Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Whassup? Me and My Dad

Tuesday March 29

Remember me?

Its been more than a month since I seemingly vanished off the face of the earth....and if my disappearance (or my reappearance) has been (or is) cause for concern, I apologize, but there was a reason.

About a month ago I told my readers that I was taking a hiatus from blogging, then shortly afterwords I came back and posted the previous article, and then dropped out for the next month. So let me explain what has happened, back peddling a bit.

About two months ago I took my father to his endocrinologist for his routine examine. She gave him a clean bill of health, but she was concerned about his inability to answer questions and his confusion about taking his medications and getting prescriptions filled. She called me in and we had a talk about this decline in cognitive skills, and she then gave me the names and numbers of some gerontologists and neurologists.

My father, who will be 84 this Tuesday (April 5), is a retired teacher and until about 18 months ago was active in the Saint Vincent DePaul Society and the AFT Retirees of New Jersey. He wrote columns for the retiree's newsletter, and I featured his piece We Need More Than Another FDR on this blog on November 1, 2008. Within a year he gave up the column and his work with St. Vincent DePaul, and was given a dinner in his honor by the retirees in October 2009, and he received an award for service from St. Vincent in January 2010.

During a trip to visit my brother in Ohio in June 2009 Dad had trouble walking, and a little more trouble communicating that in the past. Being under the care of a cardiologist he had been taking a statin drug that his doctor thought could have been too high a dosage, so it was altered. His walking improved but his cognitive skills were not what they were only a short time before.

By the end of 2010 Dad was forgetting routine things, like how to open the garage door with the remote, where certain kitchen items were located (even some that were in the same spot for twenty years), and recent events. He would have CNN on TV most of the day, but when I mentioned "Tea Party" to him before the elections last year I had to explain to him what and who the Tea Party was.....at one point in his life Dad was the political junkie's political junkie. He was a virtual encyclopedia of American and New Jersey politics, and knew more about labor relations and law than any five congressmen of either party.

On February 9 of this year we visited a neurologist who gave Dad a routine test of thirty oral questions, of which he got 23 correct. He knew the season but not the date or month. He could write a complete sentence but could not spell "world" verbally. He was told to remember three items in a list, and was asked to repeat them a few minutes later. He couldn't do it.

In the past few weeks I took Dad for a Doppler reading to see if there were arterial blockages to his brain....there weren't. We went for an EEG to see if there was any evidence of a stroke.....there wasn't.

And he had an MRI done as well. Yesterday in the neurologists office we got the results. Dad had shrinkage in his brain that the doctor said was similar to the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease. The doctor did say that there was a 40% chance that his condition could be something other that AD, and that Dad would have to meet certain criteria - like a steady regression of cognitive skills over a period of time with no leveling off- to make a definitive diagnosis of AD. But as of now my Dad is being treated as a patient with the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease.

In the past few weeks I've had to commandeer Dad's driver's license, Medicare and insurance cards, as well as his credit cards so he won't misplace or loose them....and he has a couple of times. In the past two months we've found prescriptions that were written but never filled and we've started putting his pills out for him each morning, and we're making sure that he doesn't forget to take them.

To make a long story short, its been adjusting to a "new normal" around here, that's anything but normal. And to top it off, early this month my father answered a phone call from a "cousin" of mine who was supposedly in jail in Canada and said he needed bail money. He and my Mom were targets of an international scam that has victimized 60,000 elderly people nationwide.

As if there weren't enough on the plate than to deal with those lowlifes and spending part of the day reporting it to the cops.

Wednesday March 30

I'm back after a break of nearly 24 hours.....its a little harder to find time to write these days, and when I do have the time sometimes there isn't adequate energy.....and at other times, I just didn't feel like writing at all, or even logging on to my own blog. But I promise to be better in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

If you want to see a comparison about how my life has changed, take a look at at the column of my previous posts and look at 2009- you'll find 700 entries for that year. Maybe I'll do 70 in 2011....if that.

To say that 2011 has been an emotional roller coaster of year is pretty accurate- and its only the end of March. The sages tell us to never stop learning, and that's what I'm doing, maybe learning lessons of a lifetime.

I got a real lesson from an old retired school teacher on Tuesday who's neurologist was about to tell him he probably had Alzheimer's Disease. Dad and I were sitting in the doctors office....and I was noticeably more nervous than he was. A nurse came in and took Dad's blood pressure and pulse. The guy will be 84 on Monday, and his BP was 120/65 and pulse was 72. "That's great" my Dad said to the nurse, and she said "Yes it is".

Then the the doctor came in and asked us how we were....."Great!", my Dad told him. "I've already got two pieces of good news!".

When we left the doctors office and were walking to the car Dad said to me, "Well it could of been worse. At least my heart and blood pressure are good".

And that's my Dad in nutshell, possibly the most optimistic man you'll ever meet. He's the guy who kept saying "Bowl game next year!" back in the 1990's when Rutgers football was a national joke, complete with an 0-11 season in 1997. And sadly, today he can barely remember details of any of the more recent games.

I left the neurologist's office that day with a bounce in my step because I felt so proud that this sunny and courageous man is my father. He's always been a great Dad, but even a better person. How can you not love someone like him.....and I do.

Then Dad and I took a ride across town to Nathan's where we pigged out on hot dogs and fries.....we deserved it.

So life has changed for the coming years, and so will this blog. We'll be open for business, but the hours will be reduced. So if you knock and nobody answers, its probably because I'm a little tied up.

But I'll be back ASAP.

Appreciate each and every day...........

8 comments:

Sue said...

Hugh you have me tearing up!! I know how much your life has changed, it practically mirrors mine, except for the Alzheimer's. Thankfully Mom has no signs of it but has chronic pain from arthritis.

You have alot of work ahead of you, but oh so rewarding! Your parents raised you right, you are a good son!

Remember when I thought my blogging days were over? I had a very hard time concentrating for the first couple months after Mom moved in, but I got my mojo back and you will too!

Take care, good to have you back even tho it didn't feel like a month. Damn time flies!

Hugh Jee From Jersey said...

".....you have me tearing up!!"

I had me tearing up as well.

Sue...thanks for being a good friend. And keep fighting the good fight. And just maybe I'll be joining you again in doing so when the time is right.

Sue said...

you're a good friend too Hugh. You'll be back, I know it! Watch Ed, he'll get ya fired up!

Papamoka said...

Hugh,

My heart goes out to you having been the caregiver for my dad for many years. It's heartbreaking but it is what a good son will do for the man that made you who you are today. I can't tell you that it will get easier but there will be times that you are glad that you are the person taking care of him.

I loved my dad alot and I'm sure you love your dad just as much. When he starts to get that look on his face it will be only you that will recognize it. Hold his hand, walk with him if need be, just keep talking and interacting as long as possible. Just his knowing that you are there is a comfort. If you ever need to talk, vent, or just ask questions then please feel free to email me at papamoka (@) hotmail (dot)com.

My prayers are with you.

tnlib said...

More tears. But what a wonderful son you are. I wish you all the best as you start this long journey. We'll be here when you need us or when you just feel like ranting. ((((()))))

Hugh Jee From Jersey said...

Papamoka and Leslie....thanks much for the kind and thoughtful words.

As you can guess, I find myself just a bit busier than I have been in the past. Thank God for the diversion of The Final Four (men's and women's) and baseball.......

Talk to all again soon.

Anonymous said...

Hugh, Sorry to read about your father. I know it has got be hard on you seeing him like this. Remember Jimmy Valvano's saying "Don't Give up,Don't Ever Give Up"

Laker/ Charles

Hugh Jee From Jersey said...

Hey Laker! I just saw your comment, thanks much. I really haven't posted much these past few months- needless to say my writing time has become greatly diminished, and often when I do have some free time I just need to rest, escape, or do both.

Jimmy V....a Rutgers guy, how can I forget.

"Don't give up....don't ever give up!".

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