Three thousand days plus; that’s how long my father fought through the perplexing and demeaning stages of Alzheimer’s.
He did exceptionally well for himself, probably better than most. It was from setting the ground rules from the onset, ensuring he had a tranquil and routine life, and keeping confusion as far away from him as possible.
Limiting bedrock choices and decision-making will help minimize most nervousness and frustration. This holds true even in setting a schedule for meals or daily walks. Once again, I will emphasize routine’s important role in alleviating those dealing with memory impairment.
In dealing with the devastating changes this cruel disease extorts, I believe one of the most merciless junctures was watching Dad lose control of his attention span. Initially, I noticed things such as his reading the first three pages of a book several times or losing patience during television programs. The progression of the disease was characterized by obnoxious verbal and hand gestures toward the boob tube and high decibels of, “You call this acting?” It wasn’t long ago; he had favored such mystery shows as, Murder She Wrote or Hercule Poirot by Agatha Christie. The relentless progression of Alzheimer’s had extinguished all of his short-term memory and convinced him they were all a bunch of idiots. Once a commercial broke, he forever lost track of who murdered whom.
Fortunately, we lived near the Tampa Bay area, where the Tampa Bay Rays had finally turned into a winning major league baseball team. Dad was so much better at watching sports. The bottom of the screen held an attention-getting scoreboard. He would still ask me thirty to fifty times who’s playing or who’s winning, but the air traffic flow of four-letter words flying around our living room had diminished immensely.
During his earlier stages, I left the Game Show channel on most of the day. Even when he regressed to scarcely knowing the answers, I’m convinced those shows kept his upper gears shifting. If he said the answer was blue, and they said it was white, next came: “I told you it was white!” Poor Regis Philbin would be quickly dispatched with, “This game is rigged!”
Have you ever heard the expression, “Use it or lose it?” Well, that’s where I’m headed with this. Dad played two to three hours of solitaire on a daily basis. Sometime back, during a moment of clarity, he explained that playing cards created some kind of a safety bubble for him. I believe that by blocking everything else out, Dad could evade most frustrations and jitteriness for a short time. If he weren’t playing cards, I would have been constantly worrying about what else he might have gotten himself into. That safety bubble covered quite a bit of acreage as a sanctuary for him and a little breather for me.
It’s a long, slow, and painful ride for any caregiver. Hopefully, these suggestions will help take out some of the bumps along the way for you.