.

When I asked him why he did that he would say he was getting ready to go home or he was moving out. Tonight when he did it, he told me he was worried they would get stolen. Earlier this week, he was putting his remotes and a toothpick holder in a Corning ware ceramic baking dish with a glass lid. When I asked him if he was going to bake something, he said 'no', he 'just needed something to carry them around in'. Weird.

Tonight he also called me 'dad'. This is new. He was getting himself some ice cream and cookies and he said , "Dad, do you want any cookies?". Now it's conceivable that he thought his Dad was really here, but I am the only other human in the house. Whatever is going on in his head, it's not right. There are other times when he confuses me with his brother Dick. He talks about "our dad" and asks me if I remember things from back in the 1940's. Last Sunday when I got home from Church, he asked me where Dad was.

It's all just a very odd experience. I tried an experiment tonight to see if I could calm him by praying for him silently. I believe it worked to a certain extent. He did not get argumentative as he usually does and he seemed to settle down from his packing behavior and his phone is still plugged in at this hour.   

I cannot imagine what it must feel like being inside of his head. I find myself wondering just how much is actually left of what was once my Dad in there. Dad was multi talented in his earlier years. He was a carpenter, an electrician and an auto mechanic. He could fix anything. He was a technician in that middle 20th century way that no longer exists. Now he is completely out of his element in everything and it makes me sad. It also makes me feel guilty because it makes me angry at the same time. I know we all have to die, but why should anyone have to die in this way, piece by piece, bit by bit, memory by memory? He was not the perfect father or husband and his personality may have needed some work. He could be a bit of a bully at times. But I do not think it merits a slow death from Alzheimer's disease.

I think the time has come for me to get him evaluated again by a neurologist to see how far the Alzheimer's has progressed. From there, I may need to begin looking for appropriate care facilities. We will see what the doctors say. My concern at this point is, should he be left home alone? I'm thinking no, but we will see. He did fall in the driveway earlier this week. It had just snowed a bit and he thought he was going to get the mail. When I pulled in from work, I could see the snow angel he had made while trying to get up. Since it was still snowing, I knew that it was fresh and he did tell me about it when I got inside. He seems to be unscathed with the exception of a small scrape on his right cheek bone. He also says his ribs are sore, but there are no bruises and he is able to get up and down and move around as always. Had he hit his head that night and become unconscious, it could have been more serious. It was very cold and he is on blood thinners.

I worry. Is this transition going to be forced on both of us? It's looking like it. If he forgets how to catheterize himself, that will be the clincher. I will do many things for him, but inserting a catheter into his penis is not one of them. He has not been able to urinate without one since his knee surgery. So far, self cathing has gone well for him with few UTI's (even though he will reuse them from time to time). I suppose it's only a matter of time before he forgets how to cath or forgets to urinate all together.

One has to wonder how this need will effect how he is placed in a care facility too. Can an Alzheimer's patient be place in general population in a care facility because they cannot pee on their own? I do not know.

When I was an orderly in a nursing home back in the mid-seventies, all the old folks were together, crazy and otherwise. I found myself pitying the dementia patients because they could not die and feeling sorry for the quick minded because they were trapped in bodies that did not work so well anymore.

My grandpa told me once, "Jeff, getting old is a terrible thing." I believe he is right.   

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