Saturday, May 15, 2010

It takes a village

So, maybe you're wondering what happened to Dad after his assessment. Well, pretty much nothing as he passed it within an acceptable range. But more importantly, just the year before when my parents had been together, the social worker deemed them to be a "lovely, little, co-dependent couple." What enabled them to cope was that each compensated for what the other lacked.

Life went on as usual except over time his wallet disappeared with increasing frequency and every once in a while, although he'd driven into town, he'd return home in a cab courtesy of Oakville storeowners who knew who he was and where he lived. And when a bank employee brought it to our attention that he was getting money out of the ATM with the assistance of strangers, Rob began to manage Dad's finances (Rob also became a wallet and car wrangler). Hillary Clinton said it takes a village to raise a child but it became apparent that it also takes one to keep an elder safe.

He lived with Mom in the family home until he died after which time the unwelcome spotlight shifted onto Mom aka "The Recluse"who lived alone in the family home with the assistance of her 5 children until safety issues and falls became an issue. Without the ongoing concern for the well-being of Dad aka "Mr. Social" her difficulties became obvious.

After her first solo geriatric evaluation (which I wrote about in The Sentence) she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and put on a drug to slow the decline of her cognitive function. Over time another was added to the mix and a year later its dosage was increased which sent her over the edge.

She began to experience visual hallucinations, people were present that only she could see. She voiced her distress, "Something is terribly wrong. It seems so real. I don't know what's real anymore. I'm in a fog half the time. This is no way to live." Thankfully when we took her off the drug the hallucinations stopped.

But at the next assessment her score had plummeted and after reviewing the numbers the geriatric specialist talked into her voice recorder, "I recommend Edith continue with Aricept and we re-introduce Ebixa to stall the progression of the disease..."

She hadn't even asked us. "No" I said.

"If we don't do this she'll decline at a more rapid rate. Her numbers are significantly decreased since the last evaluation."

"For what benefit? She felt she was going crazy."

"Then there's nothing more we can do for her."

We decided that this would be her last yearly, unnatural, stress-filled assessment. Personally, I felt relieved but also weighed down with a sense of loss and failure.

We might as well get some enjoyment out of this day, I thought, though I was going through the motions, distracted by the verdict handed down to her of a life sentence of inevitable, horrible, decline. So before heading back to the nursing home we went in to the Tim's in the hospital and got a coffee and some "donies" (as she called Timbits). She did not want to take her coat off so as I placed a napkin in her lap I said, speaking distractedly half to myself, "We'd better use this as you're wearing the coat that Jude got you and if it gets stained she'll kill me." Then I happened to look down at the floor and notice she was wearing her good shoes, the ones Rob had found for her. "God I hope it's not raining when we leave cus the shoes Rob got you will be ruined and he'll kill me." I'd almost forgotten that she was there.

She began to laugh, "Well, you can only die once."

She was present, she remembered what I'd said and made a joke in an effort to cheer me up. There was a glimmer of hope and I laughed with her.

* note: I began this on Sat but finished it Tues May 18th, just don't know how to get it to appear in the right order.

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