Monday, December 5, 2011

OK, I'm Back. If you've missed me.....

it's because November was a slightly crazy month and December is shaking out to be about the same. 

For those that know me only slightly, you may have read about my parents living in Florida and my concern that my Mother is suffering with dementia.  There was a period of time when I finally realized that they had stopped driving completely and that meant that they were not shopping for food.  Once that happened it was only a matter of time before the pantry ran empty and they had no food in the house.  But, of course being the "we're okay" people that they are, they didn't say anything about this situation to me during our daily phone chats.  One day during a chance conversation about what they were having for lunch that day led me to understand what was actually transpiring.  

After some panic on my part and many phone calls and internet searches later, I was fortunate enough to find a shopping service in Cape Coral that did the grocery shopping for me and that worked out well for a few months.  I made up the grocery list, with Mom's help, they shopped and brought the groceries to the house and even put away the frozen and refrigerated foods for her.  With (the shoppers) Ryan and Bethay's help down there I was able to get a remote view of their situation.  After a few weeks, it also became apparent that Dad wasn't caring for the yard and since he wasn't driving, I worried that other things such as bill paying and caring for the dog were being left undone as well. 

I scheduled an emergency vacation to visit them for an "eye's on" during the first week of November and things deteriorated exponentially from there.  Two days into my visit, Mom and I went to walk the dog after dinner, the dog got excited, wrapped her leash around Mom's legs and down she went onto the street - Mom, not the dog. 

Luckily the neighbors came out help get her off the road and we got her home and in bed.  Mom refused to go to the hospital that night but I insisted she go the following morning and after an x-ray it was determined she'd fractured her hip.  The following day she had surgery to repair the bone and was sent to a local rehab hospital. 

During these couple of days I finally came to realize that my Father's mental capacity had deteriorated far more than Mom's.  He didn't understand what I told him about Mom falling, didn't understand why she was in the hospital and especially didn't understand why she couldn't just come home.  When I'd ask him what he was doing, he'd tell me things like he'd been mowing the yard (which he hadn't) or had been out talking to a neighbor (which he hadn't). 

What I had been experiencing with him as bouts of annoying repetitiveness was actually full-blown confusion, and no doubt in my mind, dementia. 

After some excruciating soul-searching, I decided to pack them up, close up their house and bring us all back to Ohio as soon as physically possible.  Although mentally they both are deteriorating, Mom's hip is healing nicely, so the Doctor released her to fly to Ohio at the end of the second week post-surgery.  I managed to pack some warm clothes into boxes and have them shipped home, found a carry-on case for the dog, arranged seats at the front of a non-stop flight from Ft. Myers to Akron-Canton and a week later we landed in Ohio dazed, confused, terrified and exhausted.  We took Mom directly to a rehab facility here, and Dad and the dog are now residing at my home. 

It ain't Florida and it ain't organized, but hey, we're here, we're together (sort of), and we're surviving.

With support from many friends in similar situations, I've learned that it's important to set a daily routine and to stick with it.  After two weeks, we have done just that.  While it isn't ideal, we're getting through each day.  I'm hoping Mom will soon be released to come home from rehab where I have been working to create a "parent's retreat" in my home so that we can all be comfortable without getting on each others nerves.  For now, I'm able to get back to my job, Mom has her therapy each morning, Dad goes to visit each afternoon and everyone is fairly safe and are eating regularly. 

There are lots of lessons to be learned throughout this process.  The first of which is that people in my situation need to really dig hard to find answers to our problems.  Government dollars are drying up for many agencies that would normally help us find our way, so asking lots of questions and taking copious notes are essential.  

I also know that while it may be rarer to find someone my age dealing with dementia in both parents, it's not a unique situation. And believe me, I feel for anyone doing this while raising children or grandchildren at the same time.  

I have also now experienced first hand the lack of understanding that our medical providers have in dealing with dementia patients.  Even when told over and over again that the staff of nurses or doctors cannot accept answers to questions from Mom and Dad, they continue to treat them as though they know what's going on and take their answers as gospel. 

Even during the process, we still need to take time to stop and
see the beauty around us while it's here.
Anyway, a quick shout out to everyone who has been supportive through this initial phase.  The neighbors, Claudette and Peter, in Cape Coral have been kind and extremely helpful before, during and after this ordeal and Jacob has been mowing the yard for Dad for nearly a year (even tho Dad will still tell you he does it himself regularly).  My BFF Cathy here in Ohio has been supportive and always available at a moments notice to help out with things like moving furniture around for me, bringing us home from the airport and helping me get the dog squared away.  Grant and Lynn provided a wonderful home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner that I would never have been able to pull off on my own.  Even the guy that was working on my house came in to install handrailings for me on a days notice. 

Hopefully, the blog will get back to normal after a while.  Obviously at this point, this old biddy isn't so much loose on the town as cooped up in the house, but that shouldn't last forever.  With the holidays right around the corner it's OK to stick close to home anyway.  Likely there will be more cooking reported here than running around, which will sort of put me back to the roots of the blog.  Meanwhile, to all my family and friends, keep on reading and if you have advice to pass along, please feel free.

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