Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Fishing Trip

Today was the much anticipated fishing trip that Dad participates in every year (Dad has gone on 4 of them every summer for the past 12-15 years). There was no way he could have gone without Me or Megan there to help him, so that resulted in me being with Dad for 26 hours straight. (Megan was going to go next time but now we're pretty sure there won't be a next time.)

We started off watching the Laker's game on thursday. Wearing his 25 year old purple corduroy Laker's hat, he sat glued to the TV and was ecstatic. He stayed the night at my house since we had to get up so early the next morning. I never sleep well when he is here because I keep listening for him in the middle of the night and sure enough, at 4 am I heard him get up and I helped him get to the bathroom... he was extremely confused.

We drove down to Oceanside the next morning and it was great to see Dad in a familiar setting with people who are familiar to him. One of his best friends since Middle School, Mike O'Rourke, set the whole trip up and had a lot of his family with him. Dad was pinching the kids' cheeks and saying hi to everybody -- he was especially excited to see Captain Joe and the crew on the boat. Everyone accommodated Dad really well throughout the entire day, we both caught a good amount of fish, and the weather was great. (The picture above is with The Captain after Dad caught a Calico Bass.)

Ok, so the day doesn't sound completely disastrous but being with him for that long almost sent me over the edge. My frustration was probably greater than usual because this whole week has been bad for him and I was just tired and worn out from it. He can't do anything by himself anymore. I even have to make sure he is facing the toilet when he pees. Half way through the day, I realized that this fishing trip would be perfect if it were only half a day long -- and we still had four hours left. Dad was starting to get confused and began to retreat inside himself a little. I'm not going to give a play-by-play of the day (like I did to Megan and my Mom) but let me just say that it was like teaching a blind man to fish or better yet teaching someone to fish who doesn't understand English. He seems like he never sees what you are pointing at or what you are trying to hand him, but then I realized that he doesn't comprehend what it is that you are telling him. Think of how many things I probably asked him to do in the last 26 hours, "Take your fishing pole." "Let's sit down." "Look at that Halibut." Each simple task was overwhelming and confusing to him. He usually just stands there with a blank look on his face.

Dad was especially confused about casting out his line and we did it for him most of the day. He did it really well a couple of times, but then one time, instead of casting the line into the water, he cast it across the boat the opposite way! Luckily we didn't slap anyone in the head with the anchovy or hook anyone who was standing over there, but that's when I realized he was kind of dangerous.

I kept digging deeper and deeper to find the patience I needed and I ran out a couple of times. By the end of the day there was none left. I felt hopeless and annoyed, afraid of snapping at him, so I just tried to keep my mouth shut. There have been so many bad days lately that I have almost given up on Dad having a good day again, but I have to remember that even though Megan and I are suffering through his behavior, Dad is suffering too.

In Dad's mind, he if fine. He wants a job and can't understand why he is locked up in a place with people so much older than him. He begs and pleads with us to get him out of there. It's heart-breaking. Reality is that he needs every bit of help. He needs locked exits. Whittier place is so nice and he is lucky to be there. They have live entertainment almost every week, they take bus rides around town, they play bowling in the middle of the hallways, and he can garden all he wants!

The staff at Whittier or any place with a Dementia ward are amazing. I can't give enough praise for the hard work they do for people like my Dad. I only spent 26 hours with him, but they do this every day. Even more difficult is someone like my Mom's next door neighbor who is taking care of his wife 24/7 who has severe Alzheimer's. He will call my Mom and say, "Paula, I need you for moral support. Now." And she will go running over there. The frustration comes fast and hard. It's a tough thing to balance. People say this disease is awful and we all know it, but when you are going through it with a family member, it's much more awful than you ever thought it would be.

The only "good" thing that I realized today is that Dad does seem to be getting worse. His coordination is very fragile and he doesn't move as fast as he used to. I'm hoping this will start inhibiting his escapes and that we will start getting less resistance from him.

Then again, when I took him back to Whittier place after fishing, he started mumbling, "Got to get the hell out of this place and get me a job" and "I'm locked up in the place again". Great. The day isn't over yet. A new resident started shrieking down the hall about needing help, and Dad yelled at a lady who was lurking in her doorway. He was very upset to be back there. I was not surprised when Whittier called me on my way home to say that Dad was anxious. He told me, "just wanted to tell you that I am getting out of here". (I even thought, "fine, go, I don't care"). With absolutely no patience left, I could barely think of anything to say. I got him to agree to wait until the next morning and we'll talk about it then.

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