Friday, March 26, 2010

Hold that Thought...

Two posts ago, I wrote about cooperation, or lack thereof, vis-a-vis dementia.

As I'm now fairly surrounded with living examples of how dementia unfolds, it's become blatantly apparent to me about the "missing link" in all the noise out there dealing with Alzheimer's and dementia in general.

Anthony's noticed it too.

That link, the missing one, is all about cooperation.

If you aren't the type to go easily down the garden path upon instruction, then all the Alzheimer's blogs and websites and doctors' advice ain't worth nothing. There's just no helping you. You will go out in a blaze of glory (in your "mind" or what's left of it), which means, in reality, with a pathetic whimper.

Like any disease, especially mental illnesses, the cooperation of the patient is more-or-less required before medical and social intervention can assist.

Of course, when you are struggling with mental illness, are you likely to cooperate? Do you hear voices telling you otherwise? Are you paranoid? Can you even remember that you don't remember?

I think you see my point.

True story: a friend of ours just got back from visiting distant parents. She relates that they still live in their own home, even though the father is long-ago kooky with AD. He still drives: no one is willing to take away his car-keys. He doesn't recognize his son-in-law at all, or even his own wife at times. When he does remember that he has a wife, he calls the police to report her missing if she happens to be out running errands when he remembers her.

During our friend's visit, she discovered a loaded hand gun in his bed-side drawer. This unnerved her enough to take action, so she removed it, and called the police to surrender the weapon to them. Then, using the requisite sleight-of-hand maneuvre, she arranged for Pops to be out of the house when the police came to collect.

They gave her a surprise.

Police: "Thanks for doing this. It's very common. What about the other guns though?"

Our Friend: "Huh?"

Police: "Oh he's got more. That's for sure. Call us when you find them."

Our Friend: "HUH?"

Police: "See ya, and good luck."

She found them. Long guns, loaded, under the couch cushions.

So you see, this is the common reality of dementia. That Mr. Black, from two posts ago? He is not so common.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Other End: Beginning

Anthony and I wouldn't mind adopting Ray. Not that we suppose we'll ever have that opportunity. But if the chance ever arose, we'd take it. I'm just saying.

Ray, to jog your memory, is my ex's toddler. That would be his third child, and half-sibling to Kathleen and Alex.

Alex is always very careful to say "half-sister," when questioned about the little bouncing bundle. Kathleen, on the other hand, not only calls Ray her "sister," but absolutely delights in bestowing upon her the most affectionate of nicknames, "Ray-of-Sunshine" first and foremost.

Kathleen's blatant adoration of Ray was immediate and obvious upon the latter's birth. Alex, by contrast, nearly vomited when she was born. I remember the day well, about a year-and-a-half ago.

The phone rang. I answered. It was the X, all plumped up with self-importance and over-inflated grandiosity, asking for Alex.

I knew what was coming, and thought Alex did too. Apparently, though, Alex merely understood the physical aspects of pregnancy and birth, but not the emotional impacts.

Alex: "Hello?"

Long pause, during which every molecule of blood drained from my son's face. Ashen would be an apt word to describe it.

Alex: "I think I'm going to be sick. Bye."

Alex has never admitted to being over his instinctive dislike of Ray. He insists he hates her. However, Kathleen's intel from the "other family" (As I call them. "What's happening with your other family?" I'll sometimes ask) proves otherwise.

She reports that Alex plays happily and often with Ray, that he poses, grinning, baby on lap, for family pix (I've seen some), and that his negativity on the subject is all a facade.

So, Anthony and I have speculated. What if X and wifey were killed in an unfortunate accident? One in which they died slowly and painfully, in horrific circumstances full of gore and ...oops... I digress. Hey, I have my therapeutic moments, now and then.

But you know what I mean. If they died, we could take Ray. Because she's uber-cute and a baby and my kids love her.

Sigh, this is what happens when you are too old to have any more kids, don't even logically want any more kids, but really wouldn't mind so much if a cute, giggly, little one somehow came into your life.

Thinking about Ray has made me realize that I have two examples, right before my middle-aged eyes, which illustrate perfectly the very start and the distant finish, and how these two life-cycle book-ends look, act, feel and emote; what they can, and cannot do; and the reactions they evoke in others.

Here are my top ten:

(1) Ray (18 months): can walk and sort-of run, but with no particular accuracy or assuredness of remaining upright.
Sally (1083 months): same thing, except the sort-of run is more a very fast shuffle. Really fast. She only does it when she thinks she's alone. Both Anthony and I have heard these curious, super-quick shuffle-sounds over our heads, and it creeps us out, without fail, every time.

(2) Ray: Falls on her diapered bum, often.
Sally: Ditto, except the bum does not yet require diapers, thankfully.

(3) Ray: Can say many words, but doesn't understand everything. Is constantly learning.
Sally: Can still say most words, but forgets a lot, doesn't understand many things, and is constantly unlearning a lifetime of previously gathered info.

(4) Ray: Can feed herself. Favorite food: porridge. Definitely can't cook.
Sally: Identical.

(5) Ray: displays a wide range of constantly varying emotion, from sadness to delight, rage to exhaustion.
Sally: Very similar, with a decided absence of delight. Probably cries more than Ray.

(6) Ray: Is the centre of attention wherever she goes.
Sally: Would like to be the centre of attention wherever she goes, but this occurs only in her doctor's office or when she calls an ambulance.

(7) Ray: Keeps getting new teeth.
Sally: Absolutely, except they are from her dentist. Also keeps losing them.

(8) Ray: Adores Kathleen, even more than she does her own mother Ali, I suspect.
Sally: Ummm....

(9) Ray: Lights up a room when she giggles, which is often.
Sally: Prefers sitting in the dark, also often. Another habit that creeps us out.

(10) Ray: Is unaware that she has her whole life ahead of her.
Sally: Is unaware.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Best Medicine

Top 5 things I've noticed about Dementia and the Internet:

(1) The subject of Alzheimer's Disease is not funny, apparently. I've only been able to find a couple of sites that try for a wee bit of humour. Here's one such post. Notice it's written by a sufferer. I guess it's OK to gently poke fun at yourself, as long as you post an apology while doing so, as this person has.

(2)Although many people keep blogs about taking care of the demented, very, very few bloggers are actually suffering from Alzheimer's. Here's one of those.

(3)Many of the blogs I've read that deal with dementia seem to be written by people who actively practice a religion. I won't link to their blogs for fear they will find me and become insulted by my irreverence and obvious lack of church time.

(4)The care-giver blog writers I've come across seem very caring, tired, ultra respectful and prepared to do just about anything for their aging parent(s). They do not express my kind of angst. They just don't seem conflicted to any big degree, and I won't link to their sites either so they won't get a horrifying shock reading my rants.

(5) Even websites offering professional advice on coping with Alzheimer's Disease seem off in la-la-land, so positive and straight-forward is their tone. These sites advocate regular medical attention, give logical tips for handling the advancing disability and generally speak as if every elderly person out there is deleriously happy to (a) admit to having Alzheimer's and (b) cooperate in handing over the reins of power to their kids.

On cooperation, just read this. Scroll down, until you reach "The People." That Mr. Black, he's the man. Not only did he fight for his country, but he PROACTIVELY sought out medical attention, accepted the advice he was given, and even wants to participate in experimental drug research, presumably to help future generations, because it's a bit late for Mr. Black, I think.

Mr. Black is admirable. No doubt about that. I wish I knew someone like him. Anyone.

Let's review:

Anthony: "Mom, I've been asking you to see your doctor for several years now. You have memory problems. Here's a report from a team of specialists confirming its Alzheimer's Disease. You should move into care. I can't help you much longer."

Doris: "Pop goes the Weasel! It's a giant conspiracy! My, your wife looks good in white! Just like a bride...do you remember when I got married, son ? Back in the Labrador? Whoa...Delia has a nice bum too!" (I SWEAR the "bum" comment is true)

I guess what I'm trying to say is that not everyone is a model patient. And I'm not a model caregiver. To suggest otherwise would be disingenuous, to say the least.

I find the sentimentality dripping from many of the websites a bit artificial.

Here's an article I did like. No sentimentality there. My favorite sentence in it?

People with Alzheimer’s aren’t being stubborn or nasty on purpose; they can’t help it.

Fair's fair; neither can I. I see the humour in it, dark or not.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Into the Mist...

Anthony got his mother crying again.

But, as I've mentioned before, it doesn't take much interaction with her to trigger a fountain of tears.

Apparently, mood swings is a symptom of Alzheimer's Disease, which she won't admit to having. But she does. Boy does she ever.

It was the usual thing: she'd got herself into a pile of trouble by "losing" her purse containing her wallet and all her ID and credit cards, and of course, her bank card.

Somehow, she was able to wend her way to the bank, where she cancelled her bank card.

Anthony discovered all this had happened when he randomly called her last week.

He: "So, where did you lose your purse?"

She: "I don't know. I don't remember anything about it."

He: "When did you lose it? Yesterday?"

She: "I TOLD you, I don't remember."

He: "Well, at least you cancelled your bank card. Did you also cancel your credit cards?"

Long pause.

She: "I don't know."
A few days later, he dropped by to see if she'd miraculously "found" the purse. This was entirely possible, as she claims constantly that things are lost, when she's merely deposited them into nooks and crannies about the house, to be discovered accidentally weeks or even months later.

On the other hand, if the purse was well and truly gone, he thought the credit cards better get cancelled.

The purse was not found. In fact, the only thing Anthony found was Doris, in bed, depressed and teary, purse-less and mumbling.

She rambled about a dream she'd had of her daughter Mick, Anthony's sister who died a couple of years ago.

"It's the first time I've dreamed of her," Doris announced through the snot and saline pouring down her face.

Anthony didn't bother to correct her.

She turned up the volume on the crying, proceeding to howl that her grand-daughter, Rita, never came to visit any more.

Nor would I, Anthony thought, if I were an 18-year-old girl.

He eased himself out of the bedroom, down the stairs and into the street, gasping for fresh air. It's positively claustrophobic sometimes. I know.

Anthony's mother and mine both, make me think of a pair of old witches, fading and confused, gradually disappearing into the mists of memory and semi-madness.

They're the Ladies of the Lake, Viviane and Morgan le Fey, and their time is over, or nearly so.

It's very sad.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Of Hookers and Hearing-Aids

Growing old is not easy. And for the younger types who live or work with the elderly, seeing old age up close is a daily reminder of what's to come. It's not pretty, people, let me tell you.

Take hearing, for example. My mother needs hearing aids. Sometimes she chooses to wear them, sometimes not. Even when she wears them, she misses a lot of sound going on around her. I can imagine that it's very isolating.

She doesn't hear bits of conversation. When she's upstairs, she can't hear people arriving through the front door. She startles easily because she has no warning of anyone approaching.

And that's when she's wearing them. On the days she doesn't wear the hearing aids, she's practically deaf. You can stand directly in front of her, speak loudly and clearly, and she still won't hear. You have to yell loudly to get through.

This is tiresome for all involved, as you may well guess. It also led to the "hooker/hotel" incident, as I call it, which is one of those stories that's great to tell after, but was hell to live through.

So here it is: Anthony and I play in a band. We get gigs with our band-mates at various Kookytown pubs.

My mother attended our last gig, at the somewhat grotty K-town Klub, where she was carefully chaperoned by two of my friends who took her home after the second set, while Anthony and I lingered to share a drink with other friends.

When we got home in the wee hours, tired and famished to the bone, a bit tipsy and dressed like two rock-star wannabe's, the door was locked.

My mother was sound asleep, and the kids were at their father's house for the night. We were locked out, and I mean locked-out-GOOD. Which was disconcerting to say the least. All we wanted to do was pig-out and fall into bed. Yet here we were, shivering in the cold night air, listening to our stomachs growl.

Me: (trying to come across as serious, though dressed in skin-tight jeans, white go-go boots and a knee-length royal-purple suede jacket that looked like it came out of the costume trunk for Pirates of the Caribbean) "Why don't you have your house-key?"

Anthony: (teeth clenched, pork-pie hat askew as he gazed sky-ward, aiming stones at my mother's darkened window) "Why did you lock the garage?"

We have a spare key in the garage. Anthony had actually lent my mother his house-key so she could get in before we came home that night. I had locked the garage because of my mother's persistent insistence on it as a security measure. And she, of course, had locked the front door behind her after my friends dropped her off.

We rang the doorbell, pounded with our fists, tossed stones at her window until I was sure it would crack, and even phoned home from Anthony's cell-phone. We peered through the front-door window, watching and hearing the hallway phone ringing through the door.

An extension phone sits right on my mom's bed side table. I could envision it ringing off the hook as we shivered in the deepening night, hoping against hope that she'd hear it.

No such luck. She was out of it; a bit drunk, without hearing aids, and probably under the influence of her much-loved sleeping tablets.

Eventually, we took ourselves off to the Travelodge, where the matronly woman snoozing behind the desk took one horrified look at us, assumed we were pimp and hooker, and promptly doubled the going rate of $90/night to $180. Just for us, because we are soooo special. Brings a tear to my eye just thinking of it.

After skulking to the room (it was now around 3:30am) we lay sleepless until 9 or so, when we tried calling my mother again. Still no answer.

We looked helplessly at eachother, knowing she usually sleeps until noon.

I called my son at his father's place.

Me: "Alex, do you have your house key?"
Alex: "Why?"
Me: "Never-mind why! Do you have it?"
Alex: "I'll tell you if you tell me."
Me: "Granny locked us out. We're at the Travelodge and can't get into the house."

Pause.

Alex: "Cool. Yeah, I have my key." (at this point Alex turned his mouth from the phone receiver and screamed: "DAD!!! MOM AND ANTHONY WERE LOCKED OUT ALL NIGHT BY GRANNY! THEY'RE COMING OVER TO GET MY KEY!)

I hear the sounds of an ex-husband laughing explosively.

Now, you have to understand that Alex's father doesn't even live in Kookytown. No, he lives in an entirely different city. One that, thankfully, is only about 1/2 hour from the Travelodge.

So Anthony and I proceeded to drive to Ex-City. I swallowed my by-now extremely injured pride, sashayed up their driveway in my hooker outfit, picked up the key while attempting to ignore the stares and giggles of the Ex's trophy-wife, and we headed back to Kookytown.

At exactly 10:30am, we let ourselves in. There was no visual sighting of my mother, but enormous sound waves in the shape of moose snores filtered through the ceiling, so we knew she slept on. We prepared and devoured a huge breakfast of bacon and eggs, flung ourselves into bed, and immediatley fell into deep comas until 2pm.

When we arose, my mother was finally up.

She: "Well, aren't you two the sleepy-heads? Hehehehehee!"
We: "Errrr. Yeah."
She: "I slept just grandly! Didn't hear you come home at all last night. What time did you get in?"
Me: "Mrrrglglglmmphhhh..."
Anthony: "Oh, it was late....really....late.

My mother chewed her toast and jam and grinned.

Friday, March 12, 2010

More on the Banking Mess, or why I say "WHAT?" a lot.

I called my mother's bank again, to ask about the stopped cheque.

Me: "Are you sure she put a stop payment on it?"
Bank: Haughty silence.
Me: "It's just that she doesn't remember doing that. And she had no reason to. She'd just given me the cheque, then turned around and put a stop on it."
Bank: "Well, she probably had forgotten she put a stop on it...it was a long time ago."
Me: "I beg your pardon?"
Bank: Frosty silence.
Me: "She just wrote me the cheque, I said."
Bank: "But she put the stop on that cheque number in 2008."
Me: "What?"
Bank: "In fact, she stopped cheques no. 279-300. Also cheques no. 1-200."
Me "WHAT?"

Bank: Positively mind-numbing, soul-crushing, intimidating silence.

Me: "Hundreds of cheques? She put stops on hundreds of cheques, that she hadn't even written yet?"
Bank: "That's what I said."
Me: "In 2008, before she even moved here to Kookytown, she put stop payments on those particular, unwritten cheques?"
Bank: "DO YOU HAVE A HEARING PROBLEM?"

I called Anthony.

He: (sighing) "I told you. There is no 'why.' This is Kookytown."
Me: (spluttering). "But, but, but..."
He: (with warm tone) "You are so cute when you become inarticulate..."

I thought about the stopped cheque mystery for the rest of the day. It made no sense whatsoever.

Even if she'd lost an entire chequebook, an entire BOX of chequebooks, and stopped payment on all of them, it still made no sense. What about the numbers 279-300? That's just part of a chequebook. And she had it. It wasn't lost. She wrote me a cheque from it. A cheque that was not lost, but that existed, living in her purse or drawer, or wherever, since 2008, when she'd put a nasty little stop payment on it.

All it goes to prove, in the end, is exactly what Anthony says.

This is Kookytown. There is no why.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

You Can Bank On It

I viewed my bank account online today and got a surprise. My chequing account was overdrawn.

An overdrawn account may not be so surprising to you, but it sure is to me. I'm one of those people who keeps meticulous track of everything to do with her $$$. I've never bounced a cheque in my life.

When I examined the details, I found that a cheque I'd deposited into the account last week had been "returned", thereby causing a cascading series of problems, as I'd since written my own cheques, which were bound to go bouncity-bounce.

The disappearing cheque was from my mother.

Now, I know she has enough money in her account to cover it. She gives me a cheque each month for her board, and to pay for any extra things I pick up for her in the stores, like her $150/month chocolate habit. The returned cheque, for example, covered her expenses, plus $100, because she had wanted the hundred back from me in cash.

In fact, I'd already given her the $100, in crisp $20's.

I called the bank in Winnipeg, where her branch is still located.

Bank: "She stopped payment on it."
Me: What?"
Bank: "It didn't bounce. It wasn't returned for an error. The payment was stopped."
Me: "WHAT?"
Bank: "Do you have a hearing problem?"

I called Anthony.

Me: "She stopped payment on it."
Anthony: "No, it must have bounced."
Me: "Do you have a hearing problem?"

We discussed the implications. Was it something I said? Was she confused about the timelines around the huge argument we'd had over two weeks ago? Because it was more than a week after that fight (wherein she'd accused me and Kathleen of criminal rudeness beyond a reasonable doubt), that she complacently handed me the trouble-making cheque with a self-satisified smile, announcing that it was payment for her expenses for the month, plus: "Please bring me $100 in cash, dear."

Then, obviously, on the sly, and with not a word to me that she for some reason regretted handing me the cheque and wanted the whole thing stopped, she called the bank and stopped payment on it. Why? And even if she wanted to stop payment, why not just tell me? Why go behind my back, causing the banking woes I now faced?

Most importantly, how could she take that 100 bucks from me, knowing she'd stopped payment?!

"Don't ask why," Anthony advised. "This is kookytown. There is no why."

I was a nervous wreck for the rest of the afternoon, trying to figure out how I'd approach her on the subject.

When I got home, I gulped a glass of wine while fixing dinner. Even that didn't give me courage.

Finally, I screwed up my backbone.

Me: "Errrrr...Ummmm....Mom?"
She: "Yes?"
Me: "Errrr, ummmm, the bank returned your monthly cheque to me. So I guess you need to write another one."

Anthony hovered behind me, making comforting sighing sounds.

She: "Well, I'll have to call them. There's more than enough money in the account."
Me: (trying not to let my mouth gape open) "So, ummmmm, you didn't know it was stopped?"
She: "What? No, I don't know what The Bay does with my account."
Me: "What?"
She: "Well, my payments to The Bay automatically come out. Don't they?"

Anthony: "Mrglllllmppphhh...."

Me: "WHAT?"

Silence.

Me: "Let's start over here." (SCREAMING TONE) "THE BANK called. The cheque you wrote to me didn't clear."
She: "What?"
Me: "YOUR CHEQUE TO ME WAS RETURNED FOR SOME REASON!!!" (enunciating every word)
She: "WHAT?"

Me: "Mrghghglllmmmpphhh...."

In the end, she understood that the cheque was returned. She radiated ignorance of having anything to do with it. No knowledge. Nada. We agreed that I'd call the bank next day to "find out" what happened.

Of course, I already know. I just can't broach it to her. So I pretended I would call to discover the truth. In the meantime, I said, whatever the reason, she needed to issue another cheque to me.

She didn't.

Later in the evening, she shuffled over to my side.

Sally: "Delia, what's the address of my bank? I want to pop over tomorrow to see them."

Now, my mother doesn't "pop over" anywhere these days. Going out for her is a laborious process of planning, scheduling, booking seniors' transit, discussing routes, discussing more details of routes, and finally, gradually, oozing out the door at a minimum of three days after first thinking of the notion of a trip.

Me: "Your branch is in Winnipeg, Mom. We never transferred it here, because it doesn't really matter. We do everything on the computer or at bank machines now."

Long pause.

Sally: "Hmmm, well, I deal with a woman by the name of Blah Blah. I call her. She's here in Kookytown, I think."

Long pause.

Me: "Oh. Well, I don't know about that. You never told me you ever called anyone here for banking. I THINK your account is still located in Winnipeg. That's all I know."

Sally: "Hmmm, yes, well, hmmmm."

We stare at each other.

She shuffles off.

So Sally's been making secret day trips to confer with her banking officials here in Kookytown. News to me.

Mindyou, a heck of a lot is news to me these days, including the reliability of the cheques that Sally writes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Subterfuge

I saw my mother's doctor this morning. She said "Hmmmm" a lot and took notes as I spoke.

After I described Sally's latest imagined episode with her insulting daughter and grand-daughter, she asked if my mother was depressed.

I had to admit I don't know, because my mother has stopped telling me much about her thoughts and feelings. She did admit to experiencing some depression upon her arrival in Kookytown way back when, and accepted a prescription for an anti-depressant then.

But I don't know if she's still taking that drug, as she keeps tight control over such things, and consistently refuses to let me know much about her personal life.

Anyway, the doc said she might be suffering from advancing dementia, or it could just be depression that's causing such psychotic episodes. Hard to tell which, though. Especially when my mother won't go to see the doctor.

Doc's advice, which came as no surprise, was to figure out some trick to get my mother in for a spot of medical attention. It always seems to come down to this. White lies. Sleight of hand. A ruse.

So I've made an appointment. I'll tell Sally it's time for her annual, and that the doctor's office called to remind us, and that's what prompted me to agree to the appointment on her behalf.

Certainly has nothing to do with the fact that she's hallucinating events that didn't happen. No. Not at all, mom.

It all just comes down to lying, in the end.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rushing, Rushing....

This morning, I walked to work. Around noon, I walked home. I got in my car and drove to a job interview. That went long, and so when I walked out of the monstrous complex of government buildings where the interview was conducted, I contemplated my next move.

I had an appointment to see my mother's doctor, to discuss the kooky factor. But the interview had gone into overtime and I doubted I could make the doctor appointment. Still, I decided, I'll try.

I failed. When I showed up, breathless and windswept and grumpy from the traffic, the clock in the reception area indicated I was 1/2 hour late. They rescheduled me for another attempt next week.

I drove straight to the liquor store and bought an expensive bottle of wine.

I feel like my life is mainly comprised of rushing about, here and there, and mainly on other people's account.

At least I wasn't at a loss for words during the interview. Sigh.