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Monday, October 29, 2012

Dad vs The Hurricane

The newest surprise has been hurricane fears.  It's happened before.  Dad hears a weather forecast about a hurricane or other serious weather and wants to take immediate action.  The problem is (among many, of course) that his sense of distance and time are pretty much all shot now.

One time last month, there was a tornado alert.  The path was a good 30 miles away and no threat.  But either "30 miles" seems "down the street" or he thinks tornados are very large.  I can't tell by asking.  But he wanted to know where we should seek shelter, what foods we should bring into a shelter, etc.  I explained that the tornado THREAT was quite far away, and I did explain to him that the house shelter is under the basement stairs.

Its a reasonably good shelter, for not being constructed as one.  The basement is cinderblock walls.  The basement stairs go down from the front door.  The space under the basement stairs is covered with 1/2" T1-ll plywood on one side and a heavy workbench on the other. I made a 2'x3' cutout in the T1-11 panel for access years ago.  So an area about 4'Wx3'Hx8' (sloped under the stairs) is surrounded by heavy plywood, cinder blocks, cement steps, and stairs above.  Not that I expect to ever need it (it was all happenstance of construction),  but its nice to have.  Still, it took a while to calm him down.  Now his concern is that it might take too long to get into it, LOL!.

Hurricane threats aren't all THAT sudden, but I said I would drag him downstairs and into the basement shelter if necessary (with a smile in my voice) but such drastic steps won't be required. 

It really started when I was smoking a pork shoulder on the deck on Friday.  He came out and said my plans were about to be ruined.  I asked why (looking at the sky for a thunderstorm). He said a hurricane was coming and would ruin the cooking.  He said it was on the TV, so I went in to look.  Hurricane Sandy was down level with  Florida and about 500 miles east.  Moving at about 4 miles per hour...  I told him it was about 3 days away if it even came past us, but he didn't believe me.  After all, CNN was warning about a hurricane and "it was close".

Actually, I was glad for that because I knew it wasn't an immediate threat.  But Dad was convinced we were going to get hit by Hurricane Sandy that afternoon.  Again the worries about power loss and no food.  We had to make preparations for being without food and power for days, he insisted.

I went through the drill.  We have underground cables and almost never lose power.  We have plenty of food frozen and that will stay good at least a whole day.  I have canned food.  Potatoes and corn are good for days at room temperature and I could cook on the grill on the deck if we needed to (not that we would need to).  Heck, if I had to, I could trap a few squirrels and cook them in the fireplace!  I've skinned and cooked a few squirrels in my life.  And the closet has a few weeks worth of cat food (for the cats).

Dad shouldn't be all that worried about hurricanes.  He never had a traumatic experience with one (well, OK, he lost a boat to one in 1968, but it was never a personal threat).  Its the developing fear of "threats" that I am seeing now.  I do my best to make sure he feels secure and safe these days.  There isn't much more I can do to convince him that I will take good care of him that I'm not already doing. 

It saddens me that he does not trust me factually or in my judgement.  I understand that he fears things that won't actually happen because he has difficulty understanding that a hurricane striking Cuba isn't going to strike us here in Maryland later that day.  But I guess it is difficult for a parent to realize that a (adult) child is knowledgeable and experienced.  Even when the "child" is 62.  LOL!

Living with an elderly parent is a lot like living with a young child.  Only opposite.  They both don't have knowledge.  The difference is that a child will slowly become more competent and an elderly parent will not.  Its that "not" that is so hard to deal with.   

Living with a child is (generally) seeing it learn. Living with an elder parent is seeing it forget.  Watching the forgetting is very hard.  Very frustrating.  Very confusing.  Children don't even notice a sound in the kitchen.  A parent is in there, so it must be OK.  Dad reacts to every strange sound.  If a knife falls off the cutting board, he hobbles in and asks what that "explosion" was.  If I tap the veggie scrap bowl into the compost can, he thinks someone is "banging on the door".  Yet he can't hear the phone ring.  I think he hears better when he is dozing off in his chair and a sound gets into a semi-dream.

I'd sure rather be raising a child with some promise for the future than dealing with an elder parent for whom things are only going to get worse...  Knowing that things are only going to get more confusing in the coming months is sad.

I'm trying to get past arguing with him when he says things that don't make much sense.  But he SEEMS rational most of the time.  The change can happen without a sign one moment to the next.  I have to "let go" (thank you Nellie's Mom) and not be corrective about the small things.  That's going to be difficult.  Father/Son dynamics, and all that.

I guess that, in this matter, the hurricane is a good thing.  There ARE serious concerns that are not basically irrational, just mis-estimated in time and place.  Well, better something real than him worrying about Black Helicopters and Aliens...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

More Dad

Yesterday it was "acorns".  We have a huge basket oak over the house and deck.  The acorns are falling like hail!  Dad asked me what all those "things" were on the deck.  When I said "acorns", he said "no, no, I know what acorns look like.  Those are something else."   

Here we go again...

I assured him that they were acorns, they were falling from an oak tree, and oaks make acorns.  "From tiny acorns, mighty oak trees grow", and all that...  In return I get "I know what acorns look like and those aren't acorns, and that's not an oak tree." 

Well of course they're acorns, and it is an oak tree.  I let it go because I don't want to upset him and in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn't matter.  But acorns are one of the first seeds children learn to recognize and since elderly people remember older memories better than new ones, it really surprised me.  Dad ought to remember acorns.  Its like forgetting what grass is, or a bicycle, or a mailbox.  Some things just seem so basic.

Today, he raised the issue again and was insistent about it.  He kept fussing about them not being acorns and it not being an oak tree.  He tends to do this when I'm busy, of course.  He can watch TV for a couple hours and be nearly absent, but when something gets at him, he doesn't care what I'm doing.

So I lowered the book on him.  Literally.  I went out and pulled a leaf off the tree (one branch is in reach of a corner of the deck).  I grabbed an intact acorn.  I got out my Petersons Tree Guide.  I opened it to the white oak page and showed him the picture of the basket oak leaf, the acorn associated with it, the actual leaf from the tree, and the actual acorn from the tree.  I showed him that the page said "acorn".  He had to allow that "those things" appeared to be acorns and that the leaf seemed to be from the picture I showed him.

I'm not trying to be mean...  But there is a deeper issue here.  As Dad's memory fades and he loses track of what things are, I need him to trust me on things.  If he can't trust me that an acorn is a acorn, what is he thinking when I discuss his finances?  Is he secretly thinking that I am stealing his hard-earned money but that just what happens when you are old?  When I give him his daily prescribed pill with dinner, is he (or will he soon be) worried that I am poisoning him? 

The acorn thing is just symbolic of where things are going.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dad and Cat

Dad has always claimed that he doesn't really like cats.


I looked out the window today and Dad was on the deck looking out toward the back.  Iza was sitting up on the rail right next to him.  And Dad reached over to scritch her.  Not "scratch", "scritch", he knows how to do it right.  But by the time I got the camera, they had separated. 

But the special thing was later, after dinner.  Dad sat in his usual chair, and had to evict Iza from it to sit down.  Iza is getting used to that routine and doesn't complain as much as she used to.

The special part is that she stood up next to him and hopped up!!!  First time she has really done that, though she has made a couole of tries before.

This time she curled up on his lap.  The pictures show it all.  Don't mind the uneven photography; I had to try some different settings to get a few good ones.  The point is that Iza curled up on Dad's lap and he enjoyed it, stroking her furs "just right". 

He's a natural cat person, even if he WON'T admit it...

Super-special picture!
And Dad seemed thrilled...
And "thank you Iza".  You'll get extra treats later...
I switched to non-flash so as not to disturb them.
Maybe my discussions with Dad about the wonderment of having a wild animal happy on your lap have had an affect...
Dad fell asleep stroking Iza!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Not About Dad

Well, I don't want to go on and on about Dad.  He still asks strange questions and makes no sense sometimes, but let me leave that alone for today.

I DO still have a life, and things to do all my own.  Projects especially.  The house is 26 years old, and now that some things like roof and siding have just been replaced, I can go on to other maintenance issues.

The framed raised garden beds are 20+ years old and are falling apart.  The deck is 20+ years old and, well "not falling apart", but was never great or "to code".  I started flooring the attic 15 years ago and only did half of it (the other half had electric wires resting on the joists and I never could quite decide what to do about that).  My utility trailer has exterior plywood sides but they are rotting.

So there are those things that I have put off in favor of the larger needs.  Now it is time for those smaller ones. 

I've designed new framed garden beds.  They will be wider and higher (15' H x 4' x 8' instead of 10" H x 3' x 8'), have 6" of sheet metal flat on the bottom to stop grass growing up against them (for easier mowing),  and have boards on the top edges for sitting.  With 4" x 4" posts along the outsides to suport the board on the sides and on the top.And I will be cutting down some trees to allow for more sunlight on the garden.  I regret losing the trees, but I have too much shade as the trees have grown taller for 26 years.

The trailer will get higher sides, and a solid bottom.  And of ACQ treated plywood.  The previous plywood rotted to fast and the bottom was boards with gaps.  I had to keep using tarps to keep compost and sand from falling through.

The attic came back to my attention when I had to "duck walk" across 30' of joists when the roof started leaking to place collection pans under the leaks.  I've figured out how to avoid the electrical wires of the joists without making them inaccessible for repairs.  I have 1" x 2" x 8' boards that I will cut into 6" lengths.  I'll screw those on top on the joists next to the wires and along the outer edges of where plywood can be screwed in place on top.  That may not be clear...  I'm raising the plywood just above the wires on the joists, but using screws so the plywood can be removed if there is a need to get at the electrical wires.

I need a new compost bin, too.  The old one is in shade (it wasn't in the shade when I built it), was too small, has no top to keep varmints out, and leans over badly.  It wasn't my best design...  So I am designing a better one.  Larger, more air circulation, tops, in sunlight.  I drew up a framed hardware screen panel 4' x 4', and I will just make 6 of them to attach to sturdy 4" x 4" posts set in the ground, hinged on the front and top.

There are other projects too, but those should take a few months, LOL! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


The continuing voyage of Mark and Dad (and 3 cats) through the changing universe of ElderHeisenbergish uncertainty.  Stardate 2012.10.16...

SOCIAL SECURITY CARD - When getting Dad's 2011 Social Security payment tax document, I found a place to get replacement social security cards.  I lost mine years ago (lost wallet).  So I downloaded the form twice.  One for me and one for Dad.  I asked him (then) and he wanted a new one.  When I got around to filling out the form for Dad, I didn't have all the information.  I had no idea where Dad was born!  And it asked his parents' SSA numbers which I didn't have, plus needed Dad's birth certificate (which I couldn't find.  So I waited until we sat down to pay his next bill (that focuses his mind on documents).

We paid his FL house electric bill today (house still unsold because Dad WAY overvalues it) and I brought out the replacement SSA form.  He decided he didn't want a new one because his was "in great shape".

I challenged him to show it to me, because I hadn't seen one in his wallet.  I should know better...

He spent an hour fumbling through his wallet (stopping to shave for 15 minutes in the middle), and FINALLY came out with his Medicare card.  Well, it does have his SS# on it.  I went around and around with him about that NOT being his SS card.  He said it was the original SSA card and I pointed out that Medicare didn't exist when he was issued his SSA card!  Blank stare...

Eventually, he refused to sign the replacement card form and I shredded it (there was personal information I had filled out).  THEN, he says, "well, there are some other cards in my jewelry box".

Other cards?  After 5 months of asking about cards?  Argh.  Well, he went and brought them out.  Most were useless cards.  Old hunting license, golf club membership from 20 years ago,  etc, AND a beat-to-death SSA card.

So he said "see, I TOLD you I had it"!  This after insisting over and over that his Medicare card WAS his SSA card...  Well, at least we found it.  And it IS beaten all up and not very readable.  So he decided he could use a replacement after all (because I suggested that his beaten-up card was historical and should be saved while he used a replacement card for "everyday".

Now I have to find the replacement card form again because he REALLY wants one now...  LOL!  I'll do that happily...

2011 TAX FORMS - I've been struggling to get replacement forms for Dad's 2011 taxes (overdue as of yesterday).  I had sorted out ALL the documents he said he had months ago, found his tax preparer a while ago and contacted them about missing documents, and gotten a list of documents the tax folks still needed.  The problem was that Dad seems to have decided back in March that most documents were just "trash" and he stopped keeping them.

I value govt workers.  Thet do the best they are allowed to do.  I was one of them.  But I can see why some people don't like govt agencies.  I went NUTS trying to find how to get replacement 2011 tax forms for SSA and OPM annuity tax forms.  It took weeks.

When I needed the same from 2 banks and one investment firms, they emailed the documents to me the same day.

I don't want to blame the govt workers because they are constrained by laws passed by Congress to protect private information and businesses can just send it to anyone immediately*.  But the last documents I will get are govt ones.

Dad is convinced I am wasting time by not just using last year's numbers (which he also doesn't have because they seemed not worth keeping at the time),  He doesn't believe that false numbers are worse than no numbers.  He might be right; I doubt the IRS will throw a 90 year old guy in prison for filing taxes a month late, or even assign penalties (the tax preparers say penalties are also very unlikely given his age).

But he drives me nuts with the irrationality.  I know he isn't to blame.  I can see he is doing the best he can.  I bite my tongue a lot and sit patiently for an hour while he fusses through things most times.  OK, I invent excuses to leave the table (bathroom, mail, cats, laundry).

WHERE DAD LIVES - Dad has lived in 4 places in the past 32 years.  One is here, for 5 months.  The others are almost completely lost to him. Vague memories if specific facts are mentioned. 

There's more, but I'll save it.  This is getting too long...  And the one most lost to him is the immediately previous one.  If Dad went to assisted living (not that he will be any time soon) he would not recall living with me after about a month...

* All the businesses needed was an account number I could have gotten from a neighbor's trash and an old guy who claimed to be Dad on the telephone.  The govt agencies practically needed a life history and fingerprints.  Think about that when you complain about govt...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

More Sads and Confusions

I should mention that I'm grateful for all the recommendations from readers/friends/family.  They are all good, but all situations and personalities are different so some fit with Dad and I better than others.  For example, respite care is suggested often, and I don't really need respite care yet.  I will one day, but I can get away for a couple of hours at a time now because Dad can take care of himself for hours at a time.  I can go grocery shopping, work on the computer, or spend time out in the yard without much problem.  So I'm not desperate for small amounts of time "off" yet.

The meal preparation, laundry, and cleaning is not a problem either.  I like to cook and have always spent time on it for myself.  Cooking for two is not much extra work.  Although I will say that preparing meals on a set schedule is new to me (and annoying).  I've always been an "eat when hungry" person, plus its never bothered me to skip a meal when I was busy.  With Dad, I MUST make lunch at noon and dinner at 6.  That part's hard, but not something I'm willing to hand off to a professional.

Perhaps the best routine gain Dad has from living here is the food.  When I picked up Dad in FL in May, I discovered he was living on hot dogs, frozen fish and ice cream.  Now he has a healthy cereal for breakfast (his effort not mine), a sandwich of home-made bread, some meat, lettuce, and onions, with sliced tomato, carrot sticks, radish, and a pickle on the side.  Dinner is some few ounces of fresh meat with lots of veggies over rice or spaghetti, tossed salad, green veggie, and potato or corn.  He wants sweet stuff for dessert (and gets some) but I get a lot of fresh fruit into him too.

Cleaning is different.  As a bachelor, I don't clean like my mother did.  But from seeing Dad's place in FL, I clean a bit more than he did.  I watched him clean a table once and some dishes once, and there is no way I will let him do that again.  If he cleans something, I thank him and then clean it properly later when he isn't paying attention.  The weird thing is that I would clean MORE often, but he wants to "help" and that is worse than doing it myself.

Laundry is not much more than just for me.  Like many old folks, Dad wears the same clothes too long.  Well, its not like he works up a sweat sitting in a chair watching TV all day, but I image that dead skin cells add up.  I change outfits every day; Dad would wear them for a week.  Its not TOO hard to remind him that he wore "those clothes" for 3 days.  I do my own laundry often enough that I can "offer" to do his at the same time.

Memory-Fail example:  EVERY time I mention laundry, Dad wants to accompany me down to the basement to see how the washer and dryer work.  He never recalls that he has done that every week for 5 months...  Sometimes I get off easy when he allows me to "just wash his".  There is a reason his laundry hamper is in the main bathroom.  So I can see that it gets fuller and when he has run out of clean underwear...

And I should admit right out that I don't have Dad here because I am lonely (as Dad [and some friends] sometimes imagines).  I LOVED living alone (with the cats of course).  And I look forward to living alone again some day.  I understand that it won't be this year.  It may not be next year (but that will be stretching my perseverance thin).  Dad is here because I was told he could no longer live on his own, The day poop dribbles out the bottom of his pants and he doesn't notice, he will discover assisted living facilities.  I am many things, but I am not a bodily nurse.  I don't have the stomach for it.  If I see a kid throw up on TV, I throw up.  There are things I can do and things I can't.  Its all I can do to flush the toilet when Dad forgets to (which is always now).

I'm doing this because it is required, I am the best child to live with at this specific time, and I don't know how to get out of it.

I get Dad now because my sister Susan and I agreed years ago that she would take Mom and I would take Dad if one or the other needed elder care.  Sexism makes sense sometimes.  50/50 chance, and I lose.  Thats normal for me.

No, the new stuff I intended to write about was about Dad's mental lapses.  The above was just all an  indroduction to why the physical stuff wasn't that important but the mental stuff was.

As Arlo Guthrie said, "Ive gone on for 20 minutes, I can go on for another 20 minutes.  I'm not proud.  OR tired."  Or something like that...

Today Dad forgot how to count money.  I saw him take cash out of his wallet, and he started writing down numbers on post-it sheets.  I knew what he was trying to find out.  How much cash he had.

It deeply saddens me that he could not add OR count.  He tried counting directly and came up with different numbers.  He tried listing the amounts of the individual bills.  He kept coming up with different numbers.

I like it when Dad gets obsessed with things because it keeps him harmlessly occupied.  Watching golf, listening to silly Fox News, reading the new privacy documents from his credit card company, deciding what to do with the address labels that all charity groups send.  When he gives up, I explain them in simple words and trash them (well, I save the address labels; he likes those).

But back to the money-counting.  Dad can't count money annynore.  He confuses the denomination with the quantity of them.  He wrote down 10 lists of bills.  Every one was wrong.  The specific falure is that he writes $20 no matter how many of the 20s there are.  He can count the other bills right.

My frustration is when he can't THINK straight.  Thats what drives me crazy.  I cant blame him, but it still makes things so hard for me.

Dad was always factually-oriented.  So am I.  But he is losing it SO badly and SO fast.

We were watching a show about dinosaurs after dinner.  He said (as he so often does lately)  "they don't know the size of those reptiles.  They could be ten times or one tenth that size".  I mentioned that "they" have the bones.  Dad said "yeah, but they still can't tell"!  He dismisses everything that he does not know for sure himself..  OK, he ALWAYS has, but he's getting WORSE.

He confuses me.  When I said "but they have the bones", he didn't care.  The fact had no importance to him.  He has lost all analysis ability.   And THAT'S what is hardest for me to deal with.  The loss of mental existence.

He exists physically, he can walk (and better with the cane we bought last week).  But his mind is going, and that is the part I am struggling with.

He thought Sarah Palin was in the vice presidential debates this year.  When I said she was 4 years ago he said I was "all wet".  He thought Reagan was president.  Then he thought McCain lost, but not Palin as VP.  Then he decided he wasn't sure who McCain's VP was.  Maybe Romney.

Anything I say is wrong.  I should ignore that but I can't.  My whole life has been factually oriented.

Time to start ignoring everything Dad says, isn't it?  But how?  I need to talk to him because he talks to me.  I don't know how to ignore him.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

More Confusions

I brought Dad to Walmart to pick up the prescriptions for high cholesterol and Vitamin D yesterday.  The drugs came with papers describing problems.  I should have hidden those!

He spent several HOURS reading them over and over.

The basic instructions were VERY simple.  Take ONE provostatin pill daily.  Take ONE Vit D pill weekly.  Not 2 daily, not 2 weekly.   Yet he sat reading the fine print accompanying the pills for HOURS. 

The problem seems to be that he has two other meds .  He hasn't taken them in the 5 months he's been here, but NOW, he wants to take them.  On the advice of a DR he hasn't seen in 2 years.  And for problems the new DR doesn't see...

I should steal the old pills, right?

Actually, I need to call the new DR and ask about the old pills.

But I need to set up a scheduke for the new pills.  No way Dad will remember to take that weekly pill.  And there are other things that need to be done.  Weekly showers, daily water drinks.

So  have an idea.  Weekly pill and weekly shower - Friday night.  Daily pill at lunch with a full glass of water. 

And he chose a cane.  Walmart had 2 basic canes in the store.  There are many better ones online and I found a place that had many to choose from locally .  He refused to visit the "many cane" place. 
On the other hand, the one he chose is good enough.  He walks better already (when he uses it).  Getting him to keep the cane around is hard. 

He fell 3 times this week without the cane.  He didn't with it.  But he doesn't want to use it.

That drives me nuts.  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sister Visit

My sister Susie and hubbie Walt visited Saturday.  Naturally, I never thought to take pictures.  Well, it's always so busy and good when they visit, I forget.

They loved the new look of the house.  I asked Susie for her opinion about what color to paint the garage and front doors (the siding is gray/green and the shutters darker green.  I was thinking the doors should match the shutters.  Susie has great color sense.  Florist experience, and she has a Martha Stewart tendency (a good thing - you should see her house).  She said leave them white, so I will.  The more I picture the green vs white doors, the more I like the white.

I cooked a chicken and extra parts in the slow smoker.  It turned out great (for once - I get lucky sometimes).  Susie brought a potato salad that was oddly familiar.  I make mine spicy and vinegary.  Susie said it was Mom's old recipe.  The dressing is mayo with powdered mustard and a bit of catalina dressing.  Ahh, a touch of flavor and memory from my youth!  I will sure make it that way next time...

I love Susie and Walt. Even if they weren't related, I would love to have them as next door neighbors.  I mean, if they were strangers and moved next door, we would be friends.  And I bet ours cats would get used to each other too.

[Marley - No we WOULDNT!]  Quiet Marley!  Yes you would.  Because the fence would be down between our yards and you would get used to each other.  Lucy is NOT evil!

Anyway. it was a great family visit, and Dad and I are going to visit Susie at Thanksgiving.  Dad doesn't know that yet.  There is no point in telling him until a a day before.  Eldercare sometimes means just announcing things suddenly.  LOL!

[Ayla:  Well, we all hid unner the bed fer a reason]  Yeah, you are are all CHICKENS.   Susie and Walt are "cat people".  You should have come out and got scritchies.  THEY know how to do them too, you know.

[Yeah but...]   Treat time!  All come out to the kitchen...  [YAY!]

Whew!  But the visit was great and it was so nice to see family again...