April 30, 2012
When it’s maelstrom season in your Alzheimer’s world, you might not have much time or appetite for keeping the Captain’s log. Such has been my stormy situation this Spring. I mentioned in my last post that circumstances had funneled us into moving Jeff into a nearby assisted living unit. Those circumstances, it turns out, were but the edge of the storm system.
Sometimes you just don’t understand what’s happening until you can look at it in the rear-view mirror, and then you say, “oh yeah…I see where this was going.” Take one part delusion, one part agitation, and one part paranoia, and you have mixed yourself a volatile concoction called Alzheimer’s aggression. It’s a powerful little potion which can turn a lifelong gentle soul into someone who would threaten to put furniture through the window of his ALF, or perceive everyone in view, wife included, as the enemy.
And so it happened that one otherwise fine morning, a few weeks ago, Jeff left the ALF under the escort of a posse of paramedics. After a useless weekend at a local “regular” hospital, I pulled the strings needed to get him checked into a Baltimore area geriatric-psych unit for a longer-term medication adjustment.
After three eruptions of “behavior,” I was confident that the medical professionals in charge at least now had a good idea what they were dealing with. We’ve just crossed the three week mark at his current digs. It is difficult to trust the process while your loved one’s metabolism is learning how to deal with drugs that ease anxiety and paranoia. Fall-down dopiness may not always precede a return to something resembling calm “normalcy,” but it did in our case. I have passed many days despairing that there might exist a compromise between raging bull and near-catatonic. Over the past three days, the evidence has gradually begun to suggest that maybe there is.
Yesterday, when I got to the hospital at my typical late morning time, he seemed so bright and chipper that I almost wondered why we weren’t back to old normal and living at home. Almost. It was bit of an illusion, easily dashed when we took a stroll down the corridor and I noted that he still needed help turning left, needed help aiming for a chair, could not get a spoon loaded with lunch (let alone aim for his mouth,) and refused to use the toilet because of “those construction workers” looking in the window. (Note to all dementia units: try not to have large mirrors in the bathroom or anywhere else. I had no idea I look so much like a construction worker.)
According to his psychiatrist, we may now be on the path to control. Also according to her, control now is no guarantee of control later. And so, when it is decreed by both the psychiatrist and the staff at his ALF that I may do so, I will take Jeff back and cross my fingers that he can exist there in relative peace and harmony. But it may be tough to ever lose the niggling fear that craziness may again erupt.
Meanwhile, I will imagine an alternative–a place of tender loving care, where crack shots with pea shooters stand ready to deliver a kindly and necessary dose of fast-acting tranquilizer when and if the need arises.