Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New HOME for Dad

Today is New Year's Eve and Dad has made it through another year in this life.  Half of his past year was spent in the Geriatric Psych Ward at the West Los Angeles VA Hospital, but as of a few days ago, Dad is now in a skilled nursing facility called Windsor Gardens Convalescent Center in North Long Beach.  3 miles from my house.

Many hiccups along the way prevented him from moving to a home sooner.  When I last wrote, we had found a place a couple months ago that would take Dad as long as he wasn't on anti-psychotic drugs.  The Psych Ward agreed to wean him off the meds to test his reaction, and as we can all guess, that didn't go well.  The aggression was back within days... he scratched a nurse in the face, shoved another nurse, and it took three staff members to bathe him one night because he was being so uncooperative.  Soon he was back on Zyprexa and doing much better, but now we had to look at another housing option.  

In the meantime, Dad's MediCal case worker called to say that his application was denied because he was already being taken care of by a government facility (the VA), so he didn't qualify for Long Term MediCal.  I understand the logic here, but it seems weird that they would deny MediCal to patients who are in a government hospital.  The hospital clearly isn't a long term solution or a home.  We eventually figured out that we would have to move Dad to a new home, and then immediately re-apply with his new address.

The Social Workers looked into more homes on their contracted list, but finally asked if they could start looking at options outside their list and jurisdiction.  I signed a release of information form, and within a week (two days after Christmas), I got a call saying they found a home and could discharge Dad that very day.  That was fast.  

I checked out the home an hour later.  It's clean, bright, and the staff seems attentive.  I gave the go-ahead to discharge Dad.  As far as payment goes, Dad's Medicare Part A will pay up to 90 days in a skilled nursing facility until the MediCal kicks in.  There are co-pays after the 20th day, but we will be reimbursed by MediCal retroactively.

Our favorite part was filling out the MediCal application again.  Ugh.  But it's in the mail, so now I can go celebrate the end of 2013 tonight.  Happy New Year to you all.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Rules of Skilled Nursing

So, I was worried about having to learn about MediCal now that Dad will be moving to a nursing facility.  What I should have been focusing on was the difference between Assisted Living/Alzheimer's homes vs. a Skilled Nursing Facility.  There are a lot more rules in these types of facilities...

For example, we just recently found out that Dad is not allowed to be on an anti-psychotic drug.  Since these drugs are really meant for patients with mental disorders like Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder, the skilled nursing homes cannot administer these drugs to Alzheimer's patients.  I don't know for sure if the problem is with anti-psychotic drugs or with drugs that have the federal black box warning on them, but it's basically the same thing.  (I understand the origin of these rules... the government is trying to stop the over-medicating of patients in nursing homes, which is a good thing.  But what about when someone really needs the drug?)

So our problem is that Dad is on Olanzapine (Zyprexa) which seems to be curbing his aggression really well.  The skilled nursing home that I toured the other day said they would just take him off the drug.  But, again... we have a problem.  Patients on these drugs need to be slowly weaned off in a controlled environment and then once that happens, doesn't that mean Dad would just become aggressive again?  And I think we know what will happen next.  He will be kicked out of the Nursing Home because they won't be able to handle him.

When I shared my revelations with the Doctor and Social Worker at the VA, they seemed surprised.  Needless to say, Dad isn't moving anywhere until we can get the medication figured out.  And the Social Worker assured me that if he was kicked out of the new home that they would just return him back to the psych ward.  So much flip-flopping around.  Poor Dad.

The only good news is, I really liked the home that I toured.  It's called Del Rio in the city of Bell Gardens and the facility has big outdoor spaces, wide hallways, and a clean appearance.  I kind of like that it backs up to the LA River too.  It seems appropriate since Dad is a genuine Angeleno.

We Walk the Walk

Long Beach's 3rd annual 'Walk to End Alzheimer's' was a huge success.  As the co-chair for the walk, I can announce that the walk exceeded all it's goals, attendance grew enormously, and we even had Congressman Alan Lowenthal share a few words about his dedication to this cause. 

On a personal note, our team surpassed our goal from last year and ended up raising $6165.00!!!  Even more amazing is that our team consisted of 20 people this year!  Thank you to everyone who came out to walk with us and support this important cause.  I can't tell you how much it means to my family.  I actually stood at the finish line with tears in my eyes as I watched all the walkers because I could feel how blessed we are to have the support and love of our friends and family.

Below is a picture of our wonderful team... I don't think we got a picture with all 20 of us, but this will do.  Oh, and a picture of me with the Congressman. 




Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Closure

My news today isn't good, but it's also not shocking.  My Mom and I had a meeting yesterday at the VA home to fight for my Dad's place in the home.  In my opinion, the Doctor's mind was already made up and there was nothing we could have said or done to change it.  He will not be returning to the VA home that I once called his 'final resting place'. 

I'm already exhausted when I think of describing every little nuance of the hour long meeting yesterday, so I will just touch on the key points.  The doctor stated that my Dad's aggression hasn't diminished and that he is still a threat to others.  I have been getting almost the exact opposite report from the Psych Unit the last 6 weeks.  Dad practically sleeps half the day now, he can't walk, and he is very calm and relaxed.  So, who is telling the truth?  Even worse though, the Doctor said that their particular Alzheimer's facility is not equipped to handle residents like my Dad.  He is too aggressive, too advanced in the disease, too difficult to manage... basically he has advanced Alzheimer's.  What were they expecting?  What will happen to all the other residents when they reach that point?  Will they get removed from the home as well?  You can't call yourselves an Alzheimer's facility if you only want the timid, old, and moderate-stage patients.  It doesn't work that way with this disease.  It's extremely unpredictable and can take a turn to looney-toon town with the drop of a hat.  Plus, there is currently no way to prevent, slow, or cure Alzheimer's.  Therefore, none of these patients are getting better... they are all getting worse. 

Apparently they have discharged 7-8 other patients in addition to my Dad.

Pathetic.  Pathetic.  Pathetic.
Pathetic excuses.  Pathetic attempt at proper care for an Alzheimer's patient.  Pathetic thing to do to a veteran.

So, we said our peace and we have some closure.  Not much closure, but enough so we can move on to tackle the new and unknown.  Mom and I finished Dad's Medi-Cal application last night and I just dropped it in the mail.  The VA will graciously help place my Dad in a 'VA approved' skilled nursing facility and will pay for the first 30 days until Medi-Cal kicks in to supplement Dad's monthly housing payments. 

Time to start touring homes again.






 

Monday, September 30, 2013

It's Unfair!

I sit here with salty tear stains on my cheeks and I just want to scream.  I know life isn't fair and I know life never really gave my Dad a break, but sometimes I just want to scream, "It isn't FAIR!"

A few weeks ago, the staff at the Psych Ward started talking to us about his discharge.  It was pretty evident that the VA home was not going to re-accept him, and I was pretty calm about it.  (We always knew that was a strong possibility.)  My mom on the other hand was fuming over the phone every time we talked about it.  I honestly felt overwhelmed... I didn't have the time or energy to fight this.  It takes time to drive to West LA... and babysitters cost money... and getting the right person on the phone is almost impossible... and when I do talk to the right person, I never get a straight answer... and let's not forget that I have my own life!

What imploded my attitude of 'calm acceptance' was the arrival of Dad's MediCal application.  Since he has no money, Dad will need to apply for MediCal and that will pay for his new home.  I spent the last 3-4 years getting to know the ins and outs of the VA system.  We waited 2 1/2 years to get Dad in the VA home.  We planned and we were organized, and now we have to start all over with a new system I know nothing about.

Well, Mom, now both of us are fuming (or crying and screaming). 

Talking this morning, we feel that we need to exhaust every resource to keep him in the VA home. We don't feel comfortable with anything less.  I just got off the phone with two VA Social Workers.  I managed to keep it together when I spoke to the Social Worker from the home, and he was receptive to having the Doctor look back over Dad's file now that he seems to be less aggressive.  The second Social Worker basically just listened to my concerns and then told me to fill out the MediCal form asap.  That's when I started crying on the phone.  I really tried to keep it together, but no such luck.

The bottom line is this:  Dad has Alzheimer's.  All of his behavioral issues and motor functions are affected by Alzheimer's.  So, for the VA ALZHEIMER'S home to kick Dad out because he is aggressive or because he lost the ability to walk and has a restraint around his stomach keeping him from falling out of his chair -- is UNFAIR.  It's all a part of Alzheimer's.  And that is why we are fuming.

On another note, we are once again participating in The Long Beach Walk to End Alzheimer's.  And team "UpsidetoDementia" is fired up!  Click on the link to learn more, to register, or to donate to end this disease!  Kristen's Walk Page

Friday, August 23, 2013

Rudolph

Upon visiting my Dad yesterday, I noticed that his nose was unusually red and large.  When I called the nurse over, she said in a nonchalant manner, "Oh yeah, I just noticed that today".  Okay, and... ?

After explaining my concern, she promptly paged the doctor to come take a look at it.  Since Dad has had three Staph infections in the past year, I am worried that although the nose may seem like a strange place to get one, that may be what it is.  (I actually know someone that had a staph infection in his nose and it wasn't pretty).  I left before the Doctor arrived, so I'm sure they will call me if it's anything serious, but I couldn't help humming Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as I got in my car to leave.

Dad has now been in the Psych Ward for 5 1/2 weeks and it's been 6 whole weeks since he was admitted to the hospital.  I visit him twice a week, and Megan was able to see him while she was here last week visiting.  He still isn't walking, but he's much more stable on the medicine.  He is completely off the Depakote and is only taking Olanzapine.  There have been a couple incidents of aggression or agitation (he ripped a nurse's uniform pocket the other day when she was trying to help him) but for the most part, he has calmed down quite a bit.

As far as his future goes, I have no idea what will happen.  For now, he's in the Psych Ward and they aren't rushing him out of there.  He may have to go to a skilled nursing facility after, or he could be admitted back into the Veterans home.  It changes every day, so I'm not worrying about it until they tell me it's time for his discharge. 


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Upside to Scabies

Turns out there is an upside to Dad having Scabies (for the 10th time!).  It's such a contagious little creeper, that Dad has been assigned his own room at the Psych Ward to quarantine him from the other patients while he finishes the scabies treatment.  Now how about that?!

My Mom and I visited him yesterday and he was peacefully taking a post-lunch nap in his little bed next to his large window in his private room.  Both of his hands were resting on his chest and he was breathing deeply.  He was peaceful.  It feels good to say that.  A welcomed and much appreciated word after the last few weeks. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Emotions Run High

The past few weeks, I find that I am either on the verge of tears when I think of Dad or just feeling depressed about him.  I actually went an entire week without crying, but then last night after mexican food and some tequila, the tears came again.  Note to self... tequila may not be the best medicine.  Anyway....

Dad's still in the Geriatric Psych Ward.  It's been three weeks.  And he still isn't walking. 

When I visited him the first week he was there, I finally felt optimistic that he could be diluted of some of those heavy medications and return to a more regular state.  He already seemed so focused and his personality was still there.  But, with every visit since then, he just seems to be declining... but not in an Alzheimer's way of declining, in a medicated way.  Yesterday he was twitching, mumbling and grunting, barely able to focus on me, and extremely drowsy. 

When I tell the staff that just three weeks ago Dad was walking and talking (or at least forming words if not sentences), dancing to music, and was able to hold a fork and feed himself... I feel like they don't believe me.  Since they didn't know my Dad before he was admitted in the psych ward, how would they know what his normal state is?  Of course they wouldn't believe that the man confined to a chair that I visited yesterday would be capable of all those actions.

On the other hand, I understand that we are trying to curb his aggression and I am so thankful that I am not the sole person in charge of his care.  (The VA accepted him as their responsibility ever since he moved into the VA home.)  But, let's say that my Dad lives another year, should he be condemned to this quality of life?  I mean, he really has no quality of life right now, but I think it's because of the meds not the disease at the moment.  Trust me, I know the reality of this disease.  I know that Dad will eventually forget how to walk, how to swallow, and he will lose his reflexes making the probability of choking on food a very real one.  He will eventually stop eating.  Many people believe that you can't die of Alzheimer's, you just die with Alzheimer's.  But my Dad is dying of Alzheimer's.  And it's a pretty shitty way of leaving this earth.  So, adding the medications to this already horrible disease frustrates me. 

(The doctor did inform us that she is trying to wean him off of the Depakote over the next few days to see if he will be able to walk again.)

We were also told that if Dad cannot regain the power to walk again, he will not be accepted back into the home.  They only want ambulatory patients.  So, the VA would help find him a skilled nursing facility that accepts MediCal near Long Beach where I live.  Most of these places (especially in Long Beach) are utterly depressing with four beds to a room and dark, dirty corridors.  Can things get any better for us and Dad?  Ugh.

The only positive thing to share right now is that we are going to start Dad on a Palliative Care plan.  We found his Advanced Directive where he stated he didn't want any life saving measures, and a Palliative Care Plan will help us achieve his wishes.  It focuses on providing relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress for patients with serious illnesses but will not prolong his life in any way.  A good example would be if he was to contract Pneumonia, we would then treat the pain and symptoms, but not the infection.  The Doctor thinks he is in some of the last stages of Alzheimer's.  She is giving us a very loose timeline of about a year.

So, with all this information swirling around in my head, I'm sure you can understand why emotions are running high. 

Also, in the past few weeks, we have been receiving so much support from readers and family and friends who relate to our story and are battling the same type of situations with their loved ones.  We so appreciate you reaching out.  It's very comforting to know we're not the only ones.

Monday, July 22, 2013

#psychward


As you can guess from my title, Dad is now in the Psych Ward at the West Los Angeles VA hospital.  (This title is for Megan because she made fun of me for hashtagging psych ward (#) when I posted a picture.  I had to add a bit of reality to his great smile though.  We had a good laugh about it.)  Anyway, it's actually a geriatric psych so many of the patients have some form of dementia or Alzheimer's and the doctors are very experienced in this field.  It's so reassuring knowing that he is in good hands.

A week ago I was pretty devastated seeing Dad tied to the bed in his drug-induced state, but the next day I woke up ready to fight (I just needed that one day of mourning).  I wrote a strongly worded email to the social worker at the home who has always responded promptly.  I explained how upset I was to see Dad in this state, how I felt the home dumped him in General Medicine and made him sit in a bed for 4 days in a doped -up stupor tied to the bed, and most of all, how upset I was that no one at the home had contacted me.  

The Social Worker called me fifteen minutes later.  He didn't have answers for most of my questions, but he did assure me that they are not kicking Dad out of the home.  That is not their intention at all.  Their protocol at this point is to re-evaluate my Dad when he is ready to be discharged from the psych ward to make sure he is still a good fit with the home.  So, we're not out of the woods yet, but I am happy to say no one is giving up on my Dad... for now.

And that definitely applies to his Doctor at the psych ward.  She spends so much time talking to me, answering my questions, asking me questions.  She told me "We're in no hurry to get him out of here.  We want to make sure he is stable and that his medicine is correct so that when he returns to the home, he will not fail."

When I visited him last Thursday he was smiling, speaking words and small sentences, and he even made a funny face once or twice.  They're giving him Depakote and Olanzapine (Zyprexa) and he is being monitored throughout the day.  He is still restrained around his waist in a big wheelchair because he cannot walk and they are worried he will fall out.  But, he seemed almost back to normal... his type of normal at least.

After visiting him today, his 11th day of being restrained to either a chair or bed, he still isn't walking.  They try to get him up a few times a day, but the motor function isn't there and I am sure the medicine isn't helping.  At this point, they are worried it may not come back.  Since it's been 11 days, he may have forgotten and his body may not have that instinct any more.  I spoke with the Psychiatrist and a General Medicine Doctor when I arrived and they are working on a plan to get him walking again.  They are also still tweaking the medicine. 

And so... we trudge along and take it day by day. 

Thank you to everyone for their support, encouragement, and love.  It's amazing how all that positivity can boost our spirits.  It also feels good to know people who may have never even met my Dad are rooting for him!  It means so much. 




Monday, July 15, 2013

A Heavy Heart

As I made my way out of the VA hospital today, I noticed those quintessential Los Angeles palm trees, and I felt the warm sun on my back, and I could see the incredible blue sky, but I just stared straight forward and thought to myself... none of that really matters.  All that matters is my Dad -- laying up on the 4th floor in his hospital bed, arms tied to the posts, mouth gaping open, cheeks sunk in, and eyes practically rolling up into his head.
I sit here with a heavy heart today.  Alzheimer's has taken my family on such a twisted journey, that I feel like I can handle anything, and I can, but I just wasn't prepared to see my Dad looking like that today. 
He was really out of it, very doped up, and almost catatonic at first.  His mouth was stuck open and since this made it impossible to form words, he just made noises.  After greeting him, I walked back out into the hallway to speak with the nurse.  I stood there waiting for her to finish with another patient and that's when the tears began rolling down my cheeks.  I dropped my head to hide my face and held in the sobs that were threatening to come out.
They paged the Doctor and I went back in to Dad's room.  He noticed that I was there and made some more noises.  I actually silently pleaded...  Why is my Dad being held hostage on this earth?  Give him mercy.  Don't make him live like this.

This morning, Dad had become agitated again, so they injected him with some medicine.  The twitching, disorientation, and gaping mouth are side effects of that injection.  I have no idea if he was like that all weekend long.  They didn't feed him lunch because they weren't sure he could swallow. 

Finally I spoke with the Psychiatrist, and found out that they are moving him down to the Psych Ward this afternoon so they can begin to clear him of these strong medicines in a controlled and safe environment.  That decision brought me a little relief.  The Psychiatrist and General Doctor have both shared with me that they don't think he will be welcomed back into the VA home where he was living.  Ultimately, that is the decision of the home, so we don't know right now.  It scares me to think about what the next couple of weeks will bring, but honestly, the most important thing for me right now is to get Dad back to normal.  Whatever normal is for him these days, I have no idea.  But it definitely wasn't what I saw today.

I stayed by Dad's bedside holding his hand.  He became more and more cognoscente in the hour that I was there and even gave me a couple small smiles.  I wiped the boogers from his eye, gave him drops of water for his dry mouth, and applied chapstick to his cracked lips.  It wasn't much, but it felt good to do something for him.  

Today Alzheimer's wins.  I am defeated and for the moment have no fight left in me.  I know that will change in the coming days when we have to fight to keep him in his home. 

I took a picture of Dad but I feel that it's pretty disheartening, so I won't share it.  I will, though, keep it as proof of the ugly face of Alzheimer's.  Below is a picture of his restraints and of us holding hands.



Friday, July 12, 2013

My Dad's Brain

I know how blessed and lucky we are that Dad was admitted into the West Los Angeles VA home.  But, I am reminded again today as I sit on the phone with his Doctor.  

Dad was taken to the ER yesterday because his behavior has become dangerous.  In the last few weeks, I have been receiving more calls about altercations with another resident or caregiver.... scratching or hitting or even falling down.  I witnessed it a bit earlier this week when I went to visit and he was running away from the caregivers who were trying to help him change.  When they got too close, he pushed one of them and lashed out at another (thankfully missing her).

Yesterday escalated even more as he began brandishing silverware.  They decided to take him to the ER.  His behavior and mood didn't improve over night, so that's when they decided to admit him for further evaluation.  

We are LUCKY and BLESSED because other homes are so quick to give up on my Dad.  He has been kicked out before and it was heart-wrenching.  I understand, because why would anyone want a resident who has violent outbursts that endanger other people.  But, since we're dealing with a Government Agency that cares for Veterans, every step and precaution is being taken to see that he gets the best care.  They aren't giving up on him.  And it's unlikely that he'll be kicked out.  Because then where would he go?

Alzheimer's is such a tricky disease.  The Doctor even said, "We actually know quite a bit about the disease, but every person is different, and the disease proves to be very unpredictable."  They also did a CT scan and everything looked normal EXCEPT for the very noticeable shrinkage of my Dad's brain. 

As I've mentioned before, www.alz.org has an amazing Brain Tour that shows the effects of Alzheimer's on the brain.  Click here to visit the tour.  Here is just a glimpse of what my Dad's brain probably looks like.  Pretty Shocking...



Our Poor Dad.  

For now, it looks like he spending the weekend in the hospital.  More updates to come...

Friday, June 28, 2013

Moo, Neigh, and Gobble Gobble

As a child, we loved listening to my Dad make animal sounds.  They always sounded more like an animal and less like a human-produced sound.  He was that good at it.  My favorites were Moo, Neigh, and Gobble Gobble.

Luckily for Emry, I got two of them on video today.  Although, as Megan pointed out when I texted her the video, the Moo does kind of sound like the cow is either dying or giving birth. But hey, this is an Alzheimer's patient we're talking about, so the fact that he did it at all is pretty amazing.

(How cute are they?!)

My visit with Dad today was necessary since I had not been there in a couple weeks (June was insanely busy) . The staff called me yesterday to inform me that Dad had been striking out at caregivers and had scratched another resident in the face.  I never know what triggers his erratic behaviors, but I have a feeling that through the fog of Alzheimer's, on some level, he misses seeing a familiar face (namely mine) and could be feeling a bit abandoned.  Oops. 

We had a great time together and Dad was all smiles.  I talked to the staff, and they are adjusting his medicine so that it will be administered 3 times a day (in a smaller dose) instead of the previous once a day.  Good plan.

Lastly, at 16 months old, Emry is now saying Bye Bye.  Sometimes it's Bye Bye Kitty or Daddy.  But, today it was "Bye Bye Gappa." 

Makes your heart melt, doesn't it? 

So, without further ado... Here are some animal sound videos! 

video
video



Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Funny Voicemails

I used to cringe when the phone would ring.  I even had to change my ring tone at one point because it gave me such anxiety.  The only calls I get now are from the staff at the VA informing me of little incidents that happen involving my Dad.  It's standard protocol and it's usually nothing serious.  For example, the nurse called to tell me that a resident tried to punch my Dad but missed, then my Dad tried to punch him back whereupon he missed and accidentally hit the nurse.  Picturing these two old men trying to hit each other is actually pretty funny.  Too bad the nurse got hit though.

But here is the craziest and funniest call yet:
(this is verbatim from my voicemail except I changed the name)

"Hi Kristen, this is Kendra, I'm a nurse at the Memory Care unit where your Father is at.  Um, another resident tried to lift your Father off a toilet and they both fell... in the shower floor.  Um, right now there are no signs or symptoms of injury with your Father... um can you please give us a call back if you have any questions."

Do I have questions?  Yes, I have sooooo many questions.  How... what... why... ????

I'm just glad that Dad doesn't seem to be instigating all these incidents and that for the most part he is adapting well.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Some nice Recognition

Upside to Dementia has been named one of the top caregiver stories on the Web by Caring.com!  How wonderful and what a nice recognition!  In a couple of paragraphs, the writer really touches on what this whole journey is about for us:  Laughter, Family, Alzheimer's, Healthcare, and the struggle financially to find Dad a home with good care.  To read the quick blurb about us, click here.  

My weekly visits with Dad have been very pleasant.  We walk up and down the hallways (Emry especially loves that since she is learning to walk), we stare out the many large windows in the facility and Dad points out people walking outside on the grass (you can probably see Emry's little hand prints along the glass), and I get to know more and more of the staff at the VA.  They all take quite an interest to how Dad reacts around me and are happy to see that he is smiley, silly, and affectionate.  


As for his incontinence issues, I ordered Dad two jumpsuits that zip up the back, so that he will not be able to go to the bathroom anywhere other than his diaper.  He will also not be able to sprinkle his feces around the facility either.  Wow, I just wrote about sprinkling feces as if it was a normal activity... so weird...

Anyway, I never got around to explaining the financial aspects of Dad's new home.  The VA will take 70% of his monthly income.  What a relief.  They also require that he enroll in Medicare and assured me that the VA will pay all his penalties!  Aside from clothes and a few toiletries, the VA will pretty much take care of everything.  We are really very lucky to have secured him a spot in this beautiful and well managed facility.

So, now that Dad has a little bit of money in the bank, I can get him some much needed new clothes!  For starters... some elastic waist jeans.  Weighing in at 135, he is just skin and bones and his clothes are just hanging on him.  I talked to the dietician about starting him on some Ensure.





Friday, March 1, 2013

That's a New One

I'm sure you're all sitting on pins and needles waiting to hear how my Dad is doing!  Or maybe you've been relieved not to see an upsetting blog post.  Needless to say, here's the latest update...

I had Dad's two week assessment yesterday via phone.  During the past two weeks, I have been in contact with the home and visited Dad as well and everything appeared to be just fine.  But, it seems Dad is showing his true colors.

What I really like about this home, is that the caregivers work as a team.  On the phone yesterday was the Psychologist, the Dietician, the Caregivers, the Activity Coordinator etc.  So each person had their turn to let me know how he is adjusting.  

The main concern seem to be his incontinence.  Dad and his urination!  We didn't keep this a secret when he moved in, and warned the staff that they will need to prompt him to use the toilet every couple of hours to prevent erratic urination.  I guess they weren't really implementing that system the past two weeks.  So, when they caught him urinating twice yesterday and tried to redirect him, he responded by hitting one nurse in the chest and another nurse in the face.  (two different incidents)

Then they asked me, "Has he ever tried to pick up his feces?"  Well, that's a new one!  I was trying to picture him reaching into the toilet when they informed me that he reaches into his pants (and into his adult diaper), pulls out the feces, and drops it on the ground.  Oh.  Gross.

I was under the impression that he usually used the toilet for this type of thing, but I'm sure with the confusion of a new home and new staff, he has started going in his pants which feels very uncomfortable for him (obviously).  This is how I responded, "Well, apparently he is 'with it' enough to know that he is uncomfortable and tries to solve the problem by putting his hand down there, but he is not 'with it' enough to get to the bathroom in time."  I'm not really sure there is a solution to this problem.  Hopefully the staff will keep prompting him to use the toilet and that will help.

The other main concern is Dad's aggression and hitting.  I don't have any solution to that problem, but when I visited him today, the psychologist informed me that they were having another team meeting today but this time with the Doctors.  Dad's medicine has been helping so much, but there could always be that perfect cocktail of drugs that could help even more.  I guess we'll see.

I could tell the psychologist is a little worried about Dad's behavior, especially the hitting.  But he kept telling me not to worry and that an adjustment period is completely normal.  I just don't want Dad to get kicked out.  

Here is a picture of Dad's peekaboo Ocean View from his room:





Friday, February 15, 2013

The Final Stop

Yesterday was my Dad's last moving day ever.  He is now at his final stop... The Veteran's Home of California West Los Angeles (near Wilshire and the 405, for those of you not familiar with the area, it is just east of Santa Monica). 

He was in bright spirits as we sat in LA traffic listening to Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra, and Ray Charles, and continued to be happy throughout the hour and a half of paperwork.  We shared a Valentine's Day doughnut and he sipped his coffee with a pleasant smile on his face.  

The entire building is beautiful, state of the art, and everywhere you look, there are huge windows with quintessential views of Los Angeles -- palm trees, greenery, hills, spanish-style buildings, and a little bit of haze of course.  On a good day, you can see the ocean and all the way to Palos Verdes from Dad's new room which is basically a square area with a hospital style bed since he is technically living within the skilled nursing portion of the housing.  But, he has a flat screen TV in his room.  Too bad, he'll never use it.

We met with the Nurses and Doctors to go over Dad's health history and his family history.  Around that time, my Mom arrived after battling for over 3 hours in LA traffic to lend a helping hand.  And by lunchtime, Dad was starting to get anxious.  

I had run out to my car, and when I came back I could hear my Mom trying to pacify Dad before I even joined them in the dining room.  He was done eating, done sitting, and done being told what to do.  He kept trying to grab random silverware and plates from other tables.  As I was scarfing down my food, I suggested that they take a walk outside.  Sometimes the best thing to do is let him walk it off.  At this point, he was becoming distrustful of us and would not listen to our directions, so we were basically following him.

That's when we realized he had not received his morning meds or his mid-day meds.  After coaxing him into an elevator, we got him back up to the Doctor's office.  Since they had not written any orders for his meds, and he was not in their system yet, they could not administer the pills to him. 

Originally, the entire moving process was supposed to be completed by 2:00, so instead of cancelling my afternoon performance with The Sassy Songbirds, my Mom and I agreed that she could handle the last hour and make sure he was unpacked.  So, by 1:00, my anxious and aggravated Dad had not started unpacking, had not begun his physical, and was still a few hours away from being all settled in.  

With a pit in my stomach, I left the two of them there.  I think by 2:00, they administered Dad's medicine, and in the meantime tried to perform a physical on him where he fought the nurse, the doctor, and my Mom the entire time.  They finally gave up on finishing the exam.  By 3:00, the meds were kicking in and my Dad helped my Mom unpack his suitcase.  She was out of there by 4:00, and sat in two more hours of traffic before she got to my house for a quick glass of wine. 

What a crazy and exhausting day.  It worries me that the staff witnessed Dad's bad side on his first day of being there.  But, they also saw how his meds do seem to regulate his moods and behavior, so that is good.  As usual, all we do now is wait.  

I did read a clause during all my paperwork signing that informed me of a 60 day probationary period to make sure Dad is a good fit with the home.  I didn't ask for any details, and I hope that I never have to hear about it again.  This has got to be Dad's final stop.

The financial aspect of this entire process is very interesting (in a good way), but I will have to share that in a separate post, because it's a lot to take in.  In the meantime, here are some photos from Dad's new home:

 The Entrance to Dad's Home

 Dad's room

 One of the outdoor spaces.

Gorgeous Los Angeles views seen from almost every window!


Friday, February 1, 2013

This is BIG

Okay people... this is big news!  Bigger than the Inauguration, Bigger than the Super Bowl, Bigger than Awards Season.... even bigger than my 20 pound cat!

Drum roll please... 
Dad has an admission date for the West Los Angeles VA!

I called last week and left the following message at the admissions office.... "Hello, this is Kristen Hardin and I am calling regarding my Dad, Melvin Brandt.  He is on the wait list for the Memory Care Facility and I am hoping for some more specifics on when he may be admitted.  I contacted my congressman this morning and am scheduling an appointment with his office to discuss how he can facilitate this process as well.  Please let me know what information I can bring to him so that he can be the most helpful to this situation.  Thank you."

I got a call the very next day saying they were going to review his file and call me no later than next Friday (today).  Sure enough, the phone rang today and she was delighted to give the good news of an admission date for my Dad.  He is very lucky because after him, they will have admitted the first 30 residents and will be stopping the admissions process for an undetermined amount of time.

The date is February 14th, V-day.  (V for Veteran of course!)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2012 in Pictures

 Dad became a Grandpa!
Celebrating a great assessment at the West Los Angeles VA
1st of 3 Staph Infections this year
Getting kicked out of the cheaper facility we tried to move him to
Dad's black eye and head bump from his time in the Geriatric Psych Ward
Crawling, not walking, because of his new Meds
Having a sweet moment with Megan
Celebrating at Dad's Christmas Party!