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Elder Care & Elder Rage – Know the Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease
For eleven years I begged my stubborn old father to allow a nurse to help him with my sick mother, but after 55 years of loving her – he steadfastly insisted on taking care of her himself. Every agency and caregiver I hired to help him sighed in worry, “Jacqueline, we just can’t work with your father—his temper is impossible to handle. I don’t think you’ll be able to get him to accept help until he’s on his knees.” .”
My dad was always 90 percent cool, but boy-oh-boy that temper tantrum was stupid. He never turned his temper against me before, but later – I never went against his wish either. When my mother nearly died from an infection caused by his inability to care for her, I immediately flew home to try to save her life–having no idea that in the process it would almost cost me mine.
EARLY SIGNS OF DEMENTIA?
I spent three months nursing my 82-pound mother back to relative health, while my father said he loved me one minute, but the next would fly into a rage over the slightest thing, call me mean names, and throw me out of the house the next. I was amazed to see him so upset, even running the washing machine could cause a tantrum, and there was no way to reason with him. It was so heartbreaking that my once adoring father turned on me.
The doctor evaluated my father, but I was amazed that he could act so normally when he needed to! I couldn’t believe it when the doctor looked at me like I was the crazy one. She didn’t even take me seriously when I reported that my father almost electrocuted my mother, but luckily I walked in three seconds before he stuck a huge electric strip in to soak in a tub of water-along with my mother’s feet! Much later I was furious to find out that my father had instructed his doctor (and everyone) not to listen to anything I said because I was just a (bleep beep) liar and all I wanted was his money! (I wish he had some.)
Then things got serious. My father never laid a hand on me in my entire life, but one day he almost choked me for adding HBO to his TV, even though he had eagerly agreed to it a few days before. Terrified, I called 911 and the police took him to a hospital for evaluation. I was so shocked when they released him saying they couldn’t find anything wrong with him. What is even more amazing is that similar incidents happened three times more.
CARE OF 22
I was caught. I couldn’t fly home and leave my mother alone with my father—she would surely die from his inability to care for her. I couldn’t make myself believe in health professionals – my father was always so sensible in front of them. I couldn’t get medication to calm him down and even when I finally did – he refused to take it, threw it in my face or flushed it down the toilet. I couldn’t get him to accept a carer and even when I did – no one would put up with him for very long. I couldn’t put my mother in a nursing home – he would 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 to. I became a prisoner in my parents’ home for almost a year trying to solve crisis after crisis, crying rivers of tears every day, and raging at an unsympathetic medical system that didn’t help me properly.
A GERIATRIC DEMENTIA SPECIALIST MAKES A CORRECT DIAGNOSIS
You don’t need a doctorate to know something is wrong, but you do need the right doctor who can properly diagnose and treat dementia. Finally, I met with a neurologist specializing in dementia, and under threat of being put in a nursing home, my father finally agreed to go. The doctor did a battery of blood, neurological, memory tests, and CT/PET scans. He reviewed my parents’ medications and ruled out reversible dementias such as B12 or thyroid deficiency. And then, you should have seen my face fall when he diagnosed both of my parents with Alzheimer’s-something that all their other doctors had completely missed.
Caught in old habits
What I was dealing with was the onset of Alzheimer’s (just one type of dementia) which starts intermittently and seems to come and go. I didn’t realize that my father was an addict and trapped in his own bad behavior of a lifetime and his habit of yelling to get his way came out for things that were illogical…sometimes. I also didn’t understand that dementia didn’t mean dumb (a concept not widely appreciated) and that he was still socially adjusting to never showing “Hyde” to anyone outside the family. Even with the onset of dementia, it was amazing that he could still be so manipulative and cunning. On the other hand, my mother was sweet and lovely as she always was.
Balance of BRAIN CHEMISTRY
I learned that Alzheimer’s makes up 60-65% of all dementias and there is no stopping the progression nor is there a cure. However, if identified early there are medications that in most people can mask/slow down the symptoms of the disease, keeping a person in the early independent stage longer, delaying full-time supervision and nursing home care. (Ask a Dementia specialist about: Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne and Namenda.)
After the neurologist treated the dementia and the depression (often present with dementia) in both parents, he prescribed a small dose of anti-aggression medication for my father, which helped his mood without sleeping all day. (I wish we had that fifty years ago.) It wasn’t easy to get the doses right and not perfect, but at least we no longer had police intervention! Once my parents’ brain chemistry was better balanced, I was able to optimize nutrition, fluid intake, and all of their medications with much less resistance.
CREATIVE BEHAVIORAL TECHNIQUES
Additionally, I was finally able to implement techniques to deal with the bizarre behaviors. Instead of logic and reason-I used distraction, diversion and reminiscence. Instead of arguing the facts-I agreed, validated frustrated feelings and lived in their realities. I’ve learned to just “go with the flow” and let nasty comments go. And if none of that worked, a bribe of ice cream worked to get my dad to shower, even when he swore to a blue streak that he just took one yesterday (over a week ago)!
Then finally, I was able to get my father to accept a carer (he only alienated 40 that year – most there for about ten minutes), and with the benefit of Adult Day Care five days a week for them and a support group. everything fell apart for me. It was so wonderful to hear my father say again, “We love you so much, sweetie.”
ALZHEIMER’S / DEMENTIA IS OFTEN UNMISSED
What is so shocking is that no one ever discussed the possibility of dementia with me that first year. I was told my parents’ “senile moments” and strange behaviors were just old age and “a normal part of getting older.” Because one in eight before the age of 65, and almost half before the age of 85, gets Alzheimer’s I should be alerted. If I had simply been shown the “Ten Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s”, I would have realized what was going on and gotten my parents the help they desperately needed. If any of this rings true for you or someone you love, I encourage you to seek out a Dementia Specialist – right away!
If I had simply been shown the “Ten Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s”, I would have noticed a year earlier what was happening to my parents and would have known how to get them to the right doctors to get the help they so desperately needed. If this rings true about you, or someone you love, I encourage you to get help from a dementia specialist right away.
TEN ALZHEIMER’S WARNING SIGNS
(Reprinted with permission from the Alzheimer’s Association)
1. Memory loss
2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks
3. Language problems
4. Disorientation of time and place
5. Poor or diminished judgment
6. Problems with abstract thinking
7. Misplacing things
8. Changes in mood or behavior
9. Changes in personality
10. Loss of initiative
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