PMI Sunday Reader: Happy Father’s Day, Dad
Introducing the PMI Sunday Reader, where we take a break from our usual multifamily and rental housing reporting and present stories from a more personal perspective.
My dad has Alzheimer’s, and he knows it. That’s one of the worst things about it, sharing his frustration when he tries to remember what happened earlier in the day. He’ll recall a portion of an event, and then throw up his hands and say, “You know, I have Alzheimer’s. I can’t remember anything.”
Some days his mind is clear and he recalls things in the past. Other days are difficult. Mom can’t help because she has dementia, too.
It’s tough for me, my brother and our wives to watch, and even more difficult to provide the kind of assistance required. We’re handling our parents’ fiduciary details but a year ago had to involve the assisted living and memory care industries. We’ve learned a lot, and it’s from a customer perspective rather than as a blogger doing research.
Witnessing the Onset of Alzheimer’s
We first realized there were issues six years ago on a cruise. More than once our parents were late to dinner; one evening when they didn’t show, my brother found them inside their cabin. Dad was flustered and mom crying. “We can’t find the dining room,” he said, shaking his head. The narrow hallways and doors along the ship corridors must have seemed like the repetitive background scene of early cartoons. They were in a maze, not on a pleasure boat.
Over the next few years, we witnessed a gradual decline. They didn’t leave the house much, even though dad still worked his welding supplies business. They covered their memory issues well, but on a couple of occasions, mom tattled on dad.
“Did you hear what your father did today?” she’d ask. “He got lost going to Fort Worth.”
Dad never used to get lost. He traveled for years peddling welding supplies and knew every road from Texas to Missouri. A map was used only when absolutely necessary. On family trips we never doubted that we would get there and “make good time.” Dad owned the road.
When he had a hard time finding his way back from a customer, he blamed the construction —understandable, as Fort Worth-Dallas has been a tangled web of road building and detours for decades. But those eyes that once struck fear in his sons when we were out of line told a different story.
Soon we had greater concerns. Neither parent could remember medication schedules, even though dad tried to help mom with hers. He swore they took their pills, but my brother and I counted when they weren’t looking. The dosages rarely added up. We tried pillboxes, but that was confusing and aggravated dad.
At one point, mom took a month’s supply of blood pressure medicine in 10 days.
Not only were our parents suffering mentally, but also physically they had grown frail. A steady diet of hot dogs and fast food in the evening left them malnourished. Both lost weight.
Our attempts to convince them to downsize were futile. The house was deteriorating and dad could no longer maintain the pool and the new pump system. No way would we pry them from the home they had lived in since moving from Kansas City in 1973. Mom wouldn’t have it, dad said.
Making the Move(s)
We continued to hint that they sell the house, hoping for a breakthrough. Unfortunately, that leap forward was a step back when my mother fell one night in the bedroom. At the emergency room she couldn’t remember why her wrist was swollen. Neither could dad.
The time had come to move. Fortunately, we (mostly my dear wife) had already done some homework and had narrowed our choices. We dreaded the inevitable big talk, but one day dad mentioned that home was too much to handle and they should get a “condo.” We were elated.
Within 72 hours, we signed a lease and prepared to move our parents into a shiny new progressive memory care facility. Dad, a born ham, was an immediate hit with the staff and the few residents in Neighborhood One. Mom seemed to accept her new home.
We assumed a lot of things but soon discovered holes in the processes. Initially, we monitored the prescriptions and checked regularly with staff for refills. One time, I was told a prescription that should have been due for a refill still had a week remaining. Turns out the med tech didn’t give my mother her blood pressure pills for six days. Management said mistakes will happen with medications, considering the volume of prescriptions.
We started looking for another facility.
The folks are now in assisted living – without the specific memory treatment but a better operation – and they seem happier. At the first stop, they observed far more serious problems in the residents, which crushed their self-esteem. Not now – dad won the Memorial Day weekend billiards tournament!
The Perfect Gift for Father’s Day
All of this saddens and stresses family members who watched a stoic father and resilient mother care for them over the years. We never thought we’d be in this position, but we’re part of a growing statistic. We feel vulnerable.
Our confidence in the care facility’s safeguarding and nurturing our parents is paramount. It’s also important that our folks age with dignity and retain as much independence as possible. Fortunately, the new place is stepping up on both.
Dad won’t remember that today is Father’s Day, and neither will mom. We won’t give him a tie or fishing reel like in the past. But we’ll take comfort in knowing that a helping hand in the assisted living community can help cover what we cannot. That’s a pretty good gift.
Happy Father’s Day, dad. Proud of you for that corner ball in the side pocket.
(Image Source: Shutterstock)