Caring for Aging Parents

By Suzanne Mulligan Born on January 23, 2014

CARING FOR AGING PARENTS: ELDER RAGE & ALZHEIMER'S

For eleven years I pleaded with my obstinate elderly father to allow a caregiver to help him with my ailing mother, but after 55 years of loving each other he adamantly insisted on taking care of her himself. Every caregiver I hired to help him called in exasperation, “Jacqueline, I just can’t work with your father–his temper is impossible to handle. I don’t think he’ll accept help until he’s on his knees himself.”

My father had always been 90% great, but boy-oh-boy that temper was a doozy. He’d never turned it on me before, but I’d never gone against his wishes either. When my mother nearly died from his inability to continue to care for her, I flew from Ontario to Winnipeg determined to save her life–having no idea that it would nearly cost me my own.


EARLY SIGNS OF DEMENTIA?

I spent three months in the hospital nursing my 82-pound mother back to relative health, while my father went from being loving one minute to calling me horrible nasty names and throwing me out of the house the next. I walked on egg shells trying not to upset him, even running the washing machine could cause a tizzy, and there was no way to reason with him. It was heart wrenching to have my once-adoring father turn against me.

I immediately took my father to his doctor, only to be flabbergasted he could act normal when he needed to. I could not believe it when the doctor looked at me as if I was lying. She didn’t even take me seriously when I reported that my father had nearly electrocuted my mother, but fortunately I walked into the bathroom just three seconds before he plugged in a power strip that was soaking in a tub of water–along with my mother’s feet! Much later, I was furious to find out my father had instructed his doctor (and everyone) not to listen to anything I said because I was just a (bleep) liar—and all I wanted was his money! (I wish he had some).

Then things got serious. My father had never laid a hand on me my whole life, but one day nearly choked me to death for adding HBO to his television, even though he had eagerly consented to it a few days before. Terrified, I called the police for the first time in my life. They took him to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation. I could not believe it when they released him right away, saying they couldn’t find anything wrong with him. What is even more astonishing is that similar incidents occurred three more times.

CAREGIVER CATCH 22

After three months I was finally able to bring my frail mother home from the hospital, but furious to find myself trapped. I couldn’t fly home and leave her alone with my father–she’d surely die from his inability to care for her. I couldn’t get my father to accept a caregiver, and even when I did—no one would put up with his raging very long. I couldn’t get healthcare professionals to help–my father was always so darling in front of them. I couldn’t get medication to calm him, and even when I finally did—he refused to take it and flushed it down the toilet. I couldn’t place my mother in a nursing home–he’d take her out. I couldn’t put him in a home–he didn’t qualify. They both refused Assisted Living—legally I couldn’t force them. I became a prisoner in my parents’ home for nearly a year trying to solve crisis after crisis, begging for professional help—and infuriated with a medical system that wasn’t helping me appropriately.

GERIATRIC DEMENTIA SPECIALIST MAKES DIAGNOSIS

You don’t need a medical degree to know something is wrong, but you do need the right doctor who can diagnose and treat dementia properly. Finally, a friend suggested I call the Alzheimer’s Association who directed me to the best neurologist in the area who specialized in dementia. He performed a battery of blood, neurological, memory tests and CT & P.E.T. scans. After reviewing my parents’ many medications and ruling out numerous reversible dementias such as a B-12 and thyroid deficiency, you should have seen my face drop when he diagnosed Stage One Alzheimer’s in both of my parents–something all their other healthcare professionals missed entirely.

TRAPPED IN OLD HABITS

What I’d been coping with was the beginning of Alzheimer’s (just one type of dementia), which begins very intermittently and appears to come and go. I didn’t understand that my father was addicted and trapped in his own bad behavior of a lifetime and his habit of yelling to get his way was coming out over things that were illogical… at times. I also didn’t understand that demented does not mean dumb (a concept not widely appreciated) and that he was still socially adjusted never to show his ‘Hyde’ side to anyone outside the family. Even with the onset of dementia, it was astonishing he could still be so manipulative. On the other hand, my mother was as sweet and lovely as she’d always been.

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By Suzanne Mulligan Born| January 23, 2014
Categories:  Dementia

About the Author

Suzanne Mulligan Born

Suzanne Mulligan Born

Suzanne is a freelance writer, researcher and copywriter. She has a passion for writing about accessibility and issues affecting seniors. www.SuzanneMulliganBorn.com.


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