Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Mild Panic

Imagine if this was you: You speak and the words don't make sense, You hallucinate and see things that aren't there, You become obsessed with the small things in life, You can't stand up straight, You think that every stranger you see is an old friend. It's tough to imagine. The only reason I can imagine it is because this is the world my Dad lives in...

I experienced some mild panic today after being with Dad for only five minutes. He was hunched over his shoe putting it back on for the tenth time this morning. The nurse said he had been taking them off and putting them back on for about an hour. She couldn't get him to stop.

When he saw me, he started talking. It was like a stream of words spilling out of his mouth and he didn't stop for 20-30 seconds. Not one thing made sense. Usually he searches for a word that he can't remember and we can sometimes guess what he is trying to say. A lot of times he doesn't make much sense, but there are bits and pieces that do. Today was completely different. It was as if he was possessed and the words kept spilling out of his mouth making no sense at all. Stuff like, "Your resident. life. D-d-d-d-d yes. you and they. over all that. B-b-b-b- She do probably. oh yeah, it and....." it was non-stop for 30 seconds. I just sat there staring at him with my mouth open. It was one of the weirdest things I've experienced with Dad. (And there have been a lot of weird things.) Honestly, he reminded me of a homeless person on the street who is so messed up from drugs that they mutter and talk and none of it makes sense.

I just agreed with him and tried to get him to stand. He could barely stand up and said that his back was broke. He had been in that hunched position for an hour and now was so stiff that it looked like his body was going to give out. I'm thinking... what if there is something really wrong with Dad, or maybe he had a mild stroke. It was like he was going off the deep end mentally and his body was crumbling beneath him. Finally I got him out the door but then he bent down to pick up something that wasn't even there. He was grabbing at thin air because he can apparently see something that I can't.

In the car we both felt better because I put on Peggy Lee and let Dad get lost in the songs. This is where my mild panic set in. I started thinking that the reality of this disease changes every day. Megan and I think we've accepted that this is the way things are, but then it gets worse and you have to accept things all over again.
It's not just about losing the memories and being confused about what day it is. This disease eventually starts the body on a road to deterioration. It's tough to see him having difficulty standing straight, walking, and having no coordination. And mentally? Well, we're pretty used to Dad being a little wacko, but are we really ready for Dad to fall off the deep end and basically act like a crazy person? Do we have to accept that? And what if something really is wrong with him? It just amazes me how much the dementia has progressed since March and especially since my wedding a year ago. He looked so healthy back then.

The music started to bring him back into reality a bit more. Music is medicine to him. Every time things are tough, I turn it on. His moods changes instantly and he breaks out of whatever fog he may be in. He was still acting strange, but it wasn't as scary as before.

We get to the VA in Santa Fe Springs so that the doctor can take his blood and run some tests. (we go back on Monday to assess everything and talk to the doctor.) Dad is already fixating on all the people in the waiting room. I know that he thinks he knows most of the people and he wants to go up and talk to them. Of course it would freak anyone out since nothing he says makes sense. I manage to steer him to the front desk and then Dad lets out the loudest fart! Oh my God. Dad! He says, "What. A duck fell off a bench. Dirty wench." Um, whatever that means. How weird is it that he can still rhyme words but in other instances barely be able to speak English?

While I check Dad in, another patient comes up to sign in and Dad turns to him, shakes his hand, and starts talking to him. Oh jeez. It's really embarrassing. Everyone in the waiting room is staring at us and it's so quiet in there. I have to lead Dad to a seat and hope that he isn't going to tell another stranger how he knows them. I shouldn't really be embarrassed since we're the ones dealing with his dementia and Dad can't help the way he acts. But, it's still embarrassing. I know how to react when Dad acts strange, but it makes other people a little uncomfortable and they probably think, "Why is this crazy man talking to me?"

Later, when we're leaving the Doctor's office, Dad is confused about where to go and I help lead him to the door. Once again all eyes are on us in the waiting room. Then he turns to all the people in the waiting room and says, "I got the best girl." They all genuinely laugh and smile. I guess that wasn't so embarrassing.

I'm anxious to see the Doctor on monday. Dad hasn't had lab tests done in a very long time and we just want to make sure everything is all right. He also still has the rash, so hopefully the doctor can give us more insight on that as well.

Below is a video of Dad singing Peggy Lee.