Saturday, May 23, 2009

Where I've Been

Feel free to skip this post; it will most likely be long-winded and disjointed. I'm only writing it for therapy for me and because Family Services says I need to document all the craziness. If the facts are written on my blog, I'm not likely to misplace them.

The past 2 weeks have been like a nightmare that I can't escape from! My life feels surreal, like I'm frozen in some bizarre time-warp. As you all know, my Dad had colon cancer surgery on Monday, May 11th. I guess the best way to tell this tale is to go day-by-day.

Monday: I took the day off so my Mom wouldn't be alone at the hospital. I took my parents to the hospital in their car at 7 a.m. Dad went into surgery at 10:30 a.m. Mom spent the entire 3 hours of the surgery sobbing and muttering:"He's my life. I can't live without him." Nothing I did would console her.

The surgery was a success, but we still don't know if Dad will need chemo.

Tuesday: My day began at 1:30 a.m., when Mom called me in a panic. She couldn't find my Dad. That effectively killed sleeping for me for the rest of the night. I didn't know if I should go to their house and spend the rest of the night with Mom, or just hope that she'd settle down and sleep the rest of the night.

The plan for Dad's post-op stay in the hospital was for L to pick up Mom and their dog at 7 a.m. He would take Mom to the hospital and bring the dog to our house. After work, I would spend a couple of hours at the hospital, run errands for me and my parents, pick Mom up at the hospital and bring her over to our house for dinner. After dinner, I would take Mom and Shadow home and make sure they got into the house safely.

Mom INSISTED on driving herself, and my Dad had no problem with that! Mom has undiagnosed Alzheimers (Dad's in denial). Dad has been doing ALL the driving and cooking for the past 2 years. While riding with me, Mom admitted that she couldn't remember where the liquor store was. She then insisted that a beauty parlor was the liquor store. The beauty parlor actually had been a liquor store....30 years ago!! We were terrified that Mom would take a wrong turn on her way to the hospital and keep driving 'til she ran out of gas.

Dad was still a bit confused from the anesthetic and pain killers.

Wednesday: Mom called me twice during the night looking for Dad.

At noon, I looked out the window at work and saw their car parked across the street and Mom staring at the restaurant with a panic-stricken look on her face. Now what?! When I went out to the car, Mom said she couldn't start the car.
Me: "You have to put the car in park."
Mom: "It IS in park!"
I reached across her and shifted the car into park. Mom immediately turned the key and said: "It must have sat long enough to start again."

I got Mom into the restaurant where she started crying and telling everyone what terrible shape my Dad was in. Boss told me to sit down with her and calm her down. When I started questioning Mom, I found out that they had removed Dad's stomach tube, taken him for 2 walks, and let him have a shower. I told Mom that that sounded like a lot of PROGRESS to me.
Mom: "But he's in so much pain!"
Me: "You've had abdominal surgery. You know there will be a lot of pain."
Mom: "I can't stand seeing him suffer!"
Me: "It wasn't easy for Dad to see you in pain when you had surgery. You have to be brave for Dad."
I tried to convince Mom to wait until my shift ended so I could drive her back to the hospital, but no deal.

Later, when I arrived at the hospital, I found the halls plastered with signs with my Dad's name and arrows pointing the way to his room. The nurses were on to Mom's dementia and asked me if there was any way I could keep her from driving. I told them that we had planned on driving Mom everywhere, but our plans had been thwarted. "Your Dad's been covering up for her, hasn't he?" Yup! "We see this happen all the time."

Dad was feeling a lot better, and had quit using his morphine drip. He was a bit confrontational with one of the nurses. He wanted to walk faster than his IV tubes would allow.

Thursday: Mom only called me once during the night. Before she could ask me where Dad was, she realized where he was. She apologized for waking me.

When I arrived at the hospital, Dad was wearing an oxygen mask. The nurse said that he'd had an "episode" with his heart during the night. He'd had a nightmare that knocked his heart out of rhythm. They'd given him a cat-scan, but they still didn't know if he'd had a heart attack or not. They put him on oxygen and heart meds, which returned his heart rhythm to normal. Why hadn't anyone, including my Mom, called me?

D, the hospital's Social Services Director, popped in to visit with us. At the end of her visit, she said that she'd like to discuss a few things with me. Unfortunately, my Mom followed us out of the room too. D took us to a small conference room where she explained Dad's condition and conversationally asked my Mom some questions:
D: "I hear your husband has been doing all the cooking for a couple of years."
Mom: "Yes. He loves to cook."
D: "And how old are you?" Mom tried several times, but never managed to come up with her correct age. At this point, I managed to get rid of Mom by telling her that Dad was probably out of ice chips.

D: "I'll bet you've been trying to get your Dad to have your Mom tested for Alzheimers, but he insists on covering up for her."
Me: "Exactly!"
D: "This is classic behavior. You're an only child and you're trying not to completely alienate your parents by insisting on a test, aren't you?"
Me: "That's the story. Friends and relatives have been noticing the change in Mom, but there's nothing any of us can do short of physically dragging her to the doctor."
D: "Would you like me to have a talk with your Dad in private tomorrow? I'll tell him that the nurses and I discovered the symptoms in your Mom. That way they can't hold any of this against you."
Me: "That would be the BEST possible solution. THANK YOU!!"

Shortly after I returned to Dad's room we got a visit from the on-call doctor, whom my parents hate. She said that the cardiologist in Duluth had looked at Dad's cat-scan and wanted to run some more tests on him. Our hospital doesn't have the equipment necessary for the tests or a cardiologist. They would have to Life-Flight my Dad to Duluth by helicopter, as they didn't have an available nurse to accompany him by ambulance. Dad wanted me to drive him, but I explained that he needed oxygen and IVs that I couldn't transport. We finally convinced my parents that Dad needed to transfer to Duluth to have those tests.

As soon as we were alone, Dad sat up, removed his oxygen mask, and tried to pull out his IV needles.
Me: "WHAT are you doing?"
Dad: "I have to go home and get ready to go to Duluth!"
Me: "Lay down. The nurses will get you ready. The helicopter picks you up HERE."
Dad: "I have to go home to get money to pay for the Life-Flight!"
Me: "We'll worry about that later. I'm sure your insurance will cover it."

Fortunately, Dad's nurse and D came into the room. The nurse settled Dad down, and D went to see if Dad's insurance covered the did. Within an hour, Dad was on his way to Duluth. The nurse gave me a piece of paper with Dad's cardiac ICU bed number in Duluth. D met me in the hall and gave me her card. She said to call her when Dad gets home and let her know when his next doctor appointment was. She would meet Dad at the doctor's office and explain Mom's condition to him. D also told me to feel free to call her anytime if I needed a shoulder to cry on. What an ANGEL!

By this time Mom was so upset that I easily convinced her to let me drive her home and leave their car at the hospital. I FINALLY got the car away from her!

Next episode: Our trip to Duluth


At 5/23/2009 10:34 AM, Blogger Wandering Coyote said...

Oh my God, Tshsmom! I was stressed out just reading this post so I can't imagine how it actually felt to be living this. I'm so sorry. I'm glad you have some support with D on your side, and I was glad to read that the hospital staff have caught on to your mom's dementia. Now that others have noticed, I think your dad will have a harder time covering for her, and hopefully she can get the help she needs.

Stay strong, my friend!!

At 5/23/2009 10:50 AM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Thanks WC! It gets worse. Stay tuned for part 2.

At 5/23/2009 11:23 AM, Blogger Wandering Coyote said...

Oh, shit.

At 5/23/2009 12:06 PM, Blogger Hammer said...

Yikes, I'm sorry to hear this. I hope there is some medication to help your mom. It's good they are going to get her a diagnosis.

Hope your dad is ok as well.

At 5/23/2009 12:26 PM, Blogger Sonja said...

Wandering Coyote put it perfectly. Hang in there!

At 5/23/2009 2:04 PM, Blogger mister anchovy said...

Yikes.Hang in.

At 5/23/2009 4:12 PM, Blogger Squirl said...

Sending prayers and supportive thoughts your way. Remember to take care of you during this, too. It's imperative that you do.


At 5/23/2009 9:51 PM, Blogger Vancouver Voyeur said...

Wow, that's exhausting! I'm so sorry you've been put in this position for so long. I'm also glad the hospital worker was willing to step in and talk to your dad. Let us know how that goes. This is another time when being an only child sucks. It makes all the difference in the world if you have brothers and sisters to help out so everything doesn't fall on your shoulders. Take a deep breath and carry on. I'm thinking of you. Wish I lived close so maybe I could help out with something.

At 5/23/2009 11:12 PM, Blogger Grizzly Mama said...

OMG - Tshsmom. I'm so sorry that you all are going through this rough time! Take care and here's a big (((HUG)))

At 5/24/2009 7:12 AM, Blogger Jeannie said...

I just don't even know what to say - it's so much to digest. I'm just glad to hear you've made it through this far..a

At 5/24/2009 5:12 PM, Blogger SME said...

I'm afraid it does get much worse, WC.

At 5/24/2009 9:20 PM, Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

One of my biggest fears. I'm about to do a post on dementia prevention. It will never be 100% preventable, but you can increase your odds, which is I guess better than nothing.

I second what Wandering Coyote said. Stay strong. It's all you can really do.

At 5/25/2009 1:33 AM, Blogger Garnetrose said... really have had a rough time with it. I hope things start smoothing out. I can't believe there is a part two to all of this. Bless you and your family.....So much to deal with...

At 5/25/2009 6:02 AM, Blogger Cherie said...

You know my heart is there with you supporting you the best I can from far away. Reading this takes me right back to last summer when my folks were acting so similar to the way you describe your folks. I KNOW how hard it is and how there is NO predicting any future behavior. Surprises every day. The anxiety robs of sleep, patience, sanity.

I am waiting nervously for the rest of the story.

I am soooo sorry this is happening to you guys and to your folks, Tshs!

It's good to know you have good friends, supportive family, and D!

At 5/25/2009 9:16 AM, Blogger tshsmom said...

WC, no shit!

Hammer, there are drugs that will extend her good years. She should have been on them a couple of years ago. :(

Thanks Sonja and Mr A!

Squirl, after last Wednesday we were forced to focus our attention on taking care of US! Thanks!

VV, we discovered that no amount of supportive friends and family can help when your parents refuse to listen to reason. :(

Thanks Grizz!

Jeannie, we made it through with our wits semi-intact.

SME, LOVE YOU! This experience has really made me appreciate Z, Dad, and YOU!

ZS, I'm more afraid of my body going to hell while my mind is intact. The family suffers more with Alzheimers than the person who has it. They're happy in their own little world. :(

GR, Thanks...and welcome!

Cherie, thank you, my friend!
As with all disasters in my adult life, this one has pulled the 4 of us closer together. I am truly blessed with 2 amazing kids, a devoted husband, and supportive friends and extended family!

At 5/26/2009 2:53 AM, Blogger tweetey30 said...

I am sorry to hear this. I hope things get better. Stressfull and you be careful for yourself. Take a few minutes for you.. Hugs....

At 5/28/2009 10:37 AM, Blogger Gardenia said...

I am taking all this in - and I feel like crying. I'm thinking at the end of these stories you will have realized the inevitable - your folks need to be in an assisted living situation. They have made it thus far by a lot of luck without serious injury, accident, fire....etc., etc. You may need a third party to negotiate this for you. Also there are drugs that can slow Alz. and even improve somewhat. But most patients won't take them, or can't on their own.

The hospital is in a fuzzy area legally too in releasing your dad to go home with your mother in the shape she's in so the social worker should be VERY helpful. Not sure the status though if he's being shipped elsewhere for tests - if he wasn't officialy released from the hospital, they have to be sure he will be going home to a safe environment when he gets back.

Next option - you are not able to take them in - you don't have room I would venture a guess, and your family situation has enough involvement going on with special needs that having them would break you and you have to stay whole in order to oversee this whole wild scenario, so I'm imagining that you are thinking all this anyway between the calls, the travels, the taxi trips, the arrangements, the worry....

Plus, I think from what you relate your dad might be fading some too, more than just physically. He will possibly be able no longer to clean and cook.

Getting old sucks often.

Well, this wasn't a very comforting comment I know.

Like you blogging clarifies things for me - and we have such a cool community of friends, helpful with feedback. I hope this is helpful and not discouraging.

Bless you!

At 6/18/2009 8:14 PM, Blogger Bridget Jones said...

OMG what WC said I'm so sorry Tshsmom. Didn't realize that your mom has dementia--and now they're both relying on you, as if you didn't have enough going on. Am sending you prayers. Can't imagine it getting worse.


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