Pete, June 2012
I realize not everyone cares about what I’ve been going through as a caregiver to my step-grandfather. But with the crazy statistic that 65.7 million Americans care for a family member with a terminal illness, I thought I’d continue to share my journey with Pete and his Alzheimer’s with you. Previous posts here and here.
So here we are, six months later.
When I began taking care of my step-grandfather, Pete, I never thought it would go on for this long. We (me, my stepdad, and mom) are currently in the process of interviewing professional caregivers, both due to Pete’s deteriorating condition and my need to get back to my full-time job. I’m a graphic designer as well as a blogger, and while at first I was able to get work done during the day that’s no longer the case. I’m looking forward to the day when I can go back to being his advocate and not the bad guy.
Over the past three months Pete’s Alzheimer’s has progressed considerably, as we knew it most likely would. He essentially has no ability to make decisions, even simple ones like what he’d like to drink or eat. The repetitiveness that was already excessive has quadrupled, I think his short-term memory times out around thirty seconds which can be difficult for us to remember ourselves. It’s so easy to take such things for granted. One major change is Pete’s ability to become angry. He’s always been a very laid back guy, but now gets agitated and occasionally raises his voice. I know it’s the disease talking, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt to be on the receiving end of. His appetite, which has always been robust, has gradually begun to wan and his voracious newspaper reading has lessened as well. He’s also speaking much less often and has a tough time carrying on even the smallest of conversations. This most likely has to do with his shrinking vocabulary, he’s embarrassed at using the wrong words which elude him frequently. He also nods off much more often (granted, he is 88) and stares off into his own world for sizable parts of the day. Sometimes when he wakes up he has no idea where he is, or where he slept the night before. All of it breaks my heart, but I can’t even begin to imagine how terrifying it must be for him living inside that mind.
A few months ago we did start looking at nursing homes, where he will eventually end up living out his days. Lucky for us there’s a fantastic place only a few miles from my house that caters specifically to Alzheimer’s patients. I visited first, them took my stepdad, and my mom will check it out soon as well. The administration and staff are incredible, the coordinator herself having lived through the disease with her own mother-in-law.
Because I’ve been writing these post in three month intervals, it’s scary to think what might happen between now and the next one. The man I help to take care of day in and day out is now a stranger most days. I cherish the small lucid moments he experiences when he gives me a hug and says just how much he loves me.