By Jacqueline Marcell
For eleven years I pleaded with my “challenging” 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.
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 southern California to San Francisco determined to save her life—having no idea that in the process it would nearly cost me my own.
DECEPTION OR INTERMITTENT DEMENTIA?
I spent three months in the hospital helping to nurse my 82-pound mother back to relative health, while my father went from loving me one minute to calling me 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 so heart wrenching to have my once-adoring father turn against me.
I took my father to his doctor right away, only to be flabbergasted that he could act normal when he needed to. I could not believe it when the doctor looked at me as if I was just making things up. 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 huge 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 he could) not to listen to anything I said because I was just a (bleep bleep) liar—and all I wanted was his money. Boy, 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 just a few days before. Terrified, I call the police for the first time in my life who 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 horrifying incidents occurred three more times.
CAREGIVER CATCH 22
Finally I was thrilled 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 continue 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 temper very long. I couldn’t get healthcare professionals to help—my father was always so darling and sane in front of them. I couldn’t get medication to calm him, and even when I finally did—he refused to take it, threw it in my face, and flushed it down the toilet. I couldn’t place my mother in a nursing home—he’d just take her out. I couldn’t put him in a home—he didn’t qualify. They both refused moving to 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 properly.
GERIATRIC DEMENTIA SPECIALIST MAKES DIAGNOSIS
You don’t need a doctorate degree to know something is wrong, but you do need the right doctor who can diagnose and treat dementia properly.
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 and irrational—at times. I also didn’t understand that demented does not mean stupid (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 that he could be so manipulative and crafty. On the other hand, my mother was as sweet and lovely as she’d always been.
KEY: NEUROLOGIST BALANCES BRAIN CHEMISTRY!
Alzheimer’s makes up 60-80% of all dementias and there’s no stopping the progression nor is there yet a cure. However, if identified early there are four FDA approved medications (Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne and Namenda) that in most people can mask the symptoms, keeping a patient in the early independent stage longer, delaying the need for part to full-time care. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that along with optimal lifestyle changes (proper nutrition, weight, exercise, socialization), a five year delay in the onset of a patient needing care could save $50 BILLION in annual healthcare costs. Even a one month delay in nursing home placement could save the U.S. $1 BILLION annually.
After the neurologist masked the symptoms, he treated my parents’ depression which is often present in dementia patients. It wasn’t easy to get the dosages right and it took a lot of time, patience and adjustments—and no, my father wasn’t suddenly turned into an angel—but at least we didn’t need police intervention any longer!
Stay tuned for part 2 of this article…..
- Jacqueline Marcell is an international SPEAKER on Eldercare, Alzheimer’s now being termed “Type 3 Diabetes”, and Breast Cancer. She is the author of the best-selling book ELDER RAGE (print, audio, Kindle/Nook), a Book-of-the-Month Club selection receiving 50+ endorsements, 400+ 5-Star Amazon reviews, required reading at numerous universities, and considered for a film. www.ElderRage.com