Old Age

My parents are getting old, and old age is not pretty.
My mother has had Alzheimer disease or another form of progressive denile dementia for about 5 or 6 years, although it took some time for her physician to learn all the symptoms – my mother thought that it was in her interest to minimize her symptoms. She has been a mistress of denial, and my father was a co-dependent in her efforts to resist interventions.
I visited Winnipeg from October 3 to October 12. My father was tired, my sisters were concerned. Her needs were beyond my father’s capability and have been for some time. My father has tried to enjoy the good moments, and has been concerned that if her demented behavior was admitted, she would have to be monitored closely and sedated and restrained. He has kept home care out and aided her in her efforts to fool the people who might arrange for care – under conditions that he does not think are good enough. His judgments have been loving, but risky.
The week after I returned, my sisters realized that her complaints about some bowel trouble were serious and had her admitted to hospital. She had developed a rectal prolapse. The prolapse itself is apparently inoperable. Over the first few days of November, my father thought another doctor thought that there might be partial blockage of the lower large intestine, which has been causing the straining that causes the prolapse. This presented the possibility of surgery for the blockage and some relief for the prolapse. The idea that she might have surgery has energized my father. He hopes she might come home. He accepted the idea that they might accept some home care though. [Updated – Nov. 10/07. My father misunderstood the medical information. The hospital had ordered a colonoscopy to assess the damage, not to look for blockages. There was no prospect of any relief of the prolapse].
My mother also had pneumonia when she went to hospital. She has had asthma for decades and she has become accustomed to using an inhaler when she is short of breath. She gets short of breath when she is anxious, then used the puffer. This accelerates her heart, which make her anxious, which lead to more use of the puffer – especially since she doesn’t remember she has been using it or realize that she is overdosing. The hospital has tried to restrict her use of the puffer. My father apparently gives it to her when the nurses are not around to relieve her distress.
The prolapse cannot be managed by an Alzheimer patient who doesn’t remember why she is in pain. She has been in hospital, and can’t go home again. She is calm most of the time, but becomes agitated and wants to go home. My father is full of anxiety. Over the last few weeks he has been occupied with worrying about my mother. My sisters and sister in law have been working hard to arrange transportation to the hospital and get meals delivered to him at the hospital, and to take care of him during this stage.
My sisters and brothers are doing their best to help him make the decisions that will let him know that she is getting care, and to let go of the idea that he can protect her independence. We can hope for decency, dignity and respect.
[Updated Sat. Nov. 10/07. On Friday (Nov. 9), my father agreed to sign the forms to admit my mother to a nursing home and to get some home care services for himself, to let him stay at home before his own health deteriorates further].


One response to “Old Age”

  1. Garth Danielson Avatar
    Garth Danielson

    I dread the call that I know is coming. Some of times this year mom has been sickly. She had some heart trouble and got some new medicine. That was around April, then she got lung cancer and had half a lung removed at the beginning of July. She seems a bit better now but it’s a slow heal. Mom’s impatient. She got a puffer just last week. My old man died almost two years ago, more cancer, but no one misses him on our side of the family. Can you say pissing on daddy’s grave. Might be fun. Alzheimer’s seems to run in the family. Something to look forward too, huh. Good luck with the folks.