Monday, November 28, 2011


So, my newly insomniac Dad was pacing the hallways at Valley View Gardens the other night.  
The staff handled it the wrong way as usual.  I got a phone call at 3:50 AM (which I did not answer).

The voicemail I listened to the next morning stated that Dad was aggressive and running up and down the hallways.  The staff member on hand was not authorized to administer his anti-anxiety medicine, so they wanted me to come pick him up and take him to the hospital.  Are you kidding me?

I braced myself with a few sips of coffee at 8:30 AM and called them back just to be told that he had calmed down and was fine at the moment. 

Fast forward to 3 hours later when the Director of Nursing called me to discuss the incident.  She basically started the conversation by asking me to take him to the doctor the next day to increase his medication.  As usual I am frustrated by this request because I have NEVER taken my Dad to the doctor this many times in a 3 month period just to be told that there is no medication that will fix his behavioral problems... BUT Valley View insists that I take him after every incident.  It is a waste of time.  I told her no.

Well, that wasn't the response that she wanted.  So instead she began telling me how he was "uncontrollable", "aggressive", "a danger to the other residents" and that they actually called the Police in the middle of the night because they couldn't handle him.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  The staff called the police on an Alzheimer's patient who was probably feeling cornered and scared because they were chasing after him and yelling his name over and over again!!!!!!!???????  What is wrong with you? 

I kind of snapped at this point in the conversation and was not very pleasant for the rest of the phone call.  Word to the wise:  Don't piss off a 6 1/2 month pregnant woman.  My protective instincts kicked in and I felt like a Mother Hen to Dad.  I know he is a handful... he doesn't sleep the entire night through, he masturbates in front of other residents, and he pees wherever he wants to, BUT despite all this crazy behavior, he has enough instincts left to feel frightened and in turn become aggressive when someone isn't approaching him in the proper way.  Their job is to help my Dad feel safe and happy in a friendly environment.  Well, it's safe to say they've failed because it's pretty obvious after numerous incidents and 4 months of living there, he still does not like or trust any of the staff at Valley View Gardens. 

I woke up this morning with no more fight left in me.  I was basically just tired of the whole thing.  So, when I walked in to the community director's office, he was probably surprised to see me very calm and unemotional.  (He was warned by the staff that I was upset and angry the day before over the phone.)  I was, however, very clear about what they did wrong and why I was upset.  For the most part, he agreed that things weren't handled properly and I actually got my first apology from Valley View Gardens.  He was sorry for what they put me through... I thought, who cares about me.  What about what you put my Dad through in the middle of the night?

The conversation that followed was basically the same conversation we had the month before and the month before that.  The staff isn't properly trained to deal with Dad's behaviors and they have not followed the tips that we have told them will work:  approach him with a smile, greet him by name, ask for his "help" in doing something, become his friend, make eye contact, DO NOT tell him what to do, DO NOT tell him no... the list goes on.   The nurses always want to turn to medication to solve every problem, when I think maybe they should start trying out different tactics and diversions that could possibly help his erratic behaviors.  They need to realize that most of these situations escalate into incidents because their tactics make him more upset.  And any idiot can figure out that you shouldn't chase an upset Alzheimer's patient up and down hallways in the middle of the night. 

Anyway, I'm sure my meeting won't change anything.  And, when I visited Dad afterward, he was happy as a clam devouring his lunch.  He was just so sweet.  Why does Jekyll have to turn into Hyde?


  1. Kristen, I have so much respect and admiration for you. What you do for your Dad and the obstacles you face on a constant basis is extraordinary. Your Dad is so blessed to have you, you're a very special girl. xoxoxo

  2. This was/is happening to me and my mom. The nursing home she was in has sent her twice to a geriatric psychiatric ward twice. This past weekend I had to find my mom a new nursing home. Thank you for making me not feel alone.

  3. Thank you for sharing this story and I really hope that you will continue to share these moments. While these experiences are never pleasant, they are SO important because people need to understand just how ill-equipped these facilities (and staff) are in terms of dealing with the various stages of Alzheimer's and Demetia patients. My dad has AD and experienced several of these episodes when he was in that stage of the disease.

    Since we don't really know what's going on inside their heads when this happens, it's understandable that care facilities don't always know the best way to respond. However, with the increasing numbers of people being diagnosed with this disease, it's simply inexcusable and irresponsible of these companies to continue responding in this way if they are to be labeled "qualified care facilities".

    Again, thanks for sharing this moment and good on ya for finding the humor and "good" moments on your journey with your father. Ultimately it will be these collective stories that will help burn away the stigma of this horrendous disease and get people talking more openly about how to best move forward with proper care and, most importantly, a cure.

  4. Thank you for your comments! Susan... I would love to talk to you more about the geriatric psych ward because they have been wanting my Dad to do that for a long time now. I've told them we don't have any extra money for something like that... and I'm worried about what it will do him.
    I'm sorry to hear about your Mom's experience.

  5. Kristen! I LOVE the way you write. This is such a great post. Thank you for continuing to share your journey. Wishing the best for both your dad and the rest of your family and I hope he starts to feel more comfortable at Valley View. To echo Zach, while this is an incredibly frustrating disease, care facilities need to start understanding alternative ways of treatment (besides rushing to the meds the minute anything goes wrong). Keep voicing that concern... they will hear you! Your dad is incredibly lucky to have you.

  6. You are doing a good job! This is a tough battle we fight. Take care.

    Living in the Shadow of Alzheimers

  7. Kristen- I would definitely warn you against letting someone talk you into your dad going to a psych ward. My grandma was overmedicated (I figured out later) with pain medicine for her chronic back problems and was having psychiatric reactions. The nursing home staff recommended that I allow her to be sent to a psychiatric hospital and it was a horrible decision. Maybe you guys have one that specializes in geriatrics and that would have a better outcome but this in this one she was with the general population and I was truly worried for her health and safety. Luckily the psychiatrists there were smart enough to realize that it was not the right place for her and admitted her into the regular hospital where she basically detoxed off of the pain meds. Since then I only let an outside psychiatrist and an outside pain management specialist make recommendations for her on those issues. Stay strong, trust your instincts and keep advocating for him!

  8. Thanks Yvonne... your story sounded scary... ugh! Luckily it turned out okay for your Grandma...

  9. Don't know why I didn't think of it before but my good friend from high school is a Geriatric Psychiatrist for the VA in Long Beach. I"m sure you are an expert at navigating the system by now but if you ever want me to put you in touch with her and see if she can be of any help, let me know.

  10. Yvonne, wow. I will keep that in mind... :) Thx

  11. This story sounds all to familiar to me. A previous facility we had Pops in made the same phone calls to me many times. We have since moved him to a much more "skilled" facility and things have been so much better. In fact, he had now been weaned off all of his anti-psych drugs. I'm happy to say he has done wonderful too! He has started feeding himself again after not being able to pick up a fork for a year. It is amazing.
    I enjoying reading your blog. I'm a daughter caring for my Dad as well. Nice to know I'm not alone. Hang in there :)