Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year, new phase

I was chatting with a friend this morning and in the course of that conversation, we talked about the responsibilities of family.  Basically, he was saying that, in spite of himself, he was being drawn back in to a family business while I was saying that my role in my own family had morphed into one of Chief Financial Officer.  Nobody prepared either of us for the realities that attend being a part of an ailing family.

When my mother was first diagnosed with dementia, my first response was, "OK, what's the treatment protocol? What pill can we give for this?" Of course, there are no pills that cure.  There are pills that stave off, slow down or otherwise deter, but none that cure.  That pissed me off.  I'm still pissed.  Then one day it became clear (when someone threatened to terminate some coverage or other for non-payment), that she wasn't managing her finances particularly well.  So my sister took that over.  She pays all the bills now.  Phase I.

Then later, it became clear that Mummy shouldn't be left alone.  We got to this point well before the doctor did, but that's OK.  She clearly wasn't eating properly.  She never knew if she had eaten, so I started leaving the lunch prepared.  All she had to do was put it in the microwave but I discovered that she was either eating the lunch cold or tossing it into a pan and warming it all together.....salad, rice, beans, meat, one pot. One meal. Mush.  That was when we determined that a companion would be necessary.  Entering Phase II.

In Phase II, we were bringing in the companion 3 days a week.  We thought she might be able to manage a couple of days without support.  I would call from work to remind her to eat but those calls usually ended in argument.  (This is probably when I first learned that Alzheimer's and dementia patients, while they may be losing sentience, are still sentient enough to resent your intrusion into their affairs.  Tough road to walk that.)

Phase III began when the caregiver was coming in 5 days a week.  We could no longer pretend that Mummy was capable of fending for herself during the day.  Moreover, we were worried about two things, opening doors to strangers and the stove.  Anyone who has had a dementia patient in their midst for any length of time knows the dangers of both of these.

Phase IV may have just begun. Mummy is completely incapable of assisting in her own health care. The simple matter of coughing now that she has a cold, isn't happening.  She makes these little delicate throat-clearing noises which are useless in terms of actually clearing her throat.  She now runs the risk of getting bronchitis or pneumonia because she can't manage a cold.  The common cold.

God only knows what might obtain in Phase V.

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