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Thursday, July 5, 2012

I Wonder...

I am not disrespecting my Dad or his aged condition.  But I have little experience with how memory fades as we age.  So I wonder what Dad is thinking most days.  Are his internal thoughts clear and his spoken statements unclear, or is he expressing the confusion in his mind accurately?

It matters.  If his internal thoughts are clear, then he knows what I say, what has happened in the recent past, and that he can't express those.  That would be horrible.  There are SOME signs of that, like when he is searching for a word and he KNOWS he isn't getting the right one or recognizes the names of investment companies when he receives mail.

But most of the time, it seems that he truly does not remember the recent past.  His 2 week stay at a rehab hospital in May is nearly a blank one.  He forgets events just passed.  He often cannot remember if he recently ate a meal.

Last night, we watched fireworks on TV.  Then a repeat of fireworks from 2005, and then 2009.  A mere half hour later, he decided to go to bed and asked me if I was going to stay to see if they showed fireworks eventually...

Some of the time, he makes sense in what he says.  He can discuss a few political events, some basic science remains, and he can mention basic gardening lore from 30 years ago (though no longer accurate).  But at least then he IS offerring the assumed correct practices from a time in his past.

He knows what he likes to eat.  When he moved here, I experimented with many basic meats and veggies.  He likes almost anything, and when he says that, I have the evidence in that he enjoyed the meal.  Yet...

Tonight, I cooked sausages.  Dad likes chicken, sausages and potatoes mostly.  Of course, I add a tossed salad, and a green and yellow/orange veggie.  He eats them dutifully.  I've cooked sausages about twice a week for the past 6 weeks.  Smothered in onions, or with tomato sauce, or with mustard, or with bell peppers.  He likes the bell peppers the best.

So imagine my surprise when he looked at a sausage yesterday and asked what it was.  I thought he meant the add-ons.  No, he didn't know what a SAUSAGE was.  Sorry, that confused me for a bit.  I actually had to explain what  sausage was!!!  He was like, "huh, that's weird".  He enjoyed it, but his lack of recall of the basic idea of "sausage" really threw me.

I should have been prepared for that.  The meal before, he looked at a baked chicken thigh and asked if that was "meat".  And he asked if the corn-on-the-cob, that we basically have every other day or so was "cooked".  Tonight, he asked if the chili was "hot".  Fortunately, I can usually guess correctly about unfinished sentences or ambiguous words.  Asking if he meant "spicy", he replied "yes, hot".  I assured him I don't make my chili really spicy.  But I have to guess a lot.

I don't know how he feels when I comlpete paused sentences or suggest words, but I THINK he is relieved when I guess right.

I'm struggling to understand his thinking process these days.  I mean that I understand he isn't thinking straight, but I'm not understanding when and where he "loses it".  He catches me by surprise so often.   One minute he makes general sense, the next minute makes NO sense.  Or he is good for a whole day an the next day he forgets where he is, who I am, and why he is HERE.

I'm told the daily confusion around sunset is called "Sundowner Syndrome", and Dad sure suffers from it.  After dinner, he says the oddest things.  I'm only now routinely thinking of the time of day when he gets weird.

On good days, he can recall his investment companies.  On bad days, he is completely baffled by a simple statement from one of his banks.  And the good days include when he isn't vaguely paranoid about "banks closing down to steal his money".

And then there are the Gold Commercials...  They use scare tactics, and Dad is starting to respond to that.  I tried to tell him that if the Gold Companies are suddenly selling gold, it means they (the professionals) figure the value of gold will go down.  But Dad thinks they are doing him a favor by offerring to sell gold!  I researched it and printed out a 30 year chart of the value of gold.  It goes up and down.  It took me 2 hours to convince Dad not to shift a lot of money to gold.

He wants to help prepare dinner, and I appreciate his desire to help; he's BORED.  But he stops in place so often that I can't work around him very well.  Small humor here:  Dad gets annoyed when Iza stands on the floor in his way and he shouts "Move you damn cat" (which he says more friendly than it sounds).  But I can't say the same to him when he freezes in a doorway and I have to walk the long way around the rooms to get to what I need to do.  AND that's when he doesn't call the cats "dogs".

Well at least he uses names of mammals.  When he starts referring to the cats as "spinach" I'll worry more.  Poor Iza, she is used to standing in front of me to get my attention.  I know to walk around her when I'm really busy, but Dad can't.  Changing direction is difficult for him.  He can't lean on one leg and lift the other in order to turn very well.
Dad's documents are the worst for him and me (and easiest for me if he didn't see them).  I've probably mentioned that before, so I won't go into details again.

And I haven't even started on his 2011 taxes yet.  Fortunately, he has an extension to October.  I thank his 2011 tax preparers for the extension.  When they saw that Dad stopped responding to their requests for documents, they understood what was happening and filed an extension request for him. 

I see a time coming when I can't help him any more, and it may be sooner than I wish.  Dad is getting worse weekly.  When it is daily, I'll have to consider the unmentionable (Assisted Living Facility).  Which I can mention here, but not to Dad.

ONE SAFELY HUMOROUS EVENT:  Today Dad got his first piece of direct junk mail at this new address (for him).  OK, Dad considered the offer seriously (and I explained why it wasn't a good offer), but I am still trying to figure out HOW Direct TV got his address here!  We haven't listed his address in any government or public documents.  We have done change of address forms for his banks and investment companies and public utilities.  Do such companies automatically sell "change of address" requests to advertisers?  Do they buy such information from the Post Office?  If so, things have gotten worse than I realized.  In spite of that, it was still rather funny to see the new address on junk mail...


ABBY said...

It's probably a blessing but I suspect an elder's memory is hazy to them, and confusing. I do know that long term (decades old memories) are going to be the last thing any of us forgets.
You are doing a wonderful job of taking care of your Dad.

Ramblingon said...

You certainlly are doing a good job...and I can tell from your blogs how frustrating and how sad it all is

Pat said...

I have enjoyed your Mark Mews blog and have just started reading this one. You are doing a great job with your dad. If I may presume, have you seen this link about Coconut oil and Alzheimer's?

I know that this is a risk telling you about something I'd heard (I'm really not a nut job---I love cats and have a Tonk, soon to be 2 Tonks), but I wonder what could it hurt to try coconut oil with your dad? Dr. Mary Newport has a book on this also (kindle).
Hoping for the best for you and your dad.

Shaggy and Scout said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Team Tabby said...

We took a short break from the party to pop in here. We enjoyed reading about Ayla, Isa & Marley.

We think you are doing a marvelous job looking after your dad, Mark, it's not easy, so we'll keep you in our thoughts.

the kitties and mom Nina