Wednesday, February 3, 2010

And I’m Doing This Why?

But enough about me.

Let’s talk about my husband Anthony, and his mother, Doris. And the free-loading brother, John.

Doris Coldrey finally got her diagnosis. Anthony took the day off work (as he has been doing quite a bit lately) and drove her to the clinic where an array of social workers, doctors and therapists gave her the word: Alzheimer’s.

You’ve got it, it’s not going to go away, and you need to deal with it, is basically what they told her. Then they presented her, and Anthony, with a copy of their report.

The report says things like: Doris doesn’t recognize 911 as an emergency number. She is at risk for wandering from her house and getting lost in the streets of Kookytown. Doris is no longer capable of paying bills, or keeping her financial affairs in order. Nor can she cook safely anymore, and is at high risk of nutritional deficit. Doris can’t or won’t take medication required for her various conditions. Etc.

They recommend that Doris sell her home, and move into a retirement residence.

Anthony knew all this was coming, of course. His mother has been acting kookier and kookier over the last few years, which he noticed. In fact, he’d been quietly pleading with her for months to see a doctor.

Her response to his concerns was ridiculous: she denied everything, insisting she was fine (while at the same time persistently calling him at work to ask for help about the most basic of things), accused Anthony of engineering a huge “conspiracy,” and went merrily on her way until a self-imposed medical crisis put her into hospital.

She ended up there because she refused to take her Gout medication. Anthony tried to convince her it was both safe and needed, but she knew better.

Doris: “I won’t take it anymore. It makes me dizzy.”

Anthony: “Then see your family doctor so he can adjust the dose.” Anthony usually stays pretty calm and logical when dealing with her. Usually.

Doris (in a very smug tone): “Oh, what does he know? I don’t have Gout. I have diabetes.” (She doesn’t)

Anthony: “Really? And you know this…how?”

Doris: “I remember when Daddy got diabetes back in The Labrador, he said he was dizzy.”

Doris’ father in fact didn’t have diabetes, but died deep in the throes of Alzheimer’s.

Anthony: “Your father didn’t have diabetes. Besides, you could be dizzy for any number of reasons. You should still take your Gout medication, or your feet will swell again.”

Doris: “You’re trying to get me into The Home. You always were a trouble-maker. John is the easy one.”

Anthony’s brother John, at 50, has a criminal record as long as my right arm, collects welfare payments as a career, and burned down the family cottage in his youth, just to give you an idea. He recently moved back in with Doris so he could live rent-free and have someone cook and clean for him, which she happily enables.

Anthony, the “trouble-maker,” got a university degree in his early 20’s, and has worked in government and lived an upright, independent, tax-paying life ever since. He once gave his brother $400 to pay off the drug dealers who were threatening to break Johnnie’s legs, but he usually tries to keep as much distance as possible between himself and the bro.

Anyway, the inevitable happened: Doris’s Gout returned because she wouldn’t take her meds. Her feet swelled up to the size of basketballs and she landed in the General, babbling and incoherent. She didn’t recognize Anthony when he went to visit her.

In a way, the whole fiasco was a good thing: the hospital staff realized she was kooky. So they evaluated her mental state before sending her home with bandaged feet and a new Gout prescription, and Anthony was finally able to cajole her into several follow-up appointments (he’s using up his vacation days pretty fast at this rate), where they did more tests, and finally, three days ago, she got the diagnosis.

Of course, her reaction was predictable: denial, accusation (both Anthony and I are apparently now in on the giant conspiracy), followed by insult. Anthony pretends the terrible things she says to/about him don’t hurt. But I think they do.

This morning, I looked at my husband’s tired eyes as he hunched into suit, shirt and tie, preparing for another day of battle, and thought that if there were any conspiracy I’d join, it would be one involving a plan to do just as Doris wishes, and leave her alone in her filthy, falling-down wreck of a house, with her other, “easy” son, the one who smashes up her furniture or pitches mugs of hot tea at her when he snaps, before cleaning out her wallet as he lurches out the door on the way to the grubby corner pub, the only one left in that neighbourhood still letting him in.

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