Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What To Do With Dad

What To Do With Dad
By Kimberly Jensen

Last night my dad got up to get a drink of water and fell in the hallway bashing his head through the wall, leaving a Woody-sized hole in the drywall. Woody is my dad's name. "That really hurt," he said to my mom as she struggled to help him to his feet again. She had sleep in her eyes and has not had a good night's sleep for months now. This was just another night episode in which she dreads. Last week he walked into her room in the middle of the night and told her, "Get up. It's time to go to church." She tells him its only Tuesday and he'll have to wait five more days. Last Sunday, he walked up to the church alone with his shirt half-buttoned and his tie askew causing concern for members as they tried to get a hold of my mom who had run her brother to the airport, thinking my dad would be asleep when she got home. Obviously, he didn't stay asleep. Parkinson's showed up on my dad's doorstep when his was 49 years old. First it took my dad's hands, then his nervous system, then his job, then his balance, his smile, his swallow, and today it is taking his brain. Yesterday the doctors confirmed that in addition to Parkinson's, Dementia is settling in. There are moments of lucidity where I can sit and have a two-sided conversation with my dad. There are other times when his look is far-off and I can't get a response from him. Today my mom took me to visit a rest home. My mom is a strong woman who has stood by his side, dried his tears, picked him up off the floor and wiped his face for many many years. But the question still remains as we explore the options that will help both my dad and my mom. What do we do with dad?


Shirley Bahlmann said...

This brought tears to my eyes, as my father also suffered from Parkinson's and dementia. My mother wore herself out trying to take care of him, which she did for too long. It was a safety issue to put him into a care center. Mom visited him every day, in a place where there were people strong enough to pick him up. After he died, it took her several months to get her energy back. She was 77 years old.
My heart goes out to you.

Amanda said...

Reading this story is like going back in time. My grandfather got parkinson's in the mid-90s. Slowly, dementia also developed and then a few years ago they discovered he had a gignatic amount of fluid on his brainstem. If they'd have discovered it earlier, he might not have suffered as much loss of his mind as he did, but by the time they found it, they couldn't drain it all off without killing him. My grandpa lived in ever-decreasing mental and physical conditions until he finally died Feb '07. My family once tried to take him to a rest home, thinking they would take better care of him there, and they hated the idea, especially my grandma, who had stayed home with him and the kids all the years of their marriage and had never left his side. His condition deteriorated rapidly despite the best of facilities, and he cried all the time except when they held a phone to his ear and let my grandma speak to him. After six months, they brought him home and had their house converted to where they could better take care of him. My grandmother, two of my aunts, and my cousin all lived there and took care of him until he passed. He woke up right before he did and lucidly told them all he loved them and goodbye.

These diseases are so sad, and my heart goes out to you.