Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Old Man goes into Hospice care.

Feb. 14 marks two years since my stepfather was put into an Alzheimer's "home", if that's what it's called.

A few days ago, he stopped responding to medication, stopped talking, and is refusing to eat. He's been placed in Hospice care, given 3 to 6 months to live--or what passes for living, considering the Alzheimer's.

It goes back to January of 2006; one morning he just didn't get out of the easy chair he slept in. My mother went in to check on him and found him in the chair, glassy-eyed, barely breathing. He'd had what the docs later called a "mini-stroke." He got hospitalized quickly enough that there didn't seem to be any massive harm from the stroke...but it was enough to cause "Capgras' Delusion". It had him convinced that my mother was an imposter, that there were THREE of her, but she wasn't the right one--she was her own sister.

From there, things got worse. We had to take down photos and mirrors because those people in there were coming out after him. He was convinced that neighborhood kids and adults alike were having sex in our cars. My mother was in bed with every man in the neighborhood, and her "sister" was covering for her. He woke me up one night (scared the shit out of me!) wanting me to come and chase the people out of his bedroom.

For a few months, he worked as a security guard at (I think) a strip mall...but he couldn't really tell time anymore and couldn't even fill in his time sheets or reports.

He would freak out, have siezures, get combative, and wander around the house. It got to a point where we had to have him "Baker Acted" (involuntarily committed) on Valentine's Day 2008--ironically, the same thing he dragged his own feet on when his own son was terrorizing the household and neighborhood with his psychotic paranoid episodes.

He tried charming and sweet-talking his way out of it--the same thing he would do to get his son out of trouble, and the same thing his son would do to get himself un-committed after a few days--but (fortunately) freaked out when a doctor was present. That was enough to get him placed in the home.

I don't envy anyone their life in that place. It's in an older 4-story brick building a few blocks from the Pensacola Public Library. The Alzheimer's ward is on the top floor. It's a frightening place to be, surrounded by what I can only call "broken people."

I scribbled this during Thanksgiving lunch in 2008:

Strange croaks, raspy whispers, breathy mumbles
A syllable repeated like a sentence
They struggle with their wheelchairs
Not sure why they cannot move

One fights the table-top attached to his seat
Trying to reach the latches, hoping for escape
Another snaps at an unseen assailant,
Imperious old woman sitting alone

One walks in circles, his mental rudder locked, no one at the bridge.
A "Rat Pack" poster, photo of James Dean and his car
Elvis, Marilyn, Audrey Hepburn
All watching over the broken ones

The TV babbles, for once more sensible than its audience,
Who don't know their own families
Who see friends from long ago

One wonders what their worlds are like
Trapped in minds growing ever smaller
Or trapped in one that no longer works

He looks old. Insubstantial. He thinks this is a restaurant,
That I flew in from Tallahassee, my sister from Georgia
He accuses my mother of affairs, worries about the waitress

That's about as finished as that's going to get.

The whole scenario has only deteriorated relations between my mother's side of things and the Old Man's own kids. We've never really been close, but who wants to be around screeching a-holes who keep demonizing my mother? "She's only interested in his money!" "He doesn't really have Alzheimer's--she's keeping him locked up!" "He said we could have that car."

Me, I've seen the woman who'se been married to him since the mid-70's starting to look OLD because of the strain on her these last four years. I've seen her crying. I've seen her health slipping and forgetfulness setting in, anxiety, panic, sleeplessness, loss of appetite.

Some mastermind.

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