Dad’s Journey: Here We Are.

Shortly after Dad was treated at the hospital for the many medical problems he was discharged to an Alzheimer’s Care Center (ACC). Dad originally thought of it as a rehabilitative placement and I did not try to dissuade his thinking.

We looked at two “institutions.” The first was of the hard architecture variety. It is a kind of facility specifically designed to meet the needs of MOST persons. This residence was “matter of fact” and organized. The second place was more homey. I had an uncomfortable sense that residence lacked the organization Dad would need to thrive.

The cost of stay at the ACC was $4,700 per month. The homey place was $5,100. The ACC was semi-private, but Dad would not have a roommate for the foreseeable future. The homey place was a private accommodation.

A primary concern is that Dad prefers his own company. He seldom ventured away from his home in the past three or four years. It became part of our routine to buy his groceries once a week or at most every two weeks. We were diligently trying to make sure he had all that he needed.

I determined the ACC was the better solution for Dad. The structured lifestyle, the number of staff, the attitude of staff and overall safety of residents led to that decision.

Dad isolated himself in his room from the first day. Staff would come to get him for meals or snacks. When he was finished he would make his way back to this room to sit looking out the window. That is what he preferred.

In his “isolation” Dad would build conspiracies in his mind about staff and residents. He was concerned that staff was rotating his clothing around to other residents and charging fees for the service. He complained that other residents were conspiring to physically reconstruct his living area to take away his bathroom. He came to believe his former wives were also admitted to the ACC and that they wanted to rekindle their relationships.

The ACC has a full complement of staff with various responsibilities. Some staff have multiple roles. They tried to involve Dad in daily programs, but he chose not to participate for the most part.

In October we signed Dad out of the ACC. We were hoping Dad would be able to make it in his home. My wife and I went to his house and cleaned it from stem to stern. It was planned that I would go to his home every morning and evening to make sure he was eating and taking medications.

That first night I made sure Dad took his medications for the evening. I set out the medications for that morning. We spent a great deal of time in discussion about the medications and what “am.” and “pm.” meant. No matter how we tried Dad could not remember.

The second day and night was not much better. There were accidents. Dad broke a coffee maker carafe. When I walked into the kitchen I saw him barefooted trying to clean up the broken pieces. Food was left in the oven. He cooked it the night before after I left. He didn’t eat any of it.

On the morning of the third day I went to work with Dad. He could not remember where he was. He was confused and talked with slurred speech. I first guessed he was tired from not sleeping the night before. Then I looked at the medication dispensers that were marked AM and PM. The medications for the morning were in the dispenser marked for the evening. I think Dad took the wrong medication.

I called an ambulance. The EMT’s came and assessed Dad. He was lucid when they talked to him. The Lead EMT told me that transporting Dad to the hospital was not appropriate. About fifteen minutes after the EMT’s left Dad lost his balance. I caught him and laid him on his couch. I called the ambulance back and Dad was transported to the hospital.

He was assessed at the ER and it was determined that his kidney and liver were showing signs of deprivation. The doctor asked if Dad was drinking water. I assumed Dad was, but I wasn’t sure. Dad developed a phobia of the water at his house about six months earlier. He believed the hot water tap passed some kind of sulfur and the cold water tap passed something else. We were buying cases of water when we went shopping.

The next time I went to Dad’s house I inventoried the water in bottles. Only one was removed from a case. I found it still essentially full in his living room.

Dad was readmitted to the ACC after an overnight at the hospital. He did not want to be at the ACC. He convinced the lead worker to help him make a telephone call to me.

Dad wanted me to come and get him from there. He believed he was in an alcohol rehabilitation placement. He could not be dissuaded from his belief. He told me countless times that he had not been in a bar in over 30 years and that alcohol had not passed his lips.

To this day I do not know what triggered Dad that night to think that he was in an alcohol rehabilitation center. The next morning I went to see him at the ACC. It was as if the previous five days never transpired. Dad had no recollection of being at his home, being taken by ambulance to the hospital or returning to the ACC.

In November we brought Dad to our house for Thanksgiving weekend. After about 12 hours with us, Dad wanted to go back to the care center. Our house was unfamiliar territory for Dad even though he has been here dozens of times. He woke after a few minutes of sleep and was lost. He walked to the door of his bedroom and looked down the hallway. He closed the door harder than it needed to be. I went to him. He was laying in a fetal ball in the bed under covers. It was a sight much like I would see when I checked in on my children late at night before my bedtime.

Dad was awake. He needed to go to the bathroom, but couldn’t find his way. I led him to the bathroom that is a few feet from his door. When he finished I asked him if he was afraid. He told me that he was. I asked if he wanted to back to the care center and he said he did. I suggested we go back first thing in the morning. There was a look of disappointment on his face. I asked if he wanted to go back right then. He answered, “Would that be alright?”

I did take Dad back to the ACC that night. Dad said, “This feels like home” as we walked through the door and down the hallway to his room.

Dad looked relieved. His countenance changed. There was an absence of fear in him. In my heart I was disappointed that he was feeling insecure at our house, but my disappointment pales seeing him not fearful; not afraid.

We tried again to move him to our home in December at Christmas. The outcome was the same. He lasted a day and wanted to go back. This time, though, fear was not the problem. Dad lacked a sense of familiarity with his surroundings. The ACC was familiar and Dad wanted to return.

Dad lived at the ACC for the first part of 2015. I visited him three or four times a week. With each visit Dad would complain that being in the ACC was like being in a prison asylum. He doesn’t associate with others there. His routine is to venture out of his room for meals and for short walks in the hall. Then…

I retired. Twenty years of State employment and 62 years of age came at the same time. I could retire.  Additionally, there were some financial changes made to Dad’s cost of care. There were some changes in the Administration at the ACC. Most significant is that Dad asked if I would move him from there.

We moved Dad into our house for the third time. This time, though, a return to the ACC is not an option.

Dad has lived with us successfully since April. It took a bit of time to help him familiarize himself with his bedroom and the route to the bathroom. We’ve been assertive and persistent with him. My wife has been a particular blessing in this transition.

Dad sometimes balks at taking medications. He wants to know what they are for and I tell him. He believes the medications are the cause of some of his symptoms. We tell him about his medical condition. Generally he is accepting, but there have been times when Dad flashed anger and told us that we “are not God.”

We pray. We eat. We sleep. We have a good life in the country. Dad is assimilating into our household and things are looking up. I should have known they would eventually.

My wife and I are putting aside the trips we were hoping to take. There will hopefully be time enough for all that and more.  Our days now will be spent making Dad’s days better. We are grateful to God for the opportunity. To God our Father…all glory!

About Jim Barnes

A man seeking to please the Lord. A man striving to abide in Christ Jesus. A man whose hope is to see just one more come into the fold.
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