When Dad has a bad day

“I can tell when your dad is having a bad day the moment I first see his face,” Dad’s home health aide Paula says. “On those days I don’t even try to get him into the shower.”

One of the insidious things about Alzheimer’s is how unpredictable it can be. Just as soon as Mom and Dad have become comfortable with a routine Mom has established in Dad’s care, whether it is how to prepare, cut, and serve his food to him, to how to transfer him into and out of his bed from his wheelchair or walker, something will shift and the practiced method either no longer works or needs adjustment.

When Dad has a bad day he is not as attentive, or responsive, and doesn’t seem as able to follow any kind of request or command, like “take a small step forward with your left leg.” Or “move this leg” as you pat on the left leg. Or “keep going” when he comes to a complete stop in the hallway from the bedroom to the bathroom, his left leg shaking,  as he clenches the walker out in front and Mom holds onto him from behind.

When Dad has a bad day I wonder how much longer he will be able to walk even the very short distances he does now. I wonder if it is wise even to let him try. I wonder if he is going to fall in the hallway and we will have to call 911 to get him back in his wheelchair or his bed.

When Dad has a bad day, everyone else is more attentive and responsive. The tension in the house mounts as the uncertainty level rises. How long is he going to be able to walk? What if we can’t get him back in his bed? How long is Mom going to be able to handle this during those times she is here alone with him?

When Dad has a bad day we talk again about getting that hospital bed. One day we remove the computer desk from the bedroom. Then later that day Dad is able to get up and walk with his walker to the bathroom. So we wait. Another day we rearrange the furniture making space for a hospital bed. Then we wait again.

One of the most challenging aspects of Dad’s particular case is that almost from the very beginning, he has been cautious about, even perhaps afraid of, turning around. I first started noticing it when we were still driving him to doctors’ appointments. First we had to get him to turn around to get into the car. Then he had to turn around to sit in a chair in the doctor’s waiting room. Sometimes I would walk right up to him and hold him. “Dance with me,” I’d say. And I would shuffle him back and forth and around until his back was towards the chair and he could sit down.

I don’t understand why he has such a fear of moving that way, but I think it probably has something to do with a loss of spacial orientation. It makes transferring him anywhere very difficult.

Because of this, the method Mom and the home health aides use to get Dad back into bed is have him face the bed (no turning around required) and crawl up onto the bed onto his stomach. This has worked fairly well for quite a while. But if we get a hospital bed, they will have to find a new way to get him into the bed. The advantages of a hospital bed (he can sit in a reclined position and watch T.V., Mom can raise the bed if she needs to care for him in some way or change his clothes) go away if he is lying in the bed on his stomach.

I like the idea of a hospital bed. I think it will help Mom in caring for Dad. I think it will give her options if Dad is having a bad day. But I also understand there will be a hurdle to overcome in making it work.

Nothing is easy with Alzheimer’s.

Especially when Dad is having a bad day.

The bench Dad used to enjoy sitting on outside every day under the Magnolia tree stands unused, covered with petals.

30 thoughts on “When Dad has a bad day”

  1. This post is lovely and poignant, Christine. How ironic that this illness has caused your father to both loose his memory and, at the same time, fear turning backward–a metaphor in my mind for looking over the shoulder–grabbing snippets of the past.

    1. Thanks, Carl. I appreciate that you read and comment as often as you do. I many times do not leave comments on posts of friends whose blogs I frequent.

      But I do enjoy your perspective on things from time to time. It is almost always unique.

      I hope things are going well for you and your parents.

  2. as I read this, I was in my head, thinking “huh huh” or “geez, this is tough” and then my eyes landed on the bench and my heart swelled open with compassion and grief. There is nothing I can say or do to make this journey easier for you – other than hold you in caring and compassionate energy.

  3. Hello Christine,
    Another moving blog about your dad, and a beautiful story telling picture to accompany it.
    I’m rather new in the blogging world and discovered your blog while trying to find my way around; I hit the “follow” button almost immediately (my first one ever).
    On impulse I related to your subtitle “random thoughts on midlife”. Then I started to read and discovered your posts about your dad… So there was more to relate to (my own father in law was diagnosed Alzheimer 2 years ago). Your blogs are touching in a “comforting” way (I hope you know what I mean…)
    All the best to you and your family.

    1. Thank you, Marl1een. (Not sure if I got your name right.)

      Welcome to the blogging world. It can take over your life if you let it.

      I feel very honored that I was your first follow. I hope you will decide to stick with me. My topics skip around a bit. Most of my loyal followers don’t seem to mind.

      I think there are a lot of us in this same boat together. It’s nice to be in good company.

      I’m glad my posts are comforting. One never knows.

  4. As Grandma got worse after her strokes, we experienced a lot of these same issues. There were days she was incredibly childish too, which was so not how she used to be.

    1. The brain is an amazing thing. I think what goes in first must be in the deepest and out the last. I wouldn’t say my dad is incredibly childish. He has many of the same needs as small children do.

      Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. I hope you do too. I think if you go with a reputable company that vets their employees, you will be fine. I also think it will give you a large measure of relief once you get someone in there you like and can trust. Good move.

    1. Life is full of touching and moving things, isn’t it? We just have to go through it and try to enjoy the good while enduring or learning from the trials.

  5. After spending three weeks with my Father this winter, teaching him to walk again after a fall, your story really hits home. My Dad has Parkinson’s along with too many other ailments. Its really hard and really sad to watch the deterioration and very difficult for my Mom as they have not yet brought in outside help. Thanks for sharing this story.

    1. That must have been tough. I’m assuming you were successful with teaching him how to walk again, which must be a wonderful thing. Old age brings with it many problems, doesn’t it. Some interfere with the others. You have to take medicine for one problem, but then that causes another problem altogether.

      It is really hard to watch the deterioration.

      Your mom will know when she is ready for help. I suspect that step will make you feel somewhat better.

      Stay strong.

    1. I think overall, the beauty of nature with its sparkling snowfalls, blooming flowers, and scampering creatures, is largely helping to offset what might be nearly unbearable otherwise. The beauty of the world pulls me forth.


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