20 May 2015

Disorientation Orientation: Who is Who and What is What?

We're sliding backward at an alarming rate. It feels like being in one of those "House of Mirrors" you find at carnivals - I think they're called "fun houses" but trust me, there is nothing "fun" going on in this house.

Our latest escapade began last Friday Morning. I was upstairs brushing my teeth and I mistakenly thought my parents were eating breakfast in the kitchen. My phone rang and it was my neighbor Pat, who lives across the street, telling me that my Dad was in the driveway and walking with a very unsteady gait and she was afraid he was going to fall. I FLEW down the stairs (toothpaste still in my mouth) and bolted out the side door to find my Dad kind of walking in circles and sporting a huge gash on his right forearm with blood dripping all over his shirt. I took his hand and lead him inside. He was terribly disoriented and unhappy to have been "caught". 

My Mom had been on the back deck leaning over the railing, trying to yell at him to come inside but of course he didn't hear her. He can't hear anything. He had no idea she was risking a fall trying to get his attention. Thank God my neighbor spotted him when she did. 

When I brought him inside and sat him down at the table, I tried to explain that he shouldn't have been outside. He became indignant. I brought his cereal bowl over to him and got my mom seated and then I made a cup of tea and went outside on the patio to calm myself down before addressing what had just happened. When I went back inside, I sat down at the table across from him and I tried to explain (loudly so he could hear) that it's very dangerous for him to be outside like that alone and then I pointed to his arm and told him it could have been much worse than a gash. Uncharacteristically my Dad threw down his spoon, looked at my Mom and in the harshest tone I've ever heard him use, he said, "I don't have to take this! I'm going back to my room.". 

He didn't go back to his room. I took a photo of his injury and texted our Lower Cape Fear Hospice nurse, Olga, who immediately texted me back that she would be over soon and check out the damage and take care of it. Thank God for hospice.

I gave my Dad something to calm him down and reduce his agitation and then I gently hugged him and told him that we were so upset because we love him so much and want to keep him safe. He softened a little and when Olga arrived about an hour later, he was much more civil...but completely unrepentant. When Olga asked him how this happened he said he had no idea. She carefully cleaned the wound, applied ointment and then wrapped it in several layers of gauze to protect it from further damage. After she left my Dad asked me who she was. I was taken aback because Olga had been here just one day before to give my parents a check up, but my Dad claimed he'd never seen her before in his life.

The rest of the weekend kind of went downhill from there. I had a lot of work to do outside and my friend John popped over to very generously donate his time and skills by pressure washing the deck around the pool and then my very long driveway. What a friend! Meanwhile I went back and forth between trying to help John and putting out skirmishes in the house. 

On Sunday, my parents started the day out calm but things got weird as the day progressed. When I was growing up, my Mom always talked about how she'd  wanted to be a nurse so she took Sunday to practice. She unwrapped the beautiful dressing Olga had applied not once, not twice and not even three times but a whopping FOUR TIMES. Fortunately Olga left me with some supplies because I was scheduled to change it Monday Morning but my Mom had taken the carefully covered dressing and applied toilet paper and scotch tape - right on the gash. You can imagine how much fun that was for my Dad as I had to take it off and redress the wound with sterile bandages. It was as if my Mom was on some kind of weird loop where each time I would rewrap his arm, she would wait an hour or so and then take it off and put more scotch tape and toilet paper over it. I was completely stymied. I couldn't make either of my parents understand and I would have done just as well talking to a brick wall. I wasn't making "contact". They were both incapable of understanding anything. 

While all this pandemonium was going on, my buddy John was finishing the driveway and allowed me to drive a real car and take it to Harris Teeter and grocery shop - we were out of everything - and it was the first time in months I had been able to walk rather than run through the aisles of a store and stock up on so many staples we needed. That was a real treat and did as much for my mental state as it did for restocking our larder. 

The past couple of days my Dad's mental state has shown further signs of deterioration. I never imagined seeing my Dad in this condition. My dad was, to me, invincible, sharp, witty, savvy and oh so wise. My Mom's downward spiral is no less stunning, but it's taken a less abrupt dive. Her memory is shot and she's frequently confused by just about everything, but my Dad's decline has been much more rapid and dramatic. 

I feel as if I'm on one of those really dizzying rides and I'm trying to catch the attention of the person operating the controls, screaming at him to please slow this thing down because it's making me sick. That's exactly what it feels like. Last Friday I placed padlocks on the gates of my privacy fence to prevent my Dad from slipping through the gate and gaining access to the driveway or street. On Sunday, I completely misplaced the keys to those locks and that's truly not like me. It actually scared me that I couldn't find the keys and I have scoured the house, the garage and the backyard and my only conclusion is that I have hid them somewhere to keep my Dad from finding them. I mean, this weekend alone I had to hide scotch tape, paper napkins and a whole host of other things, not to mention all medication in the house is kept in a locked safe so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that my brain is finally saying, "Whoa...wait a minute...you're pushing your luck!!". My friend John stopped by with his bolt cutters, removed the locks and installed new padlocks and wisely kept an extra key in case I forget where the keys to these new locks disappear. Thank God for friends!

I'm also extremely grateful to my neighbor Pat who alerted me to my Dad's outside activity which precipitated this weekend from hell. And I'm deeply grateful to my next door neighbors, Kathleen and Richard Canizaro, who graciously provided us with a wonderful dinner on Monday and are providing again tonight. I am surrounded by angels and I can't even express my gratitude for each one of them. I couldn't make it without all of these extra helping hands and caring hearts.

This latest downturn has left me exhausted and stressed. I wake each morning with a sense of foreboding; I find myself afraid to imagine what might happen next. I haven't been out of this house for more than two hours since last November when I flew to NYC to visit my daughter, son in law and my twin granddaughters. After awhile, all of this confinement will do a number on one's psyche. Chamomile tea, reducing the caffeine and getting more exercise (treadmill) are certainly helpful, but I need a few hours outside of the compound and that's something I'm working on trying to get in place. 

I adore my parents and I'm grateful that I have been able to take care of both of them, but right now this caregiver could use a walk on the beach, an unhurried lunch and just a few hours away from the heavy responsibility. Hopefully in the very near future, I can take a few little breaks to remind myself what the outside world looks like.