The Alzheimer’s roller coaster ridePosted: March 29, 2012
My sister Carol has been staying at my parents’ house for an extended visit. Yesterday morning her Facebook post (dated 16 hours ago) said,
“My Mom and I just had to call for emergency help because my Dad who has Alzheimer’s and weighs about 220 lbs.~ couldn’t stand on his feet and ended up sitting on the floor in the bathroom. Four men came quickly to our service and had dad up and in his wheelchair within minutes.”
I did a quick calculation and figured out this happened about 4:00 in the afternoon the previous day. This was the first I’d heard about it. I called my mom and Paula answered because Mom was catheterizing Dad, as he, and now she, has had to do three times a day since his radiation treatment for prostate cancer over 10 years ago. This is one procedure the home health aides from the service we employ are not authorized to do. Paula and I talked on the phone for a few minutes about yesterday’s incident, hospital beds, and whether Mom should even be trying to move Dad around by herself anymore.
I don’t think we’re alone in this situation of wondering when enough is enough. I think this happens to a lot, if not most, people at this later stage in life. When is it time to let go of something, and move on to the next stage in life? When is it time to give up the car keys? Give up your home and move into an apartment or assisted living facility? Give up your keepsakes and downsize? Put Mom or Dad in a nursing home? When is enough enough?
Sometimes I wonder if Mom and Dad wouldn’t be better off if Dad just stayed in a bed. Mom wants him to be able to get up as long as he can. And some, even probably still most, days he can. But more and more there are questionable days about whether or not he should be. And yesterday he went down in the bathroom. Fortunately he slowly dropped to the ground while Mom had a death grip on his clothing and was able to protect his fall. He basically just slowly sat down on the floor.
The paramedics came and without much to-do promptly got him settled back into his wheelchair.
Linda, their evening home health aide, made levity out of the situation when they told her about it. She said, “I know you and Carol. You just wanted to get yourselves in that small room with those four fire-fighters.”
Being able to laugh is what saves us sometimes.
I had planned to go visit my parents yesterday anyway so I adjusted my plans to come later and told Mom I would be there by the time she needed to get Dad up from his afternoon nap to help her. I stopped and picked up dinner for them because I knew Mom was struggling and I wanted to give her a break on making dinner.
Yesterday Mom and Dad’s afternoon’s trip to the bathroom was uneventful. Afterwards, when Dad was settled in his wheelchair at the kitchen table he looked straight at me, fully alert, and said, “Which car did you drive up here?”
And for one short, glorious moment, I was the one who was speechless.