email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Garden/Yard

Well, not everything here is "Dad".  I still work in the yard when I get the chance.  My latest project has been removing weedy tree saplings and brambles.

This is the debris...
The nastiest work was among the brambles.
They grab everything!  Clothes, socks, shoes, flesh...  I bled from many unexpected thorny encounters.  The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak.  Thorns beat skin almost every time.
But plants can't organize and move.  I can.  I won slowly (though painfully).  One square foot at a time...

I can imagine it from the bramble point of view.  "We tried to flee, but we were frozen in place as if stuck in the ground!  Closer and closer it came, our friends screaming as they were cut down mercilessly,  Finally, I was the only one left , I determined to defeat the terrible claws of the lopper, sure that my will would prevail.  Then it came.  The final contest arrived.  I willed my cells to..."

LOP!  The last dead bramble...
This is the view to the house from the toolshed..

Before...

And after...
Quite a difference!  I hate to say this, but I use Roundup.  Carefully, but not as the manufacturer recommends.  When I cut down the weedy tree saplings this time, I use a disposable brush and dab a bit of undiluted Roundup on the cut stump.  As Ripley said in 'Aliens' (I think, well, one of those), "Its the only way to be sure".

I should explain... The backyard is half mature trees and half open.  The half open part has my garden for 2/3s and a weird raised ridge between the trees and the garden.  It is slightly too sloped to mow easily, but mostly it has been taken over by english ivy.  I have no idea where the ivy came from, but it sure loves the ridge.

That ridge has always been a landscaping embarrassment.  I've tried to figure out what to do with it for 25 years and never come to a satisfactory conclusion.  Its just ugly, and I mean that in a "utility" sense.

It's too shaded for gardening and too sunlit for hostas.  It's too sloped to mow with the riding mower and my few attempts to use a regular gas manual mower have been exhausting.  Where there isn't english ivy, there is poison ivy and weedy saplings grow there happily.

When I stand out on my deck, the ridge is in the center of all I view.  It says "Oh try to dig me up.  I will outlast your puny pathetic personal muscular efforts; you are too old to defeat me now.  Remember when you tried to level off that ONE small hill of me?  You quit after only an hour.  You WIMP".   It says other things, but I can't repeat them in polite society.

I can either make my peace with the ridge or...  I can destroy it.  Yes, it is time to bring out the big gun.  An Excavator!  A PROFESSIONAL!  The ridge has to be leveled.  I realize that this is a personal fight with the local geography.  But while I'm generally inclined to let nature be nature, this ridge mocks me constantly.

I could have the ridge removed finally or move.

It goes, or I do...

It is going to go! Because I'M not.

Mark


Monday, June 25, 2012

Living With Dad, 9

What I miss about living alone...

1.  Listening to music.
2.  Watching cartoon shows. 
3.  Drinking too much once in a while. 
4.  Staying up all night sometimes. 
5.  Playing Risk, Scrabble, and Backgammon on the computer at game sites for hours.
6.  Standing out on the deck watching the wildlife and contemplating yardwork while drinking a beer.
7.  No criticism.  Dad is a natural critic. Well, he's an engineer.  His order of perfection in the universe is "A vague deity", surgeons, engineers, and then everyone else.  I'm in the "everyone else" category of course,  LOL!
8.  Staying cool (temperature-wise).  I have a high metabolism.  I'm comfortable at 68F.  Dad wants it at 85F.
9. Not ever watching Fox News. Dad thinks Fox News really IS "fair and balanced".
10.  Being sarcastic or making jokes.  Dad doesn't get jokes anymore..
11.  Being alone.
12.  Not getting really strange advice.  Like "you have too many cats", "you have too many flowerbeds",  or "you have too many books". 
13.  Keeping odd hours.
14.  Not having to explain anything to anyone.
15.  Arranging and keeping track of someone ELSE'S doctor/dentist appointments.

I'm making adjustments (and getting used to them).  Most of my old habits are arbitrary, so I can change them.  And I'm naturally flexible.  For example, I never used to eat meals on a schedule, but Dad does.  So now I eat lunch every day at noon and dinner at 6 pm.  It might even be good for me...

For the rest, time will solve those "problems" eventually.  I may even miss the changes to my lifestyle some day.

One day at a time...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Living With Dad, 8

Today is one month since Dad moved in.  Its gone a LOT better than I expected.  Which isn't to say "great", but you know what I mean.  It could be a whole lot worse.

Getting Dad up here was awkward, but my "too complicated" plans worked (thanks to my brother actually driving Dad from FL to MD over 2 days).  Settling Dad into the house was difficult at first.  Well, he went from a house of his own to a room of his own; that was hard for him.  Of course, he has the rest of THIS house now, and its bigger than his FL house.

Dad had a hard time getting used to the idea of being here as a resident, not a visitor.  I did too.  Nothing like (me) living alone for 28 years and then suddenly having a housemate!  I still haven't gotten used to having someone else around 24/7. 

The odd thing is that I've always been a happy loner, but I'm doing OK with Dad here.  I've always been good about adjusting to new situations.  Hmmm...  Let's correct that to "Ive always been good AT adjusting to new situations, even if I hate it and do it kicking and screaming at first".  Which of course, I couldn't do with Dad here being all concerned about this major change in his life.

So this was ONE time I surpressed the "kicking and screaming at first" and went straight to the acceptance part.  Well, I guess family matters.  I never had a family housemate since I left for college 44 years ago. 

Please don't take this wrong, but the idea that it is not permanent helps.  There will come a time when Dad needs professional full time care I can't provide.  It may not be all that long.  But it is uncertain.  He is both healthy and fading at the same time.  I don't know how to explain that (but of course, I will try anyway).

He is HEALTHY in that he has a good appetite, needs no personal hygiene assistance, can usually walk around on his own, and can deal with simple daily activities very well.  He can get in and out of the car, carry dishes to the table and back, help with some parts of the meals, etc.  When I say "healthy" I mean that his internal body (heart, lungs, etc) seems to be in good condition, and he is mentally able is daily things.

He is FADING in that he is having more difficulty getting STARTED walking around (his feet just won't go when he wants them to), is more hunched over, and possibly more forgetful than when he got here just a month ago.  When we were in FL, he could remember events of a week previous.  Now, a few days ago is beyond his recall.  So some things are fading in just a month, but other parts of his life are staying steady.

None of his doctors suggested Alzheimer's, and only one suggested "mild dementia".  I question the non-dementia part, though.  Its one thing not to remember what he had for dinner the day before (sometimes I have to think about that myself), but its another to not remember going in the car with me to deposit checks at his bank the previous day. 

He is generally happy...
He watches Fox News or golf most of the day, he enjoys my cooking (and he should - more on that below), and he has someone to talk to (Mom went into assisted care in 2009 and died in 2010).  I actually listen to him.  Its hard with old folks, but I register when he says anything and make sure I hear what he is saying and respond.  Even when it doesn't make sense at first. 

It helps that I have cats.  Don't laugh!  As parents always have an ear open to the sounds of children, I have always had a part of my mind attuned to the sounds of the cats.  That same part hears Dad all the time.  I can always stop what I'm doing and sit next to him to hear anything he wants to say.  And I suppose if I've done it for a month, I can do it for a year.

The hardest part is dealing with documents that come in the mail.  I've started just tossing the obvious junk mail, but most of his mail is uncertain as to importance.  I hate the advertising from established business arrangements most.  Some are important, some are junk, but they are all equally concerning to Dad.  I HAVE to let him open them.  I will NOT open any mail to him that might be important.  He has a right to his mail.

Even if it takes me an hour to convince him that some mail is not important and some is...

About the cooking...  In FL, Dad was living off (as far as I can tell by asking and by what was in his refrigerator/freezer) hotdogs, frozen fish filets, ice cream, and martinis.  It is very likely that the best thing the 2 weeks of rehab hospital gave him was balanced meals! 

And I've been doing that here.  That part is easy, I am just cooking the same stuff I normally eat, just twice as much.  Except that he MUST have a potato with each meal.  But basically, I have always had a meat, a green veg, an orange/yellow veg, a tossed salad, and sometimes a starch like spaghetti or rice.  Fresh fruits for dessert, though I kind of fell into a weakness for small slices of fancy cheescakes just before Dad arrived.

So we meet in the middle, sort of.  He has to get my good diet, but he also gets his ice cream for dessert and I get some fresh fruits into him with the ice cream.  I wish I could get him to eat more fruit.  He likes it well enough, but if he was ALMOST full and had a choice between ice cream and a good ripe peach, he'll go for the ice cream.  Well, he's 90, maybe I shouldn't worry about that so much.  If he made it to 90, ice cream probably ISN'T going to be what kills him!

Dad still does strange things.  Mostly "strange" because they are not what he did the day before.  I found a laundry hamper to fit in the main bathroom (he doesn't want it in his bedroom for some reason and the hamper in his FL house WAS in the bathroom).  And he usually puts his worn clothes in there.  But yesterday he "washed" his underpants in the sink and set them to dry over the air vent. 

Well, life with Dad isn't boring; there's always something new...

Mark

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Garden

I get some time out in the garden.

Here is one of the tomato beds.  In front are bell peppers and basil.

Behind them are heirloom tomatoes.   In the blue tubs, I grow potatoes.  This year I have blue potatoes I found in a grocery store.  To harvest the potatoes, I just dump the tub out on a tarp.

 That's my first fruit of the year.


This is the hanging pot with the cherry tomato growing out the bottom.  It is growing up, but gravity will win.  Then I will pick cherry tomatoes as I walk past.
Here are the few Italian flat beans that grew.  I need to plant more   Only half grew.
And more cukes too.  Only half of THEM emerged.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Living With Dad, 7

Its the finances that are going to be the death of me.  Not costs, I mean the checks and bank statements, trash documents, etc.  Every single little document is a source of frustration.  We spent 1.5 hours deciding what to do with 1 received check, 2 change of address confirmations, a homeowner association board meeting notice, and a monthly investment statement.  It was maybe 10 minutes work for me if I got those myself.  But with the detailed explanations required for Dad, the repeat of the explanations a few minutes later, the backtracking after that, the filling out of a simple form and addressing of a simple envelope, and "the keeping of the documents", we used up 1.5 hours.

Dad is completely confused about his several banks with multiple accounts.  He considers each separate account "a bank" in conversation, which gets really confusing.  Fortunately, I have managed to eliminate one actual bank.  Every simplification helps.  A constant concern of his is bank failure and loss of his money (he is old enough to remember the bank failures of the Great Depression).  I explain that assets are federally insured, but Fox News reports and gold-seller advertisements all over TV have him worried.  I would like to get his checking and standard savings accounts into a local bank, a money market account into another, and some money into CDs at a credit union (for the higher interest).  Yeah, that's 3 banks, but they would be separated by type of accounts and I can keep THAT straight.  Plus new accounts get me a clean start so that I can start balancing his checkbook and entering his earned interest monthly.  Right now, he just trusts the monthly bank statements to be accurate.

And I'm still trying to get his older records sorted out (mostly looking for 2011 tax information).  So after the new mail was taken care of, we spent another hour+ as we went through the remaining ones in his duffel bag (his version of a file cabinet drawer).

Dad keeps stuff in old envelopes chronologically.  Worse, its chronologically by date of receipt, not the month it actually applies to.  So an amendment to his 2008 taxes is with Oct 2011 stuff because thats when it was processed.  And the Oct 2011 envelope has his property tax voucher in with bank statements, PR junk from a bank, and donations for the month, etc.  ARGHHH!

He can't understand why I want to sort documents by company and subject...  I'd understand if he could find any documents with his system, but he can't.  And I have to be able to find his documents.

His wallet is another scrambled mess.  There aren't many cards in it, but they are all just stacked together.  HE can't find anything in it when he needs to, and objects if I try to find anything.  For example, finding his Social Security card or credit card takes forever.  Not because he has so many cards in the wallet, but because he keeps them (deliberately) packed into just a couple plastic holders (all the others are broken on the sides).  I'd LIKE to get him a new wallet with new cardholders for each card, but he won't spend the money for one OR allow me to just buy one.  He wants his OLD wallet, broken as it is...

I'm hoping to get a chance to buy him a new wallet for Fathers Day and HOPE he will use it.  One nice plastic holder for each card he has in the old wallet.

I understand his concerns about keeping records the way he is accustomed to.  I really do; changes in personal organization are difficult.  But his way doesn't work for HIM either anymore and I'M the one who has to find records now.

I also know that I need to make changes slowly so that Dad can get used to them (in reality, "slowly" so that he has SOME illusion of control). 

I think the hardest part of all this is that I'm not dealing with a child.  I'm dealing with a person who knows he is an adult but COMPREHENDS like a child.  A child doesn't know or care about records and forms.  An adult does.  Dad KNOWS that these documents are important (and quite frankly, HIS).  While he knows that he can't understand them anymore, he can't stop trying.  THAT'S the Sisyphean hill we labor against every day...

Dad's fading mental abilities are the rock he is trying to push uphill.  But I'M the one doing most of the pushing and I have to keep running around him awkwardly to get a good grip on the rock.  When he asks the same set of questions about "settled" actions for the 3rd or 4th time, the rock slips downhill a bit and I have to get the rock uphill a bit further than it was when we started the day.

The rock will get bigger and heavier as time goes on and Dad has greater difficulties in understanding things.  I expect it, and I'll deal with it as best I can.  Because there will come a day when Dad no longer even tries to manage his affairs.  That will be a more difficult day.  Easier in the sense of "just handling his bills myself", but harder in that I will be watching my Dad fading from this world...

Mark


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Living With Dad, 6

Wow, Dad got up at 2 am and turned on the TV to watch Fox News for about 10 minutes.  Then went back to bed.  I guess I better start documenting his activities.  Because I'll forget them and it may become important some day.

Last night, he suddenly started asking where his wine was.  I thought he meant his vermouth because he calls that white wine.  Well, I suppose it is, but he insisted he had a bottle of red wine in the fridge.

He did not have a bottle of red wine in the fridge.  He has never had a bottle of red wine in my fridge.  He doesn't even LIKE red wine.  I think there was a very old bottle of red wine in his fridge in FL.  He is forgetting where he is again, in time AND space.

He usually has these confused moments around sundown.  Travis at HealthSouth said its actually CALLED "Sundowner".    I'm getting to avoid asking difficult questions at sundown.  He gets very confused then.  And its so weird!  One moment he is acting fairly normal, then like a light switch turned off, he make no sense.  I need to look this up.  Maybe there are ways I can help him around this daily confusion.

It is hard watching this happen. 

I'm tempted to go through the rest of the documents in his duffel bag.  It would be so easy for ME to do it.  But I won't.  It matters that he sees every document, even if it is so slow.  *sigh*

Dad complained about the sheets on the bed.  I washed/dried them last night and made his bed.  No static either.  He says he itches.  Well I can't get him to shower more than once a week, of COURSE he itches.  Am I supposed to drag him into the shower?  I would if I should.  Should I?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Living With Dad, 5

Today's (long-avoided) challenge was to start sorting through Dad's collection of documents.  He DOES have some documents in envelops, but they are more chronological than organized by subject.  I set up file folders a few days ago and took opportunities to let him see those (familiarity helps), but he hasn't liked the idea.  Maybe he hated files in his career job, too.

So I started slowly a couple days ago.  Loose documents and new mail showed up, so I showed him how I was putting those in the new file folders.  And there are a couple of CDs he wanted to cash in, so I typed letters to the banks (at their instruction) and had him sign the letters.  He fusses that the post office won't return the envelopes to him unless his name was on the return address, so I made him his own set of sticky-back address labels!  That made him feel better.

He even walked the envelopes out to the mailbox himself.  He didn't complain TOO much about that, so I got him to sit down at the table today to start sorting through the duffel bag of documents.  Most are copies of bill statements that have been paid.  He didn't want to keep those, yet he had them back through 2010.  I let HIM put those in the special "document trash box" I set up (with a big label he can read so that he remembers what it is for.  Plus, a special box will let me sort through it after he goes to bed so I can make sure nothing stays in there that he should keep.

It IS very frustrating sometimes.  He looks at old phone bills  and throws them in the trash box, then will look at the next old phone bill and dither about it for several minutes.  I am patient and explain the same thing over and over when he feels uncertain and forgetful.  Meanwhile, I go through dozens of other "same old bills" in 2 minutes.

We found many investment accounts I did not know about, so I made many new folders.  The "filing-by-subject" idea confuses him.  These days, he thinks in terms of "degree of importance" and wants to keep those most "important" things together.  It doesn't matter to him that one document is a birth certificate and the next is a certificate of deposit; those are both "important".  It takes some effort to convince him to let me put his (and Mom's) birth certificates in one folder and the CDs from the banks in separate bank folders.  He is CONVINCED they will be lost among the folders.

Later, I asked him to name anything he wanted to get his hands on.  He said "CDs", I produced them immediately (showing him the file folders).  Naturally, he still doubts the filing system.  I understand why; its not HIS system.  But I'M the one who will have to find documents...

We found last year's tax form, and we found a lot of 2011 tax documents.  He hasn't filed his 2011 tax forms.  I'll have to make a few calls Monday.  His last year's tax form preparer first, to see what they did for this year's tax form before he seems to have lost track of not filing them.  They seem to have done some preliminary work.  And we will NEED an expert in both Florida taxes forms and NH tax forms.  I can't do those!

I'll have to go to the IRS/FL/NH websites to see about filing for an extention forgiveness due to "medical problems".  This is going to be a BIG MESS.  But we'll get through it...

And have the duffel bag and a whole briefcase are yet to go through!  I can't WAIT to see what I discover next in those.  Dad was worn out going through 2/3 of the duffel bag of documents!

I am getting along.  My usual routines are all shot to hell and back, but I'm being flexible about it.  Fortunately, Fox News and The Golf Channel are good Dad-sitters.  He can watch them all day (though I get him up and about a few times and keep some conversations going about the shows.  And I get him out on the deck (and yard sometimes) for change of scenery and some exercise.

I get out to the garden.  I planted beans, cukes, and transplanted some basil seedlings today.  The tomatoes and bell peppers are doing well.  The cats are doing well (Dad responds to the cats well).  I make some time on the computer (obviously), but I can't take my time at it as well as BD (Before Dad).

The first 2 weeks, I spent all my time around Dad as if he was a guest so that when he wanted anything I was there.  I'm getting a little used to leaving him alone for some time, and I have been talking to him about treating this as his own home.  At first, if he wanted some potato chips as a snack, he would ask me.  I THINK I've convinced him that he can just go get anything he wants anytime at all, even in the middle of the night.  I understand his reluctance (I think).  If he just "gets" food, it means he lives here, and he still wants to think this is just temporary.  After a few more weeks, he will forget he lived anywhere else recently.  I'm serious, he is already forgetting living in FL.  He barely recalls staying in the rehab hospital for 2 weeks just 4 weeks ago.

And let me say that I sometimes repeat myself here.  Between this blog, emails to friends and family, and discussions with various businesses, I sometimes lose track of what I have said to who, when.  So forgive me things I've already mentioned.

Life goes on. but it isn't always a straight line.  There are sometimes dips in the road.  LOL!

But we are managing, and that's the important thing.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Living With Dad, 4

Lucidity comes and goes, but some subjects are more confusing for him than others.  Yesterday, we were talking about a few events from years past and he remembers them, providing rich accurate details.  Yet today, we were filling out a customer survey from the rehab hospital he was in for 2 weeks in May and he can barely recall the stay there.

I knew, abstractly, that old memories can be recalled easier than new ones in elder parents, but seeing the actuality of it is jarring sometimes.  And I am comfortable helping him relive the things he CAN remember.  It gives him something unconfusing to talk about and me something unconfusing to listen to.  And I find out a few things I never knew before.

Like that HE was golfing friends with the fathers of a couple of high school acquintances.  How come we never got together even on the golf course as Fathers and Sons?  Well, I knew that Dad never connected HIS friendships with MINE, but you would think that would have happened even by accident occasionally.  Ah, well, mysteries abound around Dad now and in the past.

The main thing is the present.  Today's adventure was some bills he had to pay.  Property taxes for the coming annual year for 2 condos he rents out.  Payment was straightforward and he understood what the payments were for.  In spite of that, it took 45 minutes of care to get the checks written and registered and put in envelopes.

It will be no surprise to people with elderly parents, but he dithers over every little detail, and usually the same details several times.  I could have done the whole thing in 3 minutes, but it is important to him that he do these things as long as he can, so I spend the time. 

One big problem he has is writing.  He can barely sign his name, so writing out the details of a check is a BIG DEAL for him.  I finally realized that I could (legally, I hope) write out the check as long as he signed it.  So I did the complicated parts and he signed them after I showed him how each check matched up with the details on the tax bills.  It even distressed him to use one of MY return address stickers on the envelope.  I had to assure him several times that the return address sticker was only for the mailbox to return a misaddressed envelope to, NOT the person sending the envelope.  But I will make him his OWN address labels tomorrow (I have a program and stick forms for that).

Then there was the bank statement.  He was sure it was a bill at first and was distressed at the large dollar amounts on it.  I went through that with him line by line and showed him the same amounts in his checkbook register.  He can pay bills and keep track in his check register, but can't understand them weeks later.  I asked him about balancing his checkbook, but he said he trusts his bank statement.  I balance mine each month, but I have to admit that I have never found a statement in error in 40 years, so he may have a point.  Still, I will take a look at his bank statements to make sure there are no charges he didn't authorize.  "Accurate balances" is not the same as "authorized charges".  Dad tends to think charity requests (for good public services like fire and police) are "bills", and I need to make sure that they aren't abusing his support with repeated withdrawals from ONE donation.

Fortunately, I have made many file folders for his use.  He didn't like the file folders, preferring his "own system" (randomly stacked documents in a duffel bag, a briefcase, and a tote bag).  I made the file folders with bright yellow post-it notes stapled to the tops.  I'll make nice file labels when I know which ones he actually needs, but he can read the neon-yellow post-it labels clearly.  I have a file drawer emptied just for his use when all is settled, but for now they are in a box on the table.

After objecting to file folders for 2 weeks, he surprisingly did not object when I stuck his property tax statements (marked "PAID" in big letters) into a folder labeled "PROPERTY TAXES"  and his bank X statement into a folder labeled "BANK X".  He hates changes, but understands order "after the fact"...

I think that I can finally get him to allow me (with his oversight) to sort out his duffel bag and briefcase documents.  I've been working up to this slowly for 2 weeks, and my patience is finally paying off.  Some children, I think, get impatient and just unilaterally DO THINGS for their elderly parents.  I want to keep Dad mentally involved in all his financial processes, even if he doesn't really understand what they are.  I'd rather explain and show things several times then make him feel out of control of his life.

And then there was the medications...  Oh that must be one of the most difficult parts.  I have little experience with medications.  I just don't need any.  So I have to research each and every pill bottle I find.  Between the rehab hospital OTC meds and the several prescription meds I found today (when Dad said he had none, I spent time on the internet.  I won't describe the meds in detail for his personal privacy, but there are some he was supposed to be taking for months and hasn't.  Dad says a 2nd (unnamed) doctor daid not to take them.  I doubt that.

So tomorrow, I have to find a good doctor and arrange a "from scratch" physical and med regimen that I can talk to the doctor about.  Heck, I need a permanent primary doctor myself, so I will try to find the same one for both of us.  We are BOTH  seniors now.  I've read that the best thing for both of us aging guys is a male internist/geriatrics doctor about 5 years out of medical school.  Angie's List, here I come!  Well, AL got us a great dentist...

Food is still working well here.  Dad eats anything, but fortunately, I love to cook from scratch and have a naturally healthy diet (the old fashioned kind of "some" meat, several veggies and a couple glasses of red wine).  I wish I could get Dad to stop demanding a potato and white bread with each meal, but be thing at a time.  Maybe I can convince him that sweet potatoes are "potatoes".  But he is already eating better here than even at the hospital (they overcooked all his veggies, I sampled them).  I steam mine.

I want Dad to gain some weight, but not as fat.  So I make meals of (for example) a marinated baked chicken thigh with a tossed salad with carrot and tomato, a green veg and a orange/yellow veg (and dammit a half a potato).  He wants cake and ice cream for dessert, but I've been adding some fresh fruit slices to that and he DOES dutifully eat everything on his plate.

Thankfully, he doesn't miss having a car.  He doesn't wander.  He knows where he is in terms of the house, though he isn't always sure of what State he is in and confuses past residences.  FL is becoming a vague memory.  He doesn't seem to have any signs of Alzheimers, but some of early Parkinson's (repetitive foot-tapping and hand tremors, and he has the shuffle-foot problem where he can't LIFT a foot enough to START walking most times).

On the positive side, that means he can't raise his feet enough to step on the cats...  The cats appreciate that.  OK, just a little humor there.

He is close to falling over often, but he is aware of the problem well enough that he walks very carefully with support structures (tables, chairs) in sight at all times.  And many times he can walk very confidently.  I'm not sure what to make of that.  Just this morning, he suddenly got up, walked down the inside stairs and the outside steps and got the newspaper.  He walked quite confidently!  So THAT comes and goes too.

I still haven't figured out how to resolve the thermostat problem. Dad wants it at 78, I want it at 70.  Its set at 74.  I have to admit, I am adjusting to the warmer temperature.  But Dad still complains about being cold all the time.  I've gone to wearing shorts and the lightest shirts I have every day, so there isn't much more I can do.  Yet Dad insists on wearing light pants and a light knit short-sleeve shirt (without even an undershirt).  And complains!

I gave him a couple of old long sleeve shirts, but he complains they are "heavy".  Well, yeah, he's not used to those.  Well, I'M not used to shorts either.  I work outside in the gardens a lot on my knees and my knees are complaining as if I was suddenly going barefoot on rough ground.  I'm drawing  line on the temperature.  Dad has to learn to wear warmer clothes!

He doesn't seem to understand anything between light short-sleeve shirts and sweaters.  I offerred light long-sleeved shirts, but he doesn't like them.  I think it's the wrist cuffs that feel odd to him.

Any suggestions?

And to anyone who has read this far down through this very lengthy post, THANK YOU!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Living With Dad, 3

Helpful arrangements done today...

1.  Got him to sort through 10 pairs of really cheap sunglasses to choose 2 to put in the car and 1 to keep for walking onto the deck (he seems to be very light sensitive, so that means I need to get him an eye exam).  But we got rid of 7 cheap giveaway sunglasses that he couldn't part with before (because they were free).

2.  My 2 TV-watching chairs (swivel/rockers) were difficult for Dad to stand up from.  I cut a piece of 1/4" plywood to fit the springs and wrapped it in a towel (to keep the plywood from cutting the cloth over the springs) and he got up out of the chair a LOT easier. 

3.  Set up file folders for his documents.  Next step is convincing him to allow me to put his documents IN them.  One step at a time...

4.  Convinced Dad to let me count the antibiotic pills the dentist prescribed.  I know he considers that a statement that he isn't taking them as often as he should, but I know he isn't.  I just have to prove it to him. 

5.  Did MY laundry and then convinced him to allow me to do HIS.  He wants to do his laundry in plain water in the bathroom sink (obviously not clean enough).  I had some work to convince him that I would just do all of his at once in one load and NOT mix it up with mine.

6.  Got tennis balls and cut them open just enough to push them onto the non-wheeled bottoms of his new walker-helper.
Well, just imagine the tennis balls on the non-wheel legs.  I don't have time these days to photoshop pictures much.  LOL!  He didn't like the idea before I did it.  Now he does.

I'm learning to do good ideas even when Dad doesn't like the ideas at first.  So, I'm learning to just DO things.

7.  I've learned that Fox TV and The Golf Channel will keep Dad happy all day.  I'm MSNBC and The Science Channel, so we'll see how long I can last on just a couple hours of those per day.

8.  I'm giving Dad simple things to do around the house.  Its hard to find them, but he keeps asking.  He can make a salad for dinner and set out the forks and spoons.  That keeps him happy he can help.

9.  I wish I could get him to clean the cat litter boxes...  (Joke!)

10.  I made him a list of the channel numbers of his favorite channels.  Fox TV, Golf Channel, CNN, etc.  That helps him a lot; he thinks Fox TV is the absolute truth in all matters.



Friday, June 1, 2012

Living With Dad, 2

It's an adventure without end (well, yes there will be and end, but you know what I mean).  Sometimes he is lucid, other times he makes no sense.  Sometimes he remembers details of events from years ago, sometimes he isn't sure whether we had dinner.

It is taking a whole new way of discussing things for me.  The best way I can describe it is a spiral.  I start a subject that needs to be discussed (like "bank accounts").  Dad takes the subject in directions I can not anticipate ("checkbook" becomes "old checks from investments that he has cashed and stashed in an old checkbook cover").  The conversation may take an hour and look like this:

I start on the outside and slowly narrow the terms as he understands them until I get a little closer each few minutes.  I ask a question and see how that processes.  Then I adjust the terms in other words to get closer to the fact that I need to get from him.  It can be "difficult" sometimes. 

I sometimes succeed to some degree, sometimes entirely, but usually only in part.  Last night's discussion was about bank accounts.  He says he has many, but I can't pin him down on what kinds and what banks.  And it's not his fault; he doesn't know himself.

There IS slow progress.  I have figured out that he has 3 banks.  I haven't been able to figure out which banks have what kinds of accounts because he wont let me look through his "checkbooks" (which have no blank checks or deposit slips, just old used ones) and his actual documents are in a duffel bag of unorganized papers. 

I want to set up a file drawer of folders for him (well, for ME actually), but he thinks that is "too complicated".  I may just have to stay up after he goes to bed and sort out documents all over the living room and just DO IT!  It makes me uncomfortable to act so unilaterally, but I guess I have to stop thinking of him as a functioning adult.

Apparently, I have to become "Mom/Financial Manager/Dad" to my child-father...  I CAN, it just takes some relational adjustments.

Mom died in 2010, but she was mentally alert, so I don't even have her last days as an example.  Dad is more physically able, but is slowly failing mentally.  I have NO experience with that up close.

I'm learning fast, I'm patient, and I've lived a rather flexible lifestyle for years.  It helps that I'm retired, have no financial problems, and plenty of time to help Dad.  But dementia is a cruel thing.

The good news is that Dad eats about anything Standard American (as do I, except fish), and I enjoy cooking.  So he is eating a lot better here than at his home (hot dogs and cereal, it seems).  He is able to prepare the dinner salad while I make the rest of the meal (a meat, green veg, yellow/orange veg, and he MUST have a potato).

The bad news is that he is confused (mostly) away from the house.  Examples:

When we packed up his clothes, we missed the laundry hamper.  He only had 2 pair of "tighty-whiteys" here.  And he didn't tell me.  So I found out today and we went shopping.  He found the boy's underwear aisle and I couldn't get him out of it.  He just kept looking at the boy's stuff.  So I fund his size and brand 2 aisles over (after some effort - Walmart doesn't stock much of that "old guy underwear anymore).  He spent 10 minutes searching through boy underwear for his size.  He didn't want to stop even when I brought him the kind he wanted.  And he had been washing his only 2 pairs of underwear in the bathroom sink!

Shopping for tub attachments to help him shower, we went to Home Depot.  We found a side tub handle and a tub bench for him to sit on.  Since it was for him, he paid.  Or tried to.  He kept trying to use him AARP Membership card to pay.  He INSISTED it was a credit card (well, it DID have a mag-strip).  I knew he had a real credit card, but he would NOT let me just get it out of his wallet.  Instead, the poor clerk and I had to wait while he searched and examined every shopper card, drivers license, etc he could find.

I have been explaining to MANY people lately that Dad is "old and having problems" so that they understand...  To a person, they have all understood and been patient. 

Dad is considerate of the cats.  He warns them when he is approaching, and when they sometimes don't move, he bends over carefully and scratches them nicely.  He says he likes only dogs, but I think he just won't admit he likes cats too.  He IS kindly to pets.

So things are getting settled slowly here.  MY bedroom is a clutterred mess because everything "stored" that was in Dad's new bedroom is now in my computer room and bedroom.  I'll sort all that out later.  Half the battle is getting Dad used to some new places to keep his stuff, and the other half is getting him to remember where that is.  I know it will take time, and he IS trying his best.

I got him to a dentist today for a bad tooth.  He couldn't understand why Angie's List was better than just picking a name out of the phone book, but he DID like the dentist I found.  Next week's medical challenge is finding an internist/geriatrics doctor for him. 

Can't wait to find out what the next surprises will be...