Reality

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These are pictures of my awesomely loving parents almost one year ago.

Here are pictures of them today:

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The reality? Their health has declined. I knew it would. My dad with his Alzheimer’s and mom with her dementia. They are fading. They are suffering and it hurts.

MY DAD

My dad recently moved to the nursing home in Parkers Prairie, but he is not doing the best. His Alzheimer’s has progressed and if you know anything about it, he is in about stage 6, maybe starting stage 7. No two cases of Alzheimer’s are the same, but as for guidelines, there are roughly seven stages.

Yes, the reality is he is declining. And right now, fast. This is normal. Alzheimer’s patients tend to do that, they take a nose dive in a downward spiral and then they’ll level off and then nose dive and then level off and so on and so on. Again, this is normal.

Right now we are concerned about my dad’s potassium level. It is way too low and despite efforts to raise it up, it continues to dip. They changed from pill form to liquid form today and will increase the amount yet again. They have also upped his dose of Seroquel, an atypical antipsychotic that is used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar and it is used to treat major depressive disorder.

They are also using Haldol on him, which is a typical antipsychotic medication used to treat schizophrenia, delirium, agitation, acute psychosis and hallucinations. This is a strong medication and most people shy away from using it on elderly patients in his condition, but we have tried several other meds and at this moment, this is what he needs. At this moment, when he is in this downward spiral, when he is yelling, hitting, throwing things, hallucinating and being overly aggressive, this is what he needs. For his safety and the safety of those around him.

The reality is they wanted to send him to a geriatric psych ward. I said absolutely not. After the experience we had with my mother less than a year ago, there is no way I will do that to him.

The reality is the disease is taking over and turning him into someone he is not. And the reality is, it sucks. Plain and simple. The reality is this is what happens to people suffering from Alzheimer’s. It is a part of the journey. But, we take it one day at a time, one hour at a time and try to make him as comfortable as possible.

The reality is I made the phone call to Douglas County Hospice. The reality is the disease is going to take him from us. No matter how much we don’t want it to. No matter how much we want him to be “normal” and for life to be like it was before. The reality is he is going to die. As harsh as it may sound to some, if he makes it to the end of the year, I will be surprised.

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The reality is, they are no longer the people in this picture. Okay, yes, they are still the same people. But their diseases have taken over.

MY MOM

My mom’s health has been declining for a bit now. Slowly, but surely. From the outside, you wouldn’t guess it. She’s happy (most of the time). She’s with it (most of the time). She remembers (most of the time). She sings (all of the time!). Sometimes when talking with her you don’t really know she has dementia.

Until…

She tells you about her mint green van she’s buying and that my dad will be driving. She tells you about her 22 bedroom (I think that is the number of bedrooms it has at this moment) house that her and my dad are moving into soon. I think the open house is scheduled for next weekend. Although I think it has been scheduled for “next weekend” for several months now. Until she tells you that you don’t have to worry about paying for anything because Jesus has it covered. Her Jesus Credit Card pays for everything. Until she tells you about her wedding that will be taking place in Nashville. She has her outfit all figured out and she is going to look fantastic in her white cowboy boots, short white skirt with fringes and white fringed vest. She does plan on marrying my dad, so that’s good. She’s a storyteller I tell ya and you just have no idea what is going to come spewing out of her mouth.

Fortunately for me, I haven’t seen her “nasty” side for quite some time. Unfortunately, for her caregivers at Salmons Place, the nasty side comes out every now and then. Speaking of her care givers, I could not have asked for better people. We are so very blessed that my mom moved there last April. They are truly a blessing and I will never be able to repay for everything they have done for my mom. They are angels. All of them.

So here is the reality. The disease is not what is going to take her. My mom is sick. She is currently in the hospital. We found out she has congestive heart failure. We found out she has an infection in her colon, they are calling it diverticulitis, which is a digestive disease in which pouches within the large bowel wall become inflamed. She also has a fistula. And the reality is, this is the part that sucks. In normal circumstances, surgery can be done. But she is not normal.

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The reality is…she probably wouldn’t survive surgery. She’s older. She has dementia. Not a great combination.

She is getting lots of antibiotics in the hospital and will be on antibiotics for a couple of weeks when she gets back to Salmons Place. Our hope is that the antibiotics will be enough. The reality is they probably won’t.

The reality is I made the phone call to Douglas County Hospice. The reality is she is going to die, more than likely sooner than later. I need her to be comfortable. I need her to be happy. And the reality is it is better to be as prepared as possible.

The reality is I am tired of my parents suffering. They don’t deserve this. The reality is I have told both of them I am okay if they want to let go. Harsh? Cruel? Morbid?

No, it is reality. Do I like it? Hell no. Is this what I want? Hell no. I don’t want my parents to die. I want them to live forever and be in perfect health. I want them to be there when my son graduates from college, gets married, has kids of his own. But the reality is, they won’t.

And the reality is I am okay with it. I am at peace with it. I am prepared as I can be until it actually happens. Why? Because I don’t have a choice. It is the reality. It is real life and the sooner I can accept, the better. It is still going to hurt. My heart is still going to ache when it happens and for years after. It will never stop aching.

My advice to anyone who is dealing with ailing or elderly parents. Come to grips with the fact that they are going to die – way sooner than you want them to. Prepare. Plan. Buy the cemetery plot if need be. Write the obituary is need be. Visit the funeral home. Make the decisions now. DO NOT WAIT. Prepare and plan as best as you can. If your parents are of sound mind and body, HAVE THE CONVERSATION. Learn what their wishes are. Talk with them. Listen to them. This is THEIR journey. It is not yours. Be real. Live in the reality of it all.

Trust me.

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9 thoughts on “Reality

  1. I could not have put it any better as I have gone through the illnesses, and desease’s with her as well, and yes you do have to prepare. It’s not fun but better to know what they want. When the time comes and they pass on from this life to the next I know there will be alot of loved ones to meet them when they get there, but most of all they will not be suffering, thats what brings the most comfort

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  2. You speak from your heart and I love that about you. Yes, your parents are in the December of their life and, of course, that’s not what you want. On the other hand, you don’t want them to live without have a good quality of life. At this time, it’s apparent that that quality of life is not within reach for them any longer.

    I acknowledge you for contacting hospice, making advance arrangements and all that you have done. Having been in a similar space though, I can tell you that when you get the call that you do not want to get, you may be surprised and shocked. After all, we do expect our parents to be around forever. Unfortunately, that’s not how life works.

    Then perhaps there will be that unexpected feeling of “relief” when you get the call…both because they are no longer suffering and you are no longer burning the candle at both ends. Caregiving is difficult. Of course, after that comes the feeling of “guilt” for feeling “relief” and thinking that you could have done more. Be kind to yourself and know that you have done just right.

    Take care of yourself, my dear friend. Janet

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  3. This is a very moving post. It is hard to face the reality of the situation, but it sounds like you are facing it as unpleasant as it may be. I feel bad for you and yours parents. Growing old really sucks. Bless you. ❤

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  4. Very moving and heart wrenching reading this. My heart still morns the loss of my parents (6 months apart). I took care of my dad for his last 6 months, and we grew even closer than before. I miss washing his hair for him, and chatting while I did that. Watching them slip away, and not being able to “fix it” tore me up inside. It’s reality, but one I didn’t want to face. But in the end, you don’t have a choice. When my mom couldn’t remember her last name, and asked me to write it down for her so she wouldn’t forget, I smiled and did just that. When I left I cried for over an hour. How was this fair, that my mom had to have someone write down her name so she could remember? Or that my dad couldn’t breathe because his lungs were like concrete? Sorry to go into that, just know I understand what you’re going through. Just keep doing what you’re doing now: telling them and showing them you love them. It’s all you can do, and what they need most. Hugs and prayers to you and Al. May God bless you all with peace.

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  5. Your words made me cry as the pain is still fresh and raw from my Dad just leaving us this past Christmas Eve. Even though we knew he was leaving us soon, it was still difficult to grasp when it happened. But you are right, it is reality and I do not want my daughter to have to go through this when I become elderly. She stood beside me as my Dad (her Grandpa) took his last breath. We’ve talked extensively about my aging and she knows my wishes and I have already done pre-planning. I don’t think that anyone is fully prepared for this but we do what we can do . To you and your family, my heart is full of compassion and prayers as you go through this difficult time. May God give you comfort and peace. Hugs to your parents also 💚

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  6. The one piece of advice I give to new parents is to enjoy every day, and every stage, as your kids grow up. Instead of thinking, “I can’t wait ’til they sleep through the night.”, or “I can’t wait ’til they’re out of diapers.” – enjoy each day for where they’re at. It’s not just about babies, though, it’s about adolescents, and young adults, and newlyweds, and grandparents. God bless you, Celeste, for being able to find the joy in loving your parents through this phase, before they move on to the next (and glorious) phase of life. Know that you are loved, and that every day we pray for your parents, and for you.

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  7. Celeste – you are so right on. My Dad passed from Lewy Body Dementia, he was in a care facility for 3.5 years. He couldn’t care for himself, he could not eat by himself, he could not walk, he could not go to the toilet. I am glad he didn’t know his final years. He spent much of his time on adavant to control large tremors. It was no good, no fun but it was reality. He wasn’t going to get better. Thankfully his death was peaceful. It was like he forgot how to breath too. I feel your exhaustion – exhaustion of the mind. Remember your closeness, remember you helped them & made end stage life easier for them. You are lucky to be able to help & they are lucky to have you. Much love & hugs to you.

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  8. Thinking of you Celeste. Been following your journey on Facebook but just came over to your blog! Positive thoughts and prayers to you and your family and of course your parents.

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