Every year I look forward to one week in May. It usually starts with Mother's day, then quickly moves onto my wedding anniversary, followed immediately by my birthday, then blends into our temple sealing anniversary! It is a busy but fun week! This year there was far more drama than I prefer, but we made it through and have some wonderful highs and incredible lows to share!
That Thursday was an emotional roller coaster of a day for everyone involved. It was the day my Father was moved from his long time Hillsboro home to an Alzheimer's community. Richard and I got to Avamere before Megan and my mother go there with Dad. We spent some time talking to the people in charge and explained we did not think this would go well, when it was attempted around Christmastime, he reacted VERY poorly. He was younger and stronger than any of the other residents. They assured us that they did this all the time and there was nothing to worry about. They could handle just about anything. I trusted them. They had a unit full of little old people who were confused and lonely, but they were still there. Shortly after that, Dad arrived. He was given medication that morning, so he was feeling pretty good, but looked rather out of it. We took him outside, we showed him a nice place for the kids to come play and he seemed fine with it all until it was time for lunch. He got confused and started to look angry. An employee would come introduce themselves and suddenly he was his usual happy self. Mom excused herself and Megan, Richard and I ate lunch with Dad and spent some time with him. He kept asking about Mom. He did not want to go, but we finally got him to his room to watch Perry Mason. When it was time to leave, Megan and I headed for the exit and Richard stayed to talk to my Dad and try to explain that this was his home now and he needed to stay. Dad seemed alright, so we left. It is hard to believe but somehow Dad's meds and the doctors orders were not in place so Megan had to stop back by with his Rx, which it turns out they could not give him. It was a disaster! Dad was waiting by the exit and was agitated. Megan spent quite some time with him, getting him back to his room and after a couple of hours was able to leave. What an ordeal! But she was kind and patient and loving with him as she always has been.
We went to see Jacob run at Districts, which is another blog entry of its own, and when we got home I mentioned to Richard how well I thought things had gone with Dad since no one had called to say it was going badly. We were relieved and feeling very blessed. At 10PM Megan called to say Dad was NOT doing well and that Mom might need help calming him down. We headed straight over and when we got there, the administrator was waiting outside for us. There was Dad, banging on the door trying his best to get out. She took us in through the side door and I went to my Father. He was hot and sweaty and looked so confused and anxious. I took his arm and turned him around. He begged me to take him home. Richard and I got him back to his room. He was in pajamas, but had his church shoes on, his scriptures in one hand and a Louis L'Amour book in the other. I tried to get him to take off his shoes and get into bed, but he would have nothing to do with the bed, this was not his home. Beth and my Mom arrived, but Mom did not enter his room. It was soon evident he was stuck in a loop and there was nothing we could say to break it. His response was always, "You'll take me home, won't you?" and "if you won't take me home, I will walk". Avamere was at a loss. The did NOT know how to handle my Dad and seemed to think he needed to leave ASAP. He has been "exit seeking" all day. He had tried to climb the fence in the garden area, he had almost broken the password locked door, shoving and banging on it and he had enlisted the help of other residents to help him when an employee came in the side door. My dad shoved past him and took off for a brief taste of freedom. My heart ached for my dear sweet father who was so unhappy. I have known for many many years about his fears of being put away because he was too much trouble. And finally those fears had come true!
Avamere said they could not keep him and they did not want him back. He had to go. Since the Geri-psych ward in Forest Grove couldn't take him, they called an ambulance to take him to St Vincent's ER. I warned them that they would need help. He would probably react very badly to this. When they arrived a sweet young EMT named Paige offered to talk to him. She walked with me to his room, had a small friendly conversation with him and talked him into going to the ER. He walked out to the stretcher and even let them strap him in. He was laughing and joking and having a great time! Yes, I looked a little foolish warning them that this man could get violent! She told me his main goal all day had been to leave Avamere and this was getting him what he wanted, so he gladly went to the hospital. I rode with him in the ambulance. Every few minutes I had to remind him I was there. When we got to the hospital I went in with him and sat at his side while they took his vitals and asked him questions. When they asked his weight, he told them six feet. He did not know basic things like the day of the week, the month or the year or who was president.
Dad was so tired. I held his hand and he would close his eyes for a minute and then open them up quickly and look to see if I was still there. This was such a precious time for me, being there with my sweet father, reassuring him as he has always done for me. I feel incredibly blessed to have been by his side for this experience. It was exhausting, but I would not trade the experience for anything. We talked some. I tried to get him to rest. He fought his medication so hard. The doctor seemed to think Dad was fine and it seemed like they might try to send him home, which would ruin the opportunity of getting him settled into a new home. Although at that point, I was seriously wanting to take him home with me. This whole process just did not feel right. Richard came to check in and we decided that if Dad was going to get help, he needed to show the medical personnel just what he was capable of. We had kept Mom out of the picture until then because we did not want either of them upset more than necessary. But it was time and we hoped seeing her would get him agitated. When Mom came in, Dad's face became so angry and then just like a light switch had been flipped he was happy to see her. He just wanted out of there and she was his ticket home. Beth was out in the waiting room so I decided to give her a turn to be with Dad. I was reluctant to leave my Dad, but Richard and I went on a walk to the cafeteria to get some drinks. After, I checked in with my Mom and she told me they were calling a social worker in. I felt like she could use Richard's help describing our concerns about dad, so I sent him back and waited out in the waiting room. I did not see my Dad again that night. Around 2:30 they came out and said Dad had fallen asleep and that they would admit him and try to work on his meds. Richard's conversation with the social worker had gotten the reality of the situation across. He ended up staying in the hospital for over a week. He had security measures so he would not escape. He could not have visitors because they did not want him getting upset. A week and a half later he was transported directly to Rosewood Alzheimer's community. For a while when we visited he would always ask when he was going home. Reports are now that he has stopped asking this and has settled in. It seems his spirit has been broken. There has to be a better way, but I don't know what it is.
My heart is broken for my Dad. We are so far away and I miss him so very much. I wish I could be closer to him. Several times comments have been made about me moving away from him during this difficult time and each time felt like a physical blow to my stomach. I wish the timing hadn't been this way, but I also know that my Father loves me and he would want me to follow the promptings I have had about this move and continuing my education. I don't know when I will see him again and I don't know if he will know me or my children the next time we are there. But I know deep in my heart that the day will come when my Father will smile and I will walk into his arms. He will be whole again and he will know me. This is my testimony and I know it as surely as I know anything in this life. Until then I will miss him like crazy, but I am so grateful for this knowledge!
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