(Real-time Entry)

The experience at the psychiatric ward has gotten worse before getting better.

Following a positive and energized week for me last week, I then visited Dad over this past weekend and was throttled by what I saw.  The hospital had him so drugged (in their ongoing effort to subdue his violent outbursts and reduce his hallucinations) that all he could do was mumble unintelligently while strapped into a wheelchair bent over at the waist unable to hold himself up and drooling. My God, how could there be such a horrific change in just 5 days??  I began struggling with what they’re doing to him, I became very angry at the medical and legal systems for thinking this was the best way to treat a sick person, and I began that oh familiar spiral downward…

Saturday’s visit was the worst one so far, partially because I was so unprepared for what I was going to find. Sunday Dad was still unable to use most muscles in his body but he was no longer drooling and was able to utter partial phrases, which I tried to understand by putting my ear to his lips.  At one point, he said I should call my cousin Debbie.  I said, Sure, Dad, I’ll call Debbie.  And why don’t I call cousin Karrie as well?  She sent you a big hug today and I could tell her you sent her a hug back! He said, Just… call all the girls… and tell them. I asked, What do you want me to tell all the girl cousins? He said, Uncle Frank… is dying. Tears welled up in my eyes and my Mom’s.  We were grateful his eyes were closed so he couldn’t see us.  I said softly to Dad, Is that what you think is going on here, Dad? That you’re dying?? He said, Pretty much… that’s what I see… going on. And he fell asleep and we silently cried.

I experienced a couple horrible days following those visits with a lot of tears and an unmotivated heavy heart.  I only started perking back up after Mom reported last night, Wednesday, that when she walked in for her visit, she found Dad walking around with the help of a nurse and he had been talking about the love of his life, Fran, and then he said, And there she is! The doctor had just changed Dad’s antipsychotic medication from Zyprexa to Risperdal (I believe with the other 5 meds remaining the same) and the results seemed nearly instantaneous and unbelievable! (NOTE: It is believed that by altering communication among nerves in the brain and by altering communication through neurotransmitters, this class of atypical antipsychotic drugs can alter irritability, resistant depression and the psychotic state.)

I have to admit, I woke up this morning a LOT easier and faster!  It does seem that when Dad’s having a good day, I have a good day; and when he’s not, it’s very bad news for me.  Interestingly, I am undoubtedly the only family member who is this affected by it all.  I’m also the most emotional person in my immediate family, besides my father.  And I do spend a lot of time and energy mulling over everything so that I can report back on it for my movie and website.

Does this sensation of me being so empathetic to his situation simply make me a dedicated and loving daughter and a good storyteller as a result of our close relationship? Or is it a detrimental effect that is harming me and my health and my life? My God, do I unconsciously believe that I need to suffer along with him?? I need to figure this one out so that I can support him without being dragged down by the awful set of circumstances that is undoubtedly going to continue to be in our lives.  As they say, I need to get a grip.

P.S. Today the 2 in-home care workers who stole from us went before a judge at The Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit (home of the Wayne County Circuit Court) and pleaded GUILTY to ALL counts!!!  Their trial and sentencing is set for March 19, 2010.  That news, on top of Dad’s turn around, was the perfect platform for my mother to board a plane today for Florida for some much needed rest, relaxation and decompression.  I hope she finds what she needs.

P.P.S. I wrote this blog this morning.  Below is video following my afternoon visit today with Dad.

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(Real-time entry)

Anti-depressants: Day 30.  OMG, the results are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.  I feel like my old self again!!!  I can’t tell you what a RELIEF that is and how great it feels.  I have been so weighted down for so long that I was really starting to wonder if I was still the same person inside.  I’ve actually been concerned that maybe the sparkly, fun, energetic “me” had left for good.  And, man, I really liked that girl.

However, in the past 3 days I’m suddenly getting out of bed faster, my energy is higher, I once again feel empowered to attack projects, and I desire social interaction.  Basically, I feel re-inspired to get my life under control and I am oh so excited to re-meet myself!!

So here I am at home having revolutionary, life changing results from one lone prescription, this little magical pill…

…And there my dad is in a psychiatric ward with a current combination of SIX drugs coursing through his veins: Depakote for seizures… Lexapro for depession/anxiety… Xanax for anxiety/panic… Desyrel for panic attacks… Zyprexa for psychotic conditions… with a side dose of Ativan for anxiety/depression (as needed by injection – along with a padded cell!)!!!

Seriously?? And somehow the medical and legal communities think that THAT is MORE humane than allowing a patient with a death sentence the legal and morale right to choose their own exit strategy, which may include just ONE pill?  I don’t get this part.  I really don’t.  I don’t get why we think it’s humane to put down our pets when they’re failing and in pain, but yet we don’t allow our fellow humankind that same decency.  Shouldn’t that be everyone’s personal right to choose for themselves?  Wouldn’t it be much more peaceful if a proven-to-be-dying person was to take their last breath in comfort surrounded by their loved ones in a controlled setting?

My dad clearly expressed wanting out before the end.  I believe what stopped him is that he didn’t want to die alone.  A highly social person who thrives on camaraderie and love, I don’t believe he wanted to exit alone after such a beautiful lifetime of family and friends around him.  …And so he stayed longer… which means he eventually lost perspective of time and perspective of his limited window of opportunity for that exit plan… and here we are.  He’s lashing out, harming himself and others.  He’s in pain.  He’s suffering.  He still regularly refers to one-liners about wanting to be dead, wishing he had a gun, wanting it to be over.  But it’s now too late for him to do anything about it, and I think he’s mad.  Mad at the world for not helping him end his misery… and mad at himself for ending up exactly where he never wanted to be, helpless, alone and afraid with no end in sight.

Honestly, as a race, what are we doing to ourselves?

As my sister mentioned in her post last night, my mom and I went to see my dad in the Geriatric Psych ward at Botsford Hospital yesterday evening.  Visiting hours were only from 6:30-7:30pm, and when we arrived my dad was in solitary confinement (a blank room with a cushioned floor mat to lie down on if you want) for the 2nd time this week.  He had apparently been sitting on another woman’s bed and wouldn’t get off of it when she wanted to use the bed.  Things escalated from there.  Ultimately, he wouldn’t take his medications to help calm him down, so again, he was held down by 3 security guards while they gave him a shot to “tranquilize” him.  He was then put into the solitary room to settle down around 6:00.

They went in to get him around 7:00.  He was sleeping on a mat on the floor and he was pretty incoherent as they tried to wake him.  They finally got him into a wheel chair, sobbing, and we wheeled him to his room to spend the last half hour with him and get him shaved.  He became more responsive as we talked to him, but what he was saying did not make sense.  We shaved him with his electric razor and it seemed to make a difference for all of us.  He continued to be more alert and he liked that he was clean-shaven again.  As for my mom and me, it was nice to get rid of the grizzled old man look.  We ended our visit by singing a few songs and reciting “The Night Before Christmas”.  My dad probably got about 75% of The Night Before Christmas correct, which is great as he had not practiced it for well over a month now. (For those that don’t know, my dad always recited The Night Before Christmas by memory at all Christmas functions he attended).

When visiting hours were over, we put him in bed, said we loved him, told him to have a good sleep, and told him that Mom and Joleen would be there to see him tomorrow.  He was crying in bed.  My mom said, “Don’t cry, honey”.  When I asked him why he was crying, he said, “Because I am so happy”.  We kissed him goodnight and left.

My mom and I then sat in the lobby for 10 minutes talking.  I asked her why she always tells him not to cry or says “Don’t be so shloopy” while he’s crying.  She said because it makes her feel bad to see him crying.  We then talked about how his brain is not working right and how he therefore can’t control when he is sad, so why tell him not to cry – it is like making him wrong for how he feels.  We don’t correct him when he says something wrong, so why try and stop the crying?  Later I talked to my wife about the same topic and she said it seems like you should react like you would to a kid who gets hurt and comes to you crying.  “Give them a hug, honor them that they got hurt so that they feel heard and understood, and then they will run back off to play.”  I think that sounds like to good plan for my Dad as well.

NOTES:  My mom and I talked to the psychiatrist assigned to my dad a couple days ago.  He said that their goal with the medications is to try and level out my dad’s mood so that he doesn’t have the violent outbursts.  They are not concerned about his medical condition and there is nothing they can do to alleviate the confusion and frustration that he feels – as his brain is dying.  They are just trying to level out his mood.  He also said that eventually the Alzheimer’s will start to cause his health to fail as his brain continues to deteriorate.  He said that we would probably start to see medical complications from the Alzheimer’s within a couple of years.

My mom talked to a nurse at Botsford yesterday about whether or not they could get my dad’s behavior under control so that he could go back to Sunrise.  She said they will absolutely get it under control.  If the current medications are not working, they will keep adding more until they get there.  But she also warned my mom that this is not the end.  After a while, he will get worse and will probably have to have his meds adjusted again.  It would be back at Botsford, or maybe through Hospice.  She said Hospice is a good idea as they can also use morphine, which will make him feel really happy.

Forgive me if I sound a bit automated with this written recap.  The accompanying video clip will tell you the additional information you need to know.

Unbelievably, it was nearly a week ago that my father was transported by ambulance from Sunrise Assisted Living to Botsford Hospital’s Geriatric Psychiatric Ward for Involuntary Admittance by the State after repeated bouts of aggression and physical violence at the nursing home.  Apparently, this is a new stage he’s at in which you never know when the aggression is going to rear its ugly head.  Our family and friends have never personally witnessed one of these full-blown outbursts.

Dad was initially transported to Botsford last Tuesday afternoon and he wasn’t allowed visitors until Thursday evening when Mom and Frank Jr. went.  Mom then went back on Friday, only to be told that Dad was tranquilized and in isolation and that it had taken 3 security guards to hold him down for the tranquilizer shot.  The next day, I visited Dad at the Psychiatric Ward for my first time and I left with a heavy heart.

The few positive things I can tell you about this experience is that, first and foremost, the point of the hospital admittance is so that Dad can be strictly observed while his meds are tweaked until we discover the magical combination of drugs to return him to a calmer, happier, more peaceful state of mind.  Also, when we visit and explain to him why he is there, he agrees he should be there, he shows a heroic willingness to want to “get better”, and he can’t stand the thought that he might harm anyone (isn’t that SO much more like him?).  Lastly, I had a loving, heartfelt visit with Dad on Sunday – Valentine’s Day.  I will never forget that visit with him.  It melted my heart with love and helped make up for the sadder visit the day before.

However, it is touch and go and today Dad was in isolation again when visiting hours began. Mom and Frank Jr. were there and were allowed to help Dad out of the isolation room, but I am told that it required a wheelchair and that it took nearly half an hour until he was conscious or aware enough to look them in the eye or  respond to them in any way.  Before leaving, Mom gave Dad his first shave in a week while Frank Jr. held him up in a chair.  Mom says she is getting used to all the drama that seems to endlessly come our way… but I somehow just can’t believe it.  Sometimes I can’t believe any of this.

(Real time entry)

Okay, I have a pound of material to post but have been putting it off for weeks trying to take a break from the topic of Alzheimer’s to focus on me and my needs. However, after being sick yet AGAIN this week (for the 3rd time this month), I figure I’ll just jump online real fast to update everyone on a bunch of stuff all at once so I can get it off my chest and then everyone will be in the know.

COURT. The case of the “alleged” thieves has been transferred from Plymouth to Wayne County. The boys are still in jail awaiting a Feb 17th date with the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice to hear what the consequences will be if they choose to plead guilty. At least they’re still in jail and have had a very long month.

DAD. I’ve been visiting Dad 1-2 times a week – a combination of trying to step back a bit and simultaneously being sick. From what I can see, I would say that he has good hours and bad hours, no longer consistently good and bad DAYS. I’m not sure there is any method to the madness over there.

After yet another aggressive outburst today from my dad toward another resident (he was calling a woman derogatory names and trying to push her off a couch), the Sunrise Assisted Living psychiatrist made the professional call to send Dad to Botsford Hospital’s Geriatric Psychiatric Ward for 5-7 days of strict observation, monitoring and prescription tweaking. A bed wasn’t scheduled to be open at Botsford until tomorrow, but after yet another outburst this afternoon, the police were summoned to Sunrise. After Dad responded disrespectfully to them, an ambulance transported Dad earlier than planned to Botsford for what is called Involuntary Admittance by the State. Last I heard, he was going to be kept in the ER until a bed opened in the ward.

I can’t even IMAGINE what he is going through. When he was in the hospital for seizures 1.5 years ago he was overwhelmed, scared and utterly confused. My poor, poor Dad…

Of course, Mom and I were horrified to hear this news today and then distraught when we were informed that Dad will only be able to have very limited visitors for ONE hour a day. God help him. He is going to be all alone on this journey.

The upside to all of this is that apparently this course of action happens to approximately 30% of Sunrise’s Alzheimer’s patients (based on the 3rd party information I received today) and there can be amazingly positive results that emerge from the ultimate experience. Hopefully, Dad will emerge transformed, calm and peaceful. This is at least what we pray for him everyday. It seems to be the only thing we can really do.