NOTE: It breaks my heart to say, but this is the last post for this series. Due to the lack of interest, commenting, sharing, etc., I feel there is no purpose to continue. If in the future an interest is made known to me to continue, I will do so. but for now, this series has come to a close.
ALZHEIMERS & DEMENTIA THROUGH THE EYES OF A CAREGIVER - PART IX
A Breath of Fresh Air!
All in all, everything is going well with our new addition to the family. Rick fits in like a glove around the house. It seems like he’s meant to be here. Laughter and smiles have been brought into the house as Rick has quite a sense of humor.
From a room full of silence words of humor will come flowing from this new person in our home. Mom and I laugh until we cry! It’s a welcomed change from what our usual routine used to be. I’d have to say there was never a dull moment since Rick and I got married.
Progression and Difficulty
Undeniably the Alzheimer’s and Dementia progressed. Other problems set in such as Sundowners. If you’re not familiar with Sundowners Syndrome, symptoms tend to begin early to late evening and may continue throughout the night. Some of the symptoms that I encountered with mom were, restlessness, energy surges, increased confusion, hallucinations, delusions, pacing, crying, and disorientation.
I spent many days and nights with very little to no sleep. Mom would go up to 48 hours or more without sleep. That’s even after giving her sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication the doctor had prescribed for this type of issue. The medications didn’t phase her! She should have been knocked out. If it was during the week, I always stayed up with mom. Rick had to sleep because he had to go to work.
Long Days and Nights
Most nights are filled with mom talking to “people” in her room. If I do get to go attempt to lay down in bed, I don’t really go to sleep. I’m afraid if I go to sleep, mom will get up and go wandering around and try to get outside or something. The news stories of the missing elderly persons that have wandered away haunt me these days so I’m afraid to close my eyes.
It’s amazing how she can stay awake all night and get up the next morning and not be tired or sleepy. During the day she will fall asleep in her recliner. I’ll suggest she go lay down for a nap. She agrees and goes to lay down. A few minutes later, what do I hear? Mom is in her bed talking away to whoever she has conversations with in her room all hours of the night.
More and More Like a Child
As mom’s condition continues to progress, my granddaughter has started attending a church playschool. It was agreed that she should be around other children in preparation for when she starts school. A small child needs to interact with other kids their own age and learn what it’s going to be like when they start attending school.
Mom and I were going to miss having her around each day. Watching mom do simple things with Tenley at times was heartbreaking. She would struggle to color a picture in a coloring book. Stumbling on words as she read small children’s books was like watching her teaching herself how to read. As I watched her concentrating so hard just like a child learning a new skill, I fought back my tears. My heart ached for her.
On a night it was actually quiet, I laid down in bed thinking I was going to get a little bit of sleep. Mom was quiet seemingly asleep. I remember thinking, wow, am I really going to get some sleep tonight? It had probably been weeks since I had laid down in my own bed. My recliner had been my short nap place for weeks, or probably months.
All of that came to a screeching halt when all of a sudden we heard a loud bang come from the other room. Right after we started hearing mom saying, “help me” in a rather calm voice. We jumped out of bed and went running into mom’s room to find her laying folded under a small table. We didn’t want to move her right away and asked her what happened. She said she was trying to get a spider on the ceiling!
Unfolding Mom From Under The Table
Rick began questioning mom before we moved mom. We didn’t know if her back was injured and we didn’t want to make things worse. Rick’s first question to her was “Did you catch a bird?” Apparently, that’s what his dad always asked him and his siblings when they were kids. So his humor was shining through that night! Mom started laughing, so that was a good sign.
He then started asking the normal questions to see if it was safe to get her unfolded and out from under the table. As we were getting her from under the table we found she had blood coming from a gash on the back of her head. Obviously, we need to take mom to the emergency room.
What Else Can Go Wrong?
Arriving at the emergency room with a bloody rag on mom’s head, we were taken back to the triage area right away. The nurse did the usual vital signs then mom was taken to one of the emergency room areas. As a precaution, the doctor ordered x-rays and a CT-Scan to make sure there was no internal damage that we needed to be concerned about. After that, they would staple the wound closed.
After all of the tests were run, the doctor returned with the results and to staple the wound closed. The results were more than what we ever expected. With the CT-Scan, they scanned a little below the neck just to make sure there were no injuries to the vertebrae. With that, they discovered some “spots” on her lungs and thyroid gland and told us that we should follow-up with her primary care doctor.
The Rollercoaster Ride of Nerves Begins
As you can imagine, this was a shocking blow. We knew what these “spots” were probably going to lead to. My mom had been a smoker years ago and that was the first thing that popped into my mind. I planned on calling her doctor’s office right away the next morning and making an appointment for two weeks out.
The ER doctor had advised us to make a follow-up appointment with her doctor for two to three weeks out to see about getting the staples taken out. At that time, talk to the doctor about the scan results. They would also be sending the doctor a copy of CT-Scan.
All The Appointments Begin
The following morning I made the call to mom’s doctor’s office to make a follow-up appointment. I told the nurse what had happened with the fall and what their CT-Scan had found in the lungs. An appointment was set and the nurse went ahead and put into the insurance to have a full CT-Scan done. They were going to try and get that done before mom’s appointment with the doctor.
I don’t even know if this was a good thing or not, but mom didn’t even remember what had happened. She didn’t know why her body was sore and bruised or why she had a “sore spot” on her head. This also meant she didn’t remember anything about the conversation with the doctor about the spots they found on her lungs and thyroid. Was this a blessing in disguise? Is it best that she not realize what was going on?
What Is This? More Tests of Course!
Mom had a full CT-Scan done before her follow-up doctor’s appointment. Then the normal drill, sit and wait for the doctor’s appointment day to get here. This is the most nerve-racking time! All of the sitting and waiting. While waiting for the day we go to the doctor to get the staples out of mom’s wound, I watch mom go along not realizing what is going on. She doesn’t remember a thing about what has gone on in the past several weeks.
All of these new developments break my heart. It truly is like having this happen to your small child and you can’t explain to them what’s going on. They just don’t understand but in this case, mom understands for a few seconds then it’s gone again. This is just heartbreaking for me. Watching my mom knowing she just doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. She’s fully dependant on me to take care of everything.
Our Visit With The Doctor
It’s finally time to head to the doctor to hopefully get the staples taken out of mom’s head, and get the results of the CT-Scan. We arrive on time and get taken back to one of the rooms and waiting for the doctor and mom wants to know why we were coming to the doctor? She said she’s feeling fine, so why did we have to come there? I told her that they were going to take the staples out of the cut on her head from when she fell off the bed. She said, “I fell?” I briefly went through the story of her fall before the doctor came in.
When the doctor came in, he got her up on the table and checked the wound and said it looked like it was healing nicely and that the staples could come out. I explained to the doctor that mom did not remember the incident at all and had no clue why we were there. At this point, she did not remember that she had gone and gotten the CT-Scan last week.
The Results Are In!
The doctor began by saying that there were several locations in the body where nodules were located. These locations were the lungs, thyroid and the liver. During this time that the doctor was saying these things, mom was just sitting there listening and smiling. I don’t know if she really understood what he was telling us.
The doctor went on to explain that he was pretty positive that this was cancer. My heart sank. I was all of a sudden in a spinning tunnel of disbelief. I had gone through cancer with my dad 6 years prior. Mom was already being taken away by Alzheimer’s & Dementia. Now cancer was rearing its ugly head! Well, this answers the question as to why she had been losing some weight recently. We just assumed it was part of the Alzheimer’s.
The Next Step
The doctor advised us that he would be referring mom to an Oncologist. I just never thought I’d be hearing that word so soon after my dad. In the meantime, he was going to go ahead and have a PET Scan ordered so the Oncologist will have those results when we go to that appointment. That should cut out some of the extra appointments once we see the Oncologist.
It was already hard enough watching mom suffer from this awful disease of Alzheimer’s. Now we have to throw cancer in the mix. Mom doesn’t seem bothered by it right now because she doesn’t seem to understand or realize what’s going on. But for us, the caregivers, this is not going to be an easy road. It’s heartbreaking enough watching the person you love, your parent, going through all of this.
As Cancer gets added to the household, stress levels get higher and of course, a lot more goes on around the house. Stay tuned to see how and what goes on next!
Take Care & Be Well