Well, I've been putting off posting about my Dad again for over a month. I still haven't completely collected my thoughts or decided exactly what I want to say, but the longer I put it off, the more difficult it will be. A couple of months ago my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.
This was the result I most feared, and yet somewhat expected. He's taking medication (Aricept, I believe) which is supposed to slow down the onset of symptoms. They think they found it early enough to make a difference, but there still isn't a cure.
I've been very reluctant to do the necessary research about the disease and treatment and what to expect in the coming years. I don't think of it as denial, but maybe it is. I accept that he has it, but I just don't feel like learning about it yet. When he was in the hospital back in December/January (See Part 4), he suffered from dementia brought on by "sundowning" and accentuated by a drug he was taking for his bladder. He was very cantankerous, often extremely confused and forgetful. On a number of occasions he didn't even recognize me. That was hard to deal with, but at the time I coped with it very well. I was the one telling the rest of my family that we might have to accept the idea that he might never recover from that. I was very glad to be proven wrong.
But now, it looms on the horizon, which is even worse. Being struck with it suddenly, I had no choice but to deal with it. Now that I have an indeterminate amount of time to prepare, I find myself not wanting to prepare at all. But enough about me.
I'm concerned about my Dad. He's been in and out of the hospital numerous times this past year, and he absolutely hates it. It seems like at least once a month something occurs that requires a hospital visit, and inevitably that extends to a stay of at least a couple nights. He puts on a good face around the doctors and nurses, but he absolutely despises being there, and I don't blame him. The problem, however, is that now he is reluctant to say when something is wrong or to see a doctor for fear that it will put him back in the hospital.
Just this week his home nurse made her visit, and was shocked by how difficult his breathing was. She insisted my Mom take him to the ER, and they found early stage pneumonia. It's been treated and he's been released, but I have no doubt he would never have said anything about having trouble breathing.
But even that isn't really what concerns me. My Dad's depressed. He doesn't like to talk about it with the rest of the family, but he confides in me. I think it's a combination of his poor health, the frequent hospital visits, and the Alzheimer's diagnosis. Which makes me wonder if that was really necessary. I wasn't there when my parents went to the neurologist for the verdict. I can only imagine what the scene was like. My mother is practically deaf, and my father hears only what he wants and often forgets or misses details.
My question is, should the doctor have told him he has Alzheimer's? Wouldn't it have been better for just the rest of us to know and deal with it? Why put that burden on him? My Dad used to volunteer at a local home for Alzheimer's patients, ironically. He knows exactly what to expect (I sometimes wonder if he had a secret suspicion about himself that made him choose that kind of volunteerism). Like most men and most fathers, my Dad likes to be in control. He doesn't believe there are things he can't handle by himself. To be hit with the knowledge that your mind is slowly leaving you must be devastating.
I said my Dad was depressed, but it's more complicated than that. I know he wants to live. I know he wants to get better. But I think he finds it hard to motivate himself when he knows what's coming. He doesn't want to be a burden on his family. All the things he was hoping for the future may never come to pass. He still talks about fixing our old motorboat to take the kids water-skiing. He talks about the chores he needs to do around the house. He talks about getting his strength back in order to drive. Yet at the same time, I think he knows none of those things are ever going to happen. Do I discourage him by reminding him of limitations? Do I feed his delusions and encourage those plans? Currently, I sort of humor him and then try to change the subject.
I don't know how to end this post, which is appropriate since I'm sure there will be many more to come on this subject. I just needed to write something to get some of these thoughts out of my head. Don't worry, I have several more up-beat and strange posts coming, I just wanted to get this one out of the way first.
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