By Lisa Baker
After my Mom’s dementia diagnosis, she and my Dad went to stay with my brother and his wife. My brother’s wife has a work from home job that made it easier for her to keep an eye on Mom and yet keep them both together. This worked well for all of us. We knew they were safe and getting their meals while Mom just relaxed trying to recover somewhat from her hospital stay. Dementia also turned their world upside down too. They were so used to relying on each other. As we started learning more and more about dementia, we realized that Mom has had this for a while, we just didn’t pick up on it. But we also realized that Dad had some of the same symptoms. We started to question ourselves, could he have dementia as well?
Little did we know that we were closer to finding out the answer to that question than ever before. Mom had a seizure one evening while staying with my brother. She had never had one before. So this put her back in the hospital for more tests. They did not find an exact cause for the seizure. It is possible that maybe from her eating and drinking so little that it threw her off enough to cause the seizure, but we never got a definite answer for its cause. They did start her on a low dose of medication to help with seizures.
During the time she was in the hospital, my brother and my Dad had gone to visit her in the hospital. After getting back home, my Dad decided that he was going to walk home to his house 20-something miles away. He is 80 years old and certainly did not need to be walking the road. Dad ended up being taken to the ER. He was very agitated and upset and confused. The doctor kept him overnight and they did some tests. It was decided that he needed a psychological evaluation, which would help to give us a determination as to whether or not he also had dementia. Because of insurance he had nothing wrong with him to stay at the hospital he was at which meant they had to find a psychological center for him as a geriatric patient. The closest one that had an opening was in Lancaster, SC. He stayed there for a week.
During this time, we found out that Mom was going downhill faster than we thought. She wasn’t eating or drinking. We were advised to consider putting her on hospice care. You can only imagine the rollercoaster of emotions we were on at this point. Because of the recommendation for Mom and we needed to find a place for her such as a nursing home. The facility Dad was at agreed to keep him for one more week. During this time, we were able to get Mom settled into a nursing home and on hospice care. The following week we went to pick up Dad.
At this point we had nowhere for Dad to go facility-wise. So I kept him at home for a week and a half. It was then that I realized just how bad he was. He couldn’t balance his checkbook, he couldn’t remember names and he was very confused. But the worst part was him slipping out and walking the road. This scared us the most. We didn’t want to risk the possibility of him getting hurt walking the road or even killed by getting hit by a car. So the search for a memory care facility for him was our next priority.
When I went to see Mom she told me that Dad had divorced her and was seeing a 17 year old girl that had thrown all of mom’s furniture out of the house and spent all of their money. She also told me that Dad had married this girl and that their pastor had officiated the ceremony. Of course, none of that had happened, but I could not make her believe that so on that day I had to join her in that train of thought and say, yeah Mom, you know I guess maybe dad did leave you, although I didn’t use the word divorce. But by joining her in her world or train of thought that day kept her much more calm than if I tried to argue with her.
Dad took my cell phone and held it behind his back as if to keep it away from me. So I just let him have it and watched to see what he was going to do with it. He took it outside and touched the screen as if he were pressing the button on the key fob to unlock the car door.
I went outside after a few minutes to see why he wanted to get in the car. He was looking for Mom’s purse. I had the car key because he isn’t supposed to be driving. I opened the car and let him look for a while. After a bit I told him that I thought my younger brother had Mom’s purse last. He stood up looked at me and said you know what I think you are right. He let me lock the car and he went back inside satisfied.
He stayed with me for a week and a half before we were able to get him in a facility. It felt like four weeks. I had to constantly try to redirect him. I was also having to hide the car keys when I went to bed at night. That means I hid them in a different place each night.
Being the caregiver for a dementia loved one is very hard. They ask the same things over and over not remembering that they have already asked and you have already answered. It is very important that you take the time to take care of yourself. Have another family member give you a day off or a few days off. Check your area for possible respite care centers that give the caregiver a week off while they care for your love one.
In my situation, my mom has gone down so fast that she needs nursing home care or 24-hour care as well as hospice. My dad can’t stay home alone by himself because he could get out and walk the road so there’s a safety issue involved. For my family it worked out better to have both of them in a facility geared to their needs instead of having them in a facility together.