Thursday, October 4, 2012

Woo Hoo!

Woo Hoo!!!  We just got news that the West Los Angeles VA home has finally opened.  They have already moved in two residents and are hoping to do 1-3 residents per week.  Dad is number 13.  When I spoke to the admissions coordinator, she could not give me any specifics on my Dad's exact move-in date, but I'm hoping for mid-November at the latest.  That way we only have to pay Valley View Gardens for October and then they can pro-rate our days in November, so we won't go over budget again. 

(Now if they would have only returned my phone calls last week, then I wouldn't have moved my Dad and we wouldn't have had all this drama.  But it did force us to deal with Dad's behavioral issues, so I guess everything happens for a reason.)

It takes a Village

It takes a village to care for my Dad.  And that Village came out in full support the past few days.  There have been some developments in the past two days that could not have happened without our Village.

Valley View Gardens has been so accommodating and we are so lucky that they took him back into the home.  They also still have us at the discounted rate, even though it's over our budget, but I know they are doing everything in their power to help us.  Thankfully, some of our family members have donated money towards Dad's care this month, so that lightens the burden a little on that front as well.

Also, because I am the Co-Chair for the Long Beach Alzheimer's Walk, I have started making some wonderful friends in the Alzheimer's community.  Once I told my Co-Chair about my Dad's behaviors, she put me in touch with a trusted Geriatric Psychiatrist friend of hers. We figured out that since my Dad has Medicare Part A, it will cover an admittance to a psych ward where he can have his behaviors monitored.  Everything happened so fast, but I knew this was the next step, so when I got the call yesterday morning that they would take him, I agreed to it.

They wanted to pick him up in an Ambulance, and I put a stop to that real quick.  The last ambulance bill we had was for $1000 and it took a year to get that taken care of.  So, I called my good friend, Colby, who my daughter just happens to love and asked if I could drop the baby off at her house.  I just knew it would be easier and faster with my Dad if I had two free hands.

My Dad and I continued on to Anaheim General Hospital where they checked him out at the ER.  We were only there about two hours, and Valley View Gardens had a contact who met us at the door and welcomed us in.  Finally they agreed to admit him to the off-campus facility in Buena Park where the Psych Ward is located.  The Doctor even said to me, "Usually we transport him by ambulance, and I will probably get in trouble for doing this, but I will let you drive him there."  It just seems like everyone was making an exception for us, or calling in a favor.  We are so thankful.

A few more words about this whole psych ward thing.  It seems extreme, but I think this is absolutely necessary because although all his behaviors are not uncommon for an Alzheimer's patient, they have become so bad that it's affecting his care and could ultimately jeopardize his place in his future home at the VA facility.  The behaviors I am referring to include:  Peeing all over the walls, masturbating and disrobing in public places, refusing showers and grooming, being combative and aggressive, walking the hallways at 2 AM and ultimately disrupting other residents by getting into their beds... the list goes on. 

So, for the first time in three years, I have a peace of mind and a calmness surrounding me.  For seven days, I won't get phone calls filled with bad news, I won't get complaints about Dad's behavior, and I won't have to worry about him getting kicked out, because this is a psych ward and I am sure they have seen it all.

So, thank you to "The Village" that made everything easier this week.  Thank you to Valley View Gardens, my Co-Chair Janie and her Gero Psych friend Dr. Macina, my baby-sitter and best friend Colby, and to my family for helping out with the financial burden.  And of course, the undying support from Blake (who made me a fabulous martini when I got home last night), Megan, my Mom and all the family and friends who passed on their encouragement this week. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The NONEXISTENT upside to dementia

Well, we didn't have to wait long for something to go wrong.  Dad's new home kicked him out after only three and a half days.  While there is nothing funny about this situation, I couldn't help but crack a smile when I told my Mom and her response was, "What!?!?  Already?".

Yesterday morning I came to pick him up for a Podiatry Appointment.  The Marketing/Admissions lady said she wanted to speak to me, but we were just barely on time for the appointment, so I asked if I could talk to her after.  She agreed but quickly told me that Dad has been acting up...  (Now in the past, I have glossed over some of the more embarrassing or odd behaviors for the sake of keeping my Dad's dignity intact, but now I feel compelled to share them a little more honestly with my readers because these behaviors are not who my Dad is...  He is basically a walking and sometimes talking version of a disease called Alzheimer's and that's it.  So I am going to share the good, bad, and ugly.)

She said he was publicly disrobing, he was masturbating in the lobby, he crawled into a man's bed, he took his shoe off during dinner and threw it on the table, he stole a butter knife from the dining room and was apparently brandishing it as a weapon, and he had been aggressive.  Well, of course none of this is news to me.  He has done all this before and there is obviously an adjustment period that he would go through being in a new home.

When we came back from the Doctor, the managing director was gone, so I figured I would speak to her later in the day.  I returned at 4:00 and was asked to come into the office whereupon they basically told me that he needs to leave and if I would not take him then they would have an ambulance come take him to the ER.  "His behaviors are putting people in danger and are inappropriate for the facility."  That was it.  There was no discussion.  It was a very cold conversation that left me feeling like they were blaming me for his behaviors.

I was just sitting there with a baby in my lap who was ready to eat and had a wet diaper all while trying to figure out my next move.  I ended up calling Valley View Gardens (Dad's old home) and through my tears, begged for them to let me bring him back there.  Their response, "He's our family.  Bring him back home."  Blake arrived shortly after to pick up Emry and we had my Dad out of there within the hour.

The worst part is that we are out $500.  We paid for the four days Dad was at the new home plus a non-refundable community fee of $250.  And, we are still going to be paying Valley View Gardens for October which is $700 over Dad's budget.  A total of $1300 that we don't really have.  We're screwed.

I'm working on a few things to get Dad's behaviors under control.  This cannot happen when he eventually moves into the new VA home.  More info to come on that ....

Why can't my Dad just be that 'normal' Alzheimer's patient who stares at the floor and sits quietly by himself?  And why is this my life?  Why can't anything go smoothly?  And my biggest complaint is... DON'T CALL YOURSELF AN ALZHEIMER'S HOME IF YOU CAN'T DEAL WITH AN ALZHEIMER'S PATIENT!!!!!!

(below is a picture of Dad in a jumpsuit that fastens up the back so he can't pee or disrobe in public... I took this as we were leaving the home for good.)

I call this photo "Dejected & Rejected"