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Saturday, 23 May 2015



Hello, Everyone! Thank you for taking the time to look at my humble feature that I call “Keeping It Real.” Whatever I discuss here is indeed real, as it happens or happened, but there are times when I wonder myself about what I am experiencing: Is it real or am I in an alternate reality and how do I keep from losing my way?

I mention this in the context of dealing with someone close to me who has some degree of dementia or Alzheimer's Disease. An old friend of mine, Yolanda, is affected by dementia and I am doing my absolute best to co-exist with her – and with it.

I have some experience with dementia, courtesy of my late father. By his own account, his mind began to fail him when he was about 72 but I never noticed much of a problem until he was around 79.

His manifestations varied between funny and nasty. He was funny when he was with me and he could get nasty with my sisters. Little things like asking the time every minute or less bothered the hell out of my sisters and they would lecture him and dress him down for asking. Consequently, he would lash out at them and chew their asses very well. Whenever he asked me, I told him the time, and if he did not like it, I told him another one!

The way that I saw it, that was my father asking and it was for me to be kind to him when his mind became a little addled or confused. And talk about confusion, he surely had it!

When he was not telling ma that he had to go to Pittsburgh or Cincinnati or New York to see a man who had money for him, he was seeing himself in places where he had never been, or had not visited in many years. He never left town.

I recall taking him for a ride in my car. We stopped and drank coffee and we talked and all was well and in this reality. After we had coffee we drove around the towns in the region, to places that he had not seen since he stopped driving his own car in the early 1990s.

As we drove, we got behind a pickup truck that had a refrigerator in the back. My father said to me, “Every time I am out here I get behind that same guy with the refrigerator in his truck!” All I could say was, “Really?” The more he insisted on the fact that he was always driving behind the same truck, the more I searched for an answer that he would like, and one finally came to me.

He mentioned the truck and the fridge once more and I said, “Now isn't that remarkable?” Even in his addled and confused state he knew that his point had been made with me and he had to agree that it was truly remarkable!

My sisters had no patience for his state of mind. They would correct him or tell him that he was being difficult or silly or something to set him off. He knew that he was the father and they were the children, even if they were in their 30s and older, and he would raise hell with them for it.

One night they decided that he was insane and he needed to be committed to a mental hospital. They took him to a Veterans Hospital and walked him into the emergency room.

They told the admitting nurse that he was mentally unhinged and that he needed to be committed. He sat there waiting for the doctor to see him and did not say a word to anyone.

The Doctor came and introduced himself and proceeded to give him a field test to determine his grasp on reality. He asked things like my dad's name, address, telephone number; the day, date, and month; who the president was, how old my father was, how many quarters and cents make a dollar, and other questions of general knowledge.

My dad answered every question crisply and correctly, or so my older sister told me.

The doctor made his notes and concluded that there was no reason to admit my father for observation or any other reason; that he was sane and living in reality.

My father turned to the doctor and said, pointing to my sisters individually, “This one has the dynamite and that one has the matches.”

Eventually my dad's condition deteriorated to the point where he was no longer safe to life alone. I petitioned to court to make him a ward and admit him to a skilled nursing care facility. The judge, who was an old friend of my father, felt badly for him but his sole criterion for deciding in favor of making him a ward of the court was the answer to one question: If there was a fire in my father's house, what would he do? Would he run outside to safety or go into another room thinking he could close the door on the fire?

Dealing with my father's dementia made me more aware of my shortcomings and lack of understanding of that condition. I might have done well by my father but I knew that I had lots to learn.

My education resumed with my friend, Yolanda. She is 86. She had a stroke about 6 years ago and it took the vision in her left eye and most of it in the right. It also got some of her sense of balance and her ability to move. She was single for most of her life and accustomed to driving everywhere she wanted to go. Prior to her stroke she was an animal rescuer and she had 9 dogs in her care, not to mention cats, birds, raccoons, skunks and other creatures at her home. She also took dogs around to the hospitals and nursing homes as pet therapy for the patients and residents. To say that she was an active woman would be an understatement.

Between the stroke and aging, her mind is not as sharp as it was, either. Her reasoning is not as good as it might have been years ago.

Yolanda lives in a skilled nursing care facility. They keep a good eye on her there. I visit with her frequently. Even with the best of care, she has fallen 14 times since November 1, 2014. She has gone from needing a cane to walk to using a walker to keep her balance.

She loves to dance; she always has and always will. A few weeks ago at the home, they had a band playing and she was there. She completely forgot that she needed a walker and she got up to dance. Within a few seconds she lost her balance and fell flat on her face! The home called for an ambulance and they admitted her to the hospital. Had she kept her ability to reason, or the inhibitions that keep us from injury, she would not have fallen while dancing, but she fell.

I have always treated Yolanda as I would any person who has a physical disability. I gave her whatever help she needed to get into and out of my car. I helped her to walk, and to go shopping. She moved slower than I did and I paced myself so she never felt like she was slowing me down. I acknowledged to her that I understood that she had disabilities and I acted accordingly, being considerate and gentle towards her.
So she fell while dancing and the hospital called me because I am the closest thing to family that she has in the area. I came as soon as I got the call.

Yolanda was barely conscious. She had lots of bruising on her face and a large lump on her forehead. She had injured her arms and hands in the fall and the doctors feared that she might have broken her neck. She was a real mess. That was 18 days ago.

As she recovered and became stronger her state of consciousness varied. She quickly came to the belief that all of the nurses were cruel and inflicted pain on her for fun. She told me of waiting for hours for pain medication or for someone to help her to get a drink of water from her pitcher that has a filter in it. She said that she called for a nurse for an hour but none came, and that she was placed in a chair for exercise, in the outdoors, and they left her there for 7 hours. None of this made sense to me so I went to the nurses to find out what really happened.

Yolanda never told me that she was of the opinion that a nurse should come the very second that she calls out for one. She never said that she did not use the call button that was in her bed with her to call a nurse. She never told me that she became argumentative with the other persons in her 4-bed ward and woke them from a sound sleep with her calling for a nurse. She never told me that she scolded a hospital volunteer for giving her a drink of water that was not from her spacial pitcher instead of explaining to him that she drank filtered water. As for 7 hours in the chair, it was 90 minutes, and it was not outside, it was next to her bed to allow her to ventilate her lungs to try to prevent pneumonia.

I was dealing with someone who was in an alternate reality and she was an old and treasured friend. She had scolded the nursing staff and accused them of cruelty and they did their best to avoid her. Her doctor was in no hurry to get her out of the hospital. I had work to do.

The nurses wanted to help Yolanda. That was their job. After some talking and reasoning with them about my friend's dementia and living in a reality not necessarily the same as theirs, things began to run more smoothly. Yolanda's complaints became fewer and the nurses were sweeter in delivering their skilled care.

Yesterday, May 22, 2015, Yolanda was in excellent mental and emotional condition. Her face was devoid of pain and had a relaxed look. Conversation with her was easy, sensible, and in the present tense. She smiled and laughed when we shared a happy thought or a joke. It was like the sun parted the gray clouds!

Today I visited her and the sun had gone away. Yolanda was gloomy and rather detached. The first words out of her mouth were, “Someone stole my black Crocs,” the shoes that she was wearing when she was admitted to the hospital. I reached under the chair next to her bed and produced the “stolen” Crocs. She then started to argue with me that the Crocs she had been wearing on Fridaywere white. There were no white Crocs, only black ones.

Then I heard about the cruelty of the nurses again, and how long they took to give her something for the pain in her neck (her doctor ordered pain medication to be given every 4 hours).

Finally she told me that she wanted to get out of bed again. I asked her when she was last out of bed and she told me Friday evening, after I had left her. She was up and walked in her room and even went outside for a time. I knew this to be purely imagination because she had a urinary catheter in her and a bag for collecting the urine fastened to the bed, as well as an oxygen line connected to the nasal prongs that delivered oxygen to her. A brief chat with her nurse (who impressed me as empathic) told me that she had not so much as sat up in bed, much less walked outside.

I did not argue with Yolanda, however, I did respectfully and gently disagree with her. I used readily visible facts to overcome her notions, like producing the missing Crocs, or showing her where the tubes were connected to her and the bed, and the wall. We had a laugh when she remarked that she had not been to the bathroom for almost 3 weeks. I replied that she did not need to go because they had brought the bathroom to her!

She marveled at not seeing a toilet for 3 weeks and wondered if she had to learn how to use one again. She smiled when I assured her that it was easier than trying to ride a bicycle at her age.

We shared a hug and I left her watching a movie on the TV over her bed.

I took five pages to tell you all of this in detail, not because I wanted to take up your time and space, but to assure both of us that what I have been seeing is for real in my world and Yolanda's and my father's, yet it is generally accepted to be unreal in the world at-large.

I have never dealt with a parent or loved one who has some level of dementia for hours on end. My respect goes to those who have. It also goes to those who have come to realize that we all have our limitations and that care of a loved one in a skilled nursing facility can be that which keeps us sane and our loved ones in a safer environment than we could ever provide.

Thank you for allowing me to share my experiences with you. I hope that I have written something that is useful to you.

Thank you very much again, dear friends, for visiting my blog. Please share your thoughts with us, if you will. have a great Week.

ڰۣIn Loving Light from the Fairy Ladyڰۣ

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