One Sonís Story
This account was authored by our Atascadero Office Coordinator Susie Blackwell. It is based on notes she took from discussions with the son of an Amdal client. The names have been changed, but all the events are factual.
Aug 06, 2010
One Son’s Story
By: Susie Blackwell
Bill stated that the process of taking control of his father’s life was extremely difficult. His dad (Jim) was very stubborn and was resistant to change. He is now in a small residential facility in the same town he has lived for 40 years. Bill is letting his dad settle in as they are on the second week of transition (a period in which Jim is adjusting to his new environment and Bill will not see his dad at all). Bill is relieved knowing that his dad is getting his needs met; clean clothes, bathing, tooth brushing, ears cleaned, not to mention eating, as nutrition was a huge issue for his father.
Bill outlined the process he went through to get to this point. For them the turning point was the loss of Jim’s driver’s license. Bill believes that was long overdue.
Bill started noticing his dad being forgetful. It went on for more than a year before he took any kind of action. At first it was easy to say he’s just getting old. Especially since his mom’s death had left such a hole in all of their lives. But when his dad started forgetting things like turning off the burner, or where he lived, Bill knew it was time to take some kind of action. Bill was lucky he found a good agency, and soon his father had a pleasant caregiver, to come in twice a week and help with housecleaning, meal prep and laundry. His dad was resistant at first but soon began to look forward to the days when Beth would come and help out. Sometimes they would go to the lake and feed the ducks. This helped for about a year but soon his dad’s condition deteriorated. Jim began refusing to eat no matter what Beth tempted him with. Bill realized the time had come to find a place for his dad to live that would have resources to help him live independently.
He took Jim to two local doctors who deal with dementia and age-related diseases. This was a huge undertaking as Jim does not like doctors at all, but a necessary one to get him into an independent living retirement community. However, after the doctors saw Jim, it was evident that he was not a candidate for independent living. Besides diagnosing the dementia (which Bill says he has found that doctors are reluctant to do) they were able to document that Jim had lost 10 pounds in one month.
At this point Bill turned to the internet for assistance and found a referral agency that gave him a list of fifteen small residential homes that deal with Alzheimer’s and dementia in SLO County. Bill was very pleased that although his search started on the internet he almost immediately began phone contact with Betty, who asked him several questions and assisted him in finding a good placement match for his father whose behavior is often considered difficult.
Bill soon found himself in a conversation with Anna, who runs the board and care facility his dad is now living in. After the initial phone call, Bill visited the home twice and then was pleased to have Anna accompany him to assist in persuading his dad to visit her facility. It did take two visits but they were successful at getting Jim moved into her care facility. Jim stated that Anna was a godsend. He found that she spoke what he calls "Alzheimer’s Speak” and he learned to just follow her lead.
Bill described the atmosphere in the place where his dad now lives; clean and pleasant with other people his dad’s age, four men and two women, all with similar but different challenges. One woman in particular seems to have all her cognitive abilities but a stroke has left her struggling to say even a single word. However when she speaks everyone smiles! Jim states that all the residents seem to be flourishing in this environment and he hopes his dad will be soon.
As far as the financial aspects of this transition goes... it’s very expensive. Bill believes that they are very
fortunate and have resources from the sale of a business. Other than that it’s just Social Security and that does not even begin to cover expenses. Right now the monthly cost is $5000 but they are hoping to get to a point where his dad will accept a roommate and then the cost will go down to $3200.
Bill does have a bit of advice to people facing this particular challenge;
First-- when parents start declining pay attention to their mail. He found down the linethat his dad had cancelled his medical insurance and was left with only Medicare.
Second- Don’t Complicate... Simplify …Move and Remove things.... furniture, books, stuff just sitting around. Try to get down to Zen...just basic furniture and a few family pictures.
Finally-don’t procrastinate. The further you let your loved one decline the more difficult the journey becomes. There are resources out there. Start with in-home care. Even a visit a week from a professional caregiver will help immensely.