behavioral changes

Horsin’ Around

Dad held a variety of jobs over the years, however the majority of his working career was spent managing an Agway feed and grain store. In addition to servicing the local farmers, the store also operated its own working farm. They had cows, chickens, goats, sheep, ducks – you name it, even a burro! Dad and I have always shared a love for animals. He would frequently let me wander through the barns, visiting the wonderful menagerie of creatures. As my interest in horses grew, he would often spend time watching me ride. Even in his advanced years, he continued to enjoy being around the barns and remained keenly aware of staying a smart distance away from the big animals. And after moving up here to NY State, Dad quickly became a regular at my current stable.

On this particular visit, I settled Dad into a chair in the riding arena and left him to chat with some friends while I got ready. He was always a good conversationalist and enjoyed sharing stories with everyone. When I came back I could see that he was talking with Julie, who had somewhat of a perplexed look on her face. After a few minutes of additional banter and some laughter, they finished their conversation. It wasn’t until days later however, that Julie shared the details of their discussion with me;
“Your Dad is so nice, I always enjoy our conversations!”
“Oh yeh, what were you guys talking about? I could see you looked a little confused.”

Apparently, Dad had struck up a conversation about the war (?) and commented to Julie that; “her people had recently entered the fray.” When she looked puzzled, he added; “Mexico. You’re Mexican right? I thought everyone who worked here was.”

At this point in his LBD progression, it was difficult to ascertain whether his dialogue debacle was more a factor of the dementia or his impaired vision. I’m guessing it was probably a combination of both, however Dad quickly realized his blunder as Julie (a well-respected area attorney) proceeded to gracefully tease him about his mix up. Dad was never prejudiced or discriminatory throughout his lifetime, however we had started to experience a few occurrences after his diagnosis that might have led someone to believe otherwise. He would occasionally come out with a remark that could easily be considered inappropriate or offensive. When this happened, I often wondered if the disease had somehow taken away his familiar character and/or the ability to filter out this type of commentary. Atypical of Dad’s usual demeanor, the progression of his LBD was both upsetting and interesting to see. I knew if he was truly aware of these changes, he would be more than mortified by his conduct.

Luckily, Julie’s lighthearted nature took the conversation in easy stride and they both laughed off his mistake together. Looking back I’m sure he was very embarrassed, but in Dad style he was always a good sport about things. Julie still smiles and laughs whenever she retells the story.

Advertisements

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Nearly 6-months after moving up to live near us and after a disastrous 3-month trial period living in a local private home “care” arrangement (another story for another post…), Dad was living in a nearby Assisted Living Facility. The facility was lovely, the staff members were fabulous and Dad felt very much at home there. It was handsomely decorated in his favorite color schemes. As we made our way back to his apartment after outings, he would often imagine us walking down the corridor of a grand cruise ship, on the way back to his “berth”. He had a small, studio-type apartment that we had set up with all of his favorite creature comforts and belongings. It even had a kitchenette area with a sink, dorm-sized refrigerator and cabinets for his abundant snack cache. He would take morning walks around the building after breakfast, join in on all of the daily activities and get together with me numerous times during the week. We were about a year and a half into his LBD diagnosis and life was going along pretty well. All things considered, Dad seemed happy.

Periodically however, things would run amuck – especially when Dad became sick. A bronchial or urinary tract infection has the ability to turn this otherwise wonderfully warm, congenial person into a weapon-wielding man on a mission. On this particular trip to see Dad, I was presented with his tool box when I made my regular pit stop at the medication room on the way down to his place.
The nurse gently smiled as she held out the box and with a look of apology said; “we had to confiscate this last night, you should probably take it home.”
“What happened?”
“He cut the cord off of his lamp.”
“Really, did he or anyone or anything get hurt?!”
“No, but he hasn’t been himself lately. So for his safety and others we think he shouldn’t have these tools anymore.”

As I made my way down to his room, I knocked on the door and heard the familiar; “Yell-ow!” greeting. When I asked him what happened to his lamp, he told me that it needed fixing and showed me the piece of cord that he had neatly cut off. Nothing I could see appeared to have been damaged or in need of repair. I asked; “did you unplug it before you cut it?” He quietly paused, looked up at me and flatly said; “of course”, as if to imply I was an idiot for even asking. Tool box and wounded lamp in car, we made our way out the driveway to enjoy a few hours in the day. The morning was cut short however, as it turned out that Dad had the beginning of a new cold and started to feel lousy as our travels continued. Hmm, that explains things.

Several months later on another occasion, I received a phone call from one of the nurses at the Home. This time they were calling to alert me that they suspected something was brewing with Dad because he was agitatedly walking around the hallways brandishing his television remote control “guns”. Apparently, he thought there were some thieves in the building taking facility property. Luckily his tools were no longer available at this point, so the “weapons” were far less dangerous.

This was the first time I had experienced the paranoia that often comes with dementia in the elderly. I had always heard stories, but had yet to see this happen with Dad until now. This was the first time of many occurrences to come that would require me to drive over and take him out of the environment to redirect him. Usually just taking him out for a bite to eat or an ice cream does the job. I suppose in Dad’s case, food soothes the savage beast inside! A day or so later after sending a urine specimen out for analysis, we learned that Dad had a urinary tract infection. Hmm what a surprise, I was starting to catch on.