Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass- it is about learning to dance in the rain.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

VCI the Wicked Thief of a Parent

      Some things in life cannot be explained until one has experienced them.   The birth of a child or a grandchild is like that.   So is the sudden onset of Vascular Cognitive Impairment (VCI) in a parent.  Hearing one's parent beg to be taken home when he is in the place he has lived for more than 30 years, in a house he remodeled and added on the very room in which he is lying, is disconcerting to say the least.   He was able to agree with my brother that the two of them had carried the stones for the wall over a matter of weeks, carrying them up a steep bank from the creek bed and trucking them home.   He said he remembered, even added a small detail.  "Those things were heavy," he said.   Yet, two minutes later he's again asking to go home.

    He woke up one morning convinced that he had owned 160 acres in Florida (a state he has never even visited) and that a woman was trying to cheat him out of them.   He demanded to see the deed and the letter with six signatures all day long.  He was angry with my stepmother when she couldn't produce the deed and letter.   The woman had faked an ID; she'd pasted a Polaroid picture over the one of him and pretended to be him.  (Why a woman...pretending to be him?)   This 160 acres dominated a couple of days.

     The following morning he woke up with a murder scenario firmly fixed in his brain.  There'd been a man sitting in Dad's living room.   Another younger man had entered and shot him.  "Bang Bang.   Just like that.  Point blank.  Shot him."

    All day he alternately worried about the shooter (Would he get a sentence of life imprisonment?  Would they even catch him?) and the victim.   He wanted to go to the funeral of the man, convinced that not very many people would be there. Apparently no one but him knew about the murder.  These long rambling monologues (we would only respond uh-huh, really, or I-don't-know) took hours that morning.   Almost two hours at the beginning of the day he chattered about.  The topic kept coming up later.

   Sometimes we had to laugh.  Pat was giving him Dr. Pepper.  (He's lying in bed; she holds it while he drinks with the straw.)   He turns to me on the other side of the bed and asks if I want some Dr. Pepper.   I say no thank you.   He insists, "Here."   He reaches toward me with his right hand cupped as though it held a can of Dr. Pepper.   I reach out and pretend to take it.  I say, "Thank you."  And then turn to my sister, pretend to hand it to her saying, "You hold it for me."    We held a straight face for a few minutes longer, then exited to the kitchen to laugh and cry at the same time.

    How can you understand if you've never been there?  Laughing at the ludicrosity of pretending to take a Dr. Pepper from my Dad, and of course the mischievousness of handing it to my sister.  Then weeping with intense sadness that he is in this state of unknowingness.   And wondering how long the craziness will last?  How long will his wife be able to handle this nonsense and the intense care he requires?

     Sometimes his knowledge was uncanny, yet he was unable make sense of what he knew.   My brother had fixed the rocking recliner so it wouldn't rock as far forward.  Previously he'd been able to get a rocking motion going until he could pitch forward into the floor.  He believed that he could walk and that only we were stopping him from standing.  If only he could stand, he believed he'd walk.   The therapist tried earlier.  He still cannot walk although both legs have remarkable strength.   He realizes that the chair is not doing what he wants.  So he starts complaining that the chair has too much air in it.  It is an overstuffed chair, and quite soft.   He insisted that someone had inflated the chair.  Actually Don put a couple of two by fours under the front springs so that it will rock, but not rock forward enough to allow him to dive out of it.   He still has a knot on his head from the last dive forward.  That, of course, he cannot remember.  He castigates all of us for keeping him immobile.

     Later that day his sister came to visit.  The first thing he started with her was telling her his Florida property story.   She looked at me questioningly.   I filled her in.  "He has this 160 acres in Florida that a woman is trying to take from him.  That's what he's talking about," I say.  We can't use the word dream or fantasy or hallucination because those will set him off on his paranoid delusions.  That results in him not knowing any of us.  We become the enemy.  

     I start messing with my phone, thinking I'll take a picture of him and his sister.   He continues the conversation with her.   She doesn't miss a beat and just talks about the property.  

   "You know, we could use a house in Florida.  We live in a trailer when we're down there.  Owning that much property would be nice."   (All true)  The next thing we know, he's trying to sell her the property.   My brother gives a shout of laughter.... My sister snaps a picture and we head to the kitchen to laugh/cry.   As we are in the kitchen shaking our heads, her husband joins them and the three of them dicker about the price and the value of the Florida land for the next hour.   

    The next morning, he says, "You know I don't think Helen and Don are serious about buying that land in Florida.  I think they were just talking."

     Some things are just not comprehensible until one has experienced them.  I sincerely hope that you never, ever understand.    


Truth said...

Thank-you for sharing. My MIL lives with us and yet for the most part is very cognitive. I get frustrated at times, though, as her world has become quite small. When something needs attention, it feels like dealing with a young child again who wants everything done NOW. I feel guilty if I become even slightly annoyed, and yet I haven't had to deal with what you speak of and honestly hope we don't get to that point. I'm so sorry.

PJ said...

Thanks for your empathy. He's living with my stepmother, next door to my half-sister. The brother I mention lives maybe 4-5 miles away. He and his wife have been helping with Dad's care. She spends most days there...and He takes the night shift. Really bad for them. On the other hand, I live a day away -- a flight plus a 3 hour drive. I only had a glimpse of what they endure daily!! Bless you for caring for her. You will definitely have earned extra stars in your crown!!

Norma said...

This is an excellent piece, told with compassion and humor both. God bless you all.

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