We love cats. We’ve always had at least one, and frequently more than one. Occasionally many more than one. We’re down to one, Molly, and we’ve decided we won’t replace her when she joins her clowdermates. At least, not immediately.
Cats are wonderful pets. Pretty self-sufficient: they need food and water and a place to go, and prefer the last one to be cleaned on a regular basis, but aside from that, they can pretty well entertain themselves. Just be sure you know that in a cat’s mind, everything’s a toy. Level surfaces are places to lie down, even shelves, and if there isn’t room, they’ll knock whatever is in their way onto the floor. They differ from dogs in that dogs are pack animals, where cats are individuals. You might find two cats sleeping peacefully together all afternoon, then one wakes up and swats at the other.
So, I’m trying to deal with this whole Alzheimer’s thing from all of the things that people tell me and of what I read. I am learning a few things.
As my therapist told me there are signs of Alzheimer’s and the deterioration on the brain and then there are behaviors related to personality. (I am totally paraphrasing just in case he reads this!). So let me give you an example:
When my father asks me four or five times in the course of a few hours what the word magenta (with a hard “g” in his case) means…that is Alzheimer’s. When my father says that someone on television with a lot of tattoos is gross…that is personality. Mind you, I have a whole ton of tattoos but that doesn’t seem to matter in the gross factor, unless he is blocking it out completely, or just doesn’t want to tell me he thinks I am gross. I do not agree with everyone’s tattoo designs and where they get them on their bodies but that is not my body and to each his own. My theory is “If I don’t really like it, then I don’t have to get one like it. It is my body”. I know there are many people who can debate on the tattoo issue and I don’t really want to go there. To each his own. If you don’t like to look at it, turn the other way.
When my father asks me what that sound is when it is thundering outside…that is Alzheimer’s. When my father wants to do a project and blatantly will NOT follow one of my directions….that is personality. I bought him these puzzle type houses since he always sees me make miniatures and wanted to do something like it. I knew the project would be hard for him but I thought I shouldn’t say he can’t do it, until he can’t. Anyhow, I tell him to start with the first picture. “Do you see the pieces that you need?” Yes. “Get all of those pieces then we can put them together. But you have to do this step first or else it won’t work” Okay. ….5 minutes or so later…. The paper I had put in front of him was now flipped upside down and to a different page and he had all different pieces taken out. I asked him what he was trying to do. He said that he was going to start with piece number one and make it one piece at a time by finding piece number two and so on. I flipped the paper back over and said “This is not that sort of puzzle. See here, it says you need #1 and #17.” I have #1 he says but there are four dots on the picture and only two dots on the piece. “Dad, find the pieces and we will figure that out next. Look you need to find #17″. …Maybe three minutes later…”Did you find #17?” No, I have #1 though. “Dad, just find #17”. Maybe you can just do this tomorrow, he tells me. At this point I want to throw the whole thing in the trash and say f*%# it! Anyhow, some of that is Alzheimers but the fact that he will NOT look for piece #17 is behavior and his personality.
I put together this three page paper that has a bulleted list of things about my dad. There is the “Things to know” section, “Things he likes to eat”, “Things he doesn’t like to eat”, “What I expect from the caregiver”, etc. I did this because of a recommendation since I don’t necessarily have a permanent caregiver as of yet and I am exhausted of talking about my father and trying to remember all the crap I have to tell them. So, Tuesday we had Brianna. Sweet girl, maybe 26 years old. Fake eyelashes, smelled good, super cute. She comes in and my father is in the bathroom. I tell her that I have written up stuff about him and if she would like to read it now while he is in the bathroom that would work well. She reads it and tells me that she likes all the information I have given, it is all very useful. Later that day my father sees the paper. What is this with my name on it? he asks. I tell him that I wrote up stuff about him for the caregivers, blah,blah, blah. He is totally confused and wants to know what I mean by “caregiver”. I tell him….that is the Alzheimer’s. This morning I hear him get up and shuffle out to the family room. He has taken the folder with my list and is now reading it in his chair…that is NOT Alzheimer’s that is him being curious. He asks me what Alzheimer’s is and I tell him it is the reason he cannot remember things. “What!? I can remember things!” Okay, I say. What was my mom’s name? “Um, who was your mom?” Bingo….you have Alzheimer’s. I take the folder and tell him to leave it on the table for Maria who will be coming. I put it on the table and go to the restroom. I get out and he has the folder again and wants to know what Alzheimer’s is….that is personality. I was only in the bathroom maybe three minutes. He does what he wants to do and doesn’t listen to anything else.
When my father is watching television and I tell him I am going to do some work and he asks me a few minutes later what I am doing…that is Alzheimer’s. When he calls me from his chair, over and over, saying “You-who!” “Where are you?” but won’t get his butt out of the chair to come look…that is his personality. He is capable of walking and will do so if he wants something like a piece of candy or a squirt of whipped cream. He somehow can’t do it and instead keeps screaming for me asking me where I am? No way…sorry…come find me. We are in a tiny, and I mean tiny, two bedroom condo that has less room than most people have in their homes. You may think I am being callus but wtf?
When my father is sitting and coloring and asks me “What does tan mean?”….that is Alzheimer’s. When he is sitting watching television and despite the fact that I am busy tells me he needs a drink of water…that is personality. I have always known and maybe it is diminished capacity that I have let some of it slide, but he expects women to jump and cater to him. Call it being a male chauvinistic thing or “old fashioned”. I call it “leave me the hell alone for a minute and go get a drink of water! I am not a maid!”
When I am in the kitchen cooking dinner and he asks me what I am doing in there, despite being only feet away and smelling the cooking….that is Alzheimer’s. When he calls me two, three, four times to ask me “what was that noise you just made?” or “Where are you?”…that is his personality. He won’t get up or turn his head, instead he wants me to keep running out of the kitchen to answer his questions which could be answered if he just looked over his shoulder.
Okay, maybe I just needed to vent. We have good days and we have bad days. Today was good until it wasn’t.
I was in my bedroom looking something up on the computer. My father is at the dining table, just outside my door, painting. He shouts “Hurry, get me a rag or something!” I run out and he is holding a napkin from the stack of napkins about two inches from his arm.
I have been putting together these wooden puzzles for my father to paint. I bought them at Harbor Freight and they are that balsam wood that has been laser cut. Yes, they are tricky even though they say an eight year old can do them, so I put them together and he paints them. So I put together a shark. I drew a picture of the shark on a paper and labeled each part what color he “should” paint since he won’t do it without my telling him. I tell him paint the shark gray and the water blue. I point out that the water is the stand. I come back and the whole thing is gray, shark and stand. Then I put together a lion. This time I print out a colored “clip-art” picture of a lion for him to see the colors. It is sort of a preschool type lion, orange body, brown mane. That one he got. Third times the charm? No! I put together an owl. Again printed the clip-art. Then I even put all of the colors he would need in little cups in front of him. Light brown for the belly feathers, dark brown for the other feathers, white for around the eyes, because he said they were white, not brown, and orange for the beak. Guess what? Yup, all dark brown, every last speck of it. I put together a peacock and it is really nice. I will not give him that one because I will be pissed if he paints it all one color!
Okay, enough ranting. I admit, I may be wrong on some of my “this is Alzheimer’s, this is personality” stuff but if you spent a day here you’d probably see it like I do. New adult daycare next week… Thank God!
And if he asks me one more question tonight I am going to lose my shit and end up in the psychiatric ER!