Lots of things are going on; not all of them good. My father in law died last Thursday afternoon. He’s been suffering from Alzheimer’s for years. A fall in the middle of the night last month hastened his departure. A simple fall combined with anti-blood clotting medication lead to a huge leg injury requiring skilled nursing. Then Alzheimer’s disease left him lost, confused, scared, and delusional. He was a bad patient; much of that exacerbated by the disease.
Alzheimer’s is a really cruel disease. Patients lose their internal clock, staying awake at all hours of the days and nights. Often the worst traits are amplified by the disease. And this combined with sundowners; a period of confusion occuring while the sun is setting can lead to violence in about half of all Alzheimer’s patients. And as the mind fails, the newest memories start fading. I think this terrifies the patients who know they are loosing their minds. And terrified people will do anything to try and bring sanity to their lives. But they don’t know how to anymore. For David, at the end, he considered Buffalo New York to be his home; a place he lived in between the ages of 2 and 4. But he never forgot those that he loved most — his wife and my three daughters.
The care demands are overwhelming. A 1-2 minute attention span along with the need to be careful with a leg wound meant he had to have someone with him 24 hours a day And either the family does it at a huge personal cost or you pay large sums of money. Night nurses run about 250 dollars a day in addition to the nursing home costs. And insurance does not pay for any of that care. We, the family, paid both types of costs; there was no choice. The disease or some complication will always kill these patients; the only question is how long will it take. As a family member; you can only watch the patient slip away; yet there is little time to mourn because the immediate care demands are so big. Bob and Mary (his mom) were incredible caregivers. They both showed great tenderness and compassion. Taking care of David was so hard, I am not sure I could have done the task. Instead, my job was being alert, continue working, helping provide information for decisions, and listening to both of them talk.
David went fast; as if he knew the fall would kill him. And now we are dealing with funerals and a lot of other details necessary as part of our society–legal and personal. The full impact of his absence will take a while to before I fully acknowledge it. And it’s much rougher for Bob and my daughters because they have known him and lived with or near him for all their lives. I don’t even want to think about how Mary must be feeling to loose a husband after 62 years of marriage.
The memorial service is on Friday morning. David was a good man. We will miss him.