Saturday, April 30, 2016

Alzheimer's Disease, Nursing Homes, and the Last Ten Things Of Thankful

What a happy couple they were twelve years ago.
How things can change.
Normally, I attempt sarcasm laced with humor.

Notice I say, "Attempt."

This post is not going to follow the norm.

For the past few months, my humor has, for the most part, left me. 

No, Gabriella and Faletamie are fine, although her posts seemed to draw less and less views overall.  So, she's now sliding into a fit of depression and Faletamie is suffering her wrath and fury it seems to bring.  Don't worry, though, he'll be alright.

No, I've been dealing with some major personal problems.  Some have to do with finances, others much more important.

What?  There's nothing that will drag you down faster than money problems is there?

Yes, there is.  

Alzheimer's Disease is a terrible malady that affects much of our elderly population.  My stepmother is suffering from this.  Since it initiated after a stroke eight years ago, it has done nothing but get worse and worse.  In fact, unlike some instances, this is showing no signs of stabilizing.

Almost every day I've had off work, I'd drive 200+ miles to Indiana to assist my 82-year-old father and the situation he's found himself ensnared in the middle.  It's a place he never saw himself entering.  It's been a battle with the state of Indiana over the guardianship of the woman he's loved for decades ... his wife ... my stepmother.


Because in her mental state, she has wandered.  In remembering her younger years, she started sneaking out of the house when my father was busy in the basement or out in the garage and wandering the neighborhood wanting only to talk and visit with her old friends.  She would arrive at a neighbor's home, knock on the door, be admitted inside, and start conversations.  Unfortunately, the neighbors recognized she was somewhat "spacey" in her thoughts, and instead of calling my father, called the police.

One time of this happening is too much for the law to accept in the state of Indiana.  As my father thought it only her wanting to be a "friendly neighbor", he allowed his guard to drop.  The police were called to bring her home a total of three times because of this.  

As a result, the state agency of Adult Protective Services came into the picture.  Since my father had not controlled her "wanderings", they declared him incompetent in properly protecting her and have now used the court system to become her legal guardian.

There were several things that could have been done to have prevented this.  Had my father installed different "inside" locks on the doors, eliminating her chances of "wandering", the police would never have been called multiple times.  Of course, this would have made her a prisoner in her own home, but she wouldn't now be in the care of the state.  He could also have notified me upon the first occurrence.  We could have discussed the law, his responsibilities, and the way people no longer accept being exposed to an "inferior" being.  Times and tolerance have definitely changed.  Also, had one of her children stepped up and accepted Power of Attorney for her (as instant guardianship takes place in the state of Indiana).  They could have created a buffer and allowed for alternatives to be initiated.  

Unfortunately, they're happy with not having to deal with her in her current state.  Only one of three has visited her in a nursing home in the last three months.  I had to make the decision to eliminate myself from her possible guardianship as I could foresee lawsuits forthcoming from her children over every financial move I would have to make.

Last year, after the death of an uncle, I saw the problems my cousin had with the legal system.  I immediately had my father take his home out of his and her name and put it in his and mine.  That way, it can't be counted as her asset and used to boot my father out in the cold to pay for her healthcare.  In addition, we've also had Power of Attorney assigned to me for my father.  So, before the state starts playing games concerning his mental state they have to get through me.  

I'm not as naive nor as easy a prey as my father.  If they try, they will learn this.

Monday, my stepmother was moved from her first nursing home to another at the order of the court and recommendation of her newly assigned guardian.  As she had gotten close to many at the first nursing home, it was sad to see her finally understand she wouldn't go back to them after court.  We took her to the new nursing home, instead, and watched the shock set in.

Shock?  Yes, as this new place is the place that she will never leave.  As you walk in, you see those that have no sense of awareness roaming the halls and the gathering rooms.  Wheelchairs abound holding those that stare into space in hopes of seeing a light to provide them escape from their inescapable "care" prison.  Sadness prevails as many sit, wringing their hands, humming some tune from their past that gave them pleasure at one time, but now only builds a swinging bridge between life and death.

Even the air is heavy with the smell of medicine, messed adult diapers, and antiseptic cleaner that attempts to wash away the despair and hopelessness of those forced to remain against their wills.  Oh, the staff does their best to be upbeat and friendly while visitors are present, but it almost seems hypocritical to the setting they provide.

My father spent eight hours every day with her at the previous nursing home, and is doing the same at the present.  I see him starting to drift somewhat as his exposure to the morbid surroundings and the entire lack of hope being emitted by the occupants creep into his psyche.  I believe he looks into the near future, sees himself also being confined (losing all he's worked his whole life for) and is beginning to accept death as a welcome alternative.

As if all of the above wasn't enough, my uncle has now been diagnosed with cancer in several areas of his body.  He now resides in my stepmother's previous nursing home awaiting word to either start treatment or allow fate to take its due course.  

So, today's Ten Things of Thankful will not be based on the oddities of the news, as is usually the case.  Nor, will it be based on Prince's death, the political forefront, or how much Beyonce's overpriced new album stinks.  (Sorry, there's one or two good songs, but I'm really tired of middle finger songs and her attempts to rap like her husband.)

No, today's TTOT will be somewhat useful to anyone that has to drive extended distances often, as I have found myself doing.  That will be a relief for some, and a disappointment for others that tend to enjoy the madness I usually present.  (Believe it or not, there is an audience that likes it, lol.)

So, without further ado, this week, 
I'm Thankful For:

1)  Flash Drives.  USB stereo connections in new cars are a life saver on long drives.  I've most of my 9,000+ CD music collection transferred to them now, and there's nothing nicer than being able to put one in that provides you with a choice of over 250 albums.  Whether you're in the mood for Classics, New Music, Country, Jazz, Rock, Blues, Showtunes, or Old Time Radio Programs, it's simply a matter of finding which flash drive contains what you want, plugging it in, and concentrating on the drive instead of changing CD's every 35-50 minutes.  All you need is a bowl of popcorn and a beer to really enjoy the drive!

2)  Navigation Units.  Driving one way 200+ miles can become boring, especially when you have to do it often.  So, why not be somewhat experimental?  Drive an extra 30 miles past your exit and set your navigation to configure a new route home!  I've seen some great Amish farmlands that I would have never have seen otherwise by doing this, and one way actually proved faster than the initial route!  Give it a shot, be adventurous, and see what else the world has to offer.  Just be careful of little redneck places called "The Dew Drop Inn".

3)  Dollar Tree Stores.  Going back and forth has given me an opportunity to visit my real mother's grave site more often.  Noticing that her grave, the grave of my grandparents, and that of my aunt's had gone somewhat ignored, I stopped and purchased flowers for the side urns.  Upon my next visit, I found the urns had either been robbed, or a storm had blown the flowers away.  Dollar Tree sells a nice grouping of flowers for a buck.  So, for four dollars a grave, I've been able to keep them supplied and looking somewhat better than I originally found them.  And, if a storm or thief happens to take them away, replacement is fairly inexpensive.  Oh, and Dollar Tree Stores have the old snack food "Bugles" for only a dollar a bag.  Just don't tip over the jar of salsa between your legs while you're driving.

4)  Arby's Market Fresh Turkey/Bacon/Ranch Sandwiches.
 This has become a staple for my return trips home.  It's fairly easy to eat while traveling two-lane backroads that are light on traffic, very filling, and you don't have the weary feeling you get from the greaseburgers and fries other fast food joints offer, although the red onion may make you burp a few times (or fart, if you so desire and are alone in the car).  Add a large Diet Mountain Dew and you're good for 200 miles or more!  

5)  Local College Magnets.  If you're going to be traveling out of state often, stop and purchase a set of local college magnets to put on the back of your car.  That way, the police (that are looking for out of state drivers to give speeding tickets to) will give you a break thinking you live in-state most of the time!  Just make sure you take them off of your car before entering your own state, especially if there's a major basketball or football rivalry between the populace!  Oh, and if in either Indiana or Kentucky, remember, Duke magnets are not allowed as substitutes!

6)  Speedway Gas Stations.  Normally, I'm a Shell Station man.  However, I've found that Speedway has the best restrooms of any of the quickie gas stops.  Generally, they achieve almost a "clean" rating, which is rare for a gas station.  (Most will gag you with the smell as you open the door.)  In addition, gas is usually cheaper than at other hometown stations, and the drinks are priced properly.  Stay away from their five hour old pizza, though, as it will not mix well with the Market Fresh Sandwich and you'll be forced to drive with your windows open even in a rainstorm.

7)  Relatives.  Some are good and some are bad.  I have a few that are worth everything to me, and others that, like myself, left the hometown and don't have much to do with those that stayed.  Since the problems started at home, I've found that those that remained are more apt to come to your assistance than the others.  They maintained the "family" philosophy, instead of allowing society to taint their mentality with thoughts of only "what's in it for me."  I treasure those that have been there for me and my father and only wish the others could appreciate what we once had can still be there.  It only takes a little effort.  Oh well, the longer they stay away the fewer Christmas present obligations there are!

8)  Hometowns.  I grew up in Spencer and moved to Bloomington for college (before and after the military).  I knew most of the streets, the locations of all the businesses, and many of the people.  That was over thirty years ago.  Things change.  Still, the basics of these two municipalities have remained almost the same.  It's like a trip into my youth to walk the streets on which I roamed.  No, my old grocery store employer has been torn down, and the drive-in restaurants have been replaced with McDonald's and a real estate office, but the memories are stronger with each visit.  And, thank God the judge that swore he'd throw me in jail if I was ever caught with any drug is dead and gone!  Whatta dumbass!

9)  Passing Lanes.  Two lane highways are a relaxing way to travel, but can be frustrating as well.  There's nothing like getting behind a car or old pick-up truck doing 35 in a 55 zone.  Luckily, passing lanes save one's sanity when all the passing zones have proved fruitless due to oncoming traffic.  Unfortunately, there are just not enough of them.  However, I've learned that attempting to make your own in the side grass off the road is dangerous and may contain cement drainage ditches, so be patient.

10)  Home.  As Dorothy repeated over and over in "The Wizard Of Oz", "There's no place like home, there's no place like home ..."Toto!  Quit humping my leg!" 

Although financial woes, a tired wife, and two bitchy cats await me, there's nothing like pulling into my driveway, shutting off the road weary Mazda CX-3, and walking into my own home.  I just wish I could spend more time there, as everyone does.  Perhaps, one day ...  

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

That's going to do it for Ten Things Of Thankful.  I honestly don't know when I'll be returning as there are other things that are more of a priority at this time. 

 I do wish to thank all that have visited here over the past few years, and especially each and every one of you that have commented. I've cherished each and every word you've shared with me.

This isn't the end, but only a long break.  However, if the writing bug hits me and the humor finally returns, I'll let you know.  

Until then,