THE DASTARDLY DEMON DEMENTIA, by Betty Huffman

 

DEMENTIA….

Demeaning, devilish disease that degrades its victims….

Diabolically erodes a person’s ability to recall memories and process incoming and outgoing information….

Daily it wreaks havoc in the life of the individual as well as the lives of all who love and care for the person with the disease….

Delusional visions and disconnected conversations dominate the days….

Detestable anxiety and ominous nightmares have dominion in the darkness of night….

Despicable is the only way to describe its effect….

Damn Dementia!

I truly DETEST what you’ve done to my mother!!

 

My precious 81 year old mother was diagnosed with mild subcortical dementia mid-June, 2013. August 6, 2013, she became very ill and was eventually diagnosed with West Nile virus.  The virus attacked her muscles and worsened the dementia tenfold.  She has needed 24 hour care ever since.  It has been a trying eight months, to say the least.  My 83 year old dad has managed quite well taking care of mom with minimal assistance from Visiting Angels and my two sisters and myself.  However, around the second week of March, my sisters and I noticed our father’s health declining.  We had decided last October when we brought mom home, that if daddy’s health began to suffer as a result of the constant care he was giving mom, we would have to move mom to a skilled nursing facility.  We agonized over this decision, but we knew it was best. We moved mom on March 21st, and I stayed with dad for the following week (my sisters had already scheduled their vacations for the week of March 24th).  My dad was very sad at first, but he has gotten some much needed rest, has worked out his “routine,” and visits mom every afternoon.  He is doing so much better now.  It was the ABSOLUTELY HARDEST thing I/we have ever done.  Once I got home and rested up a bit, I kept thinking about how much I hated this disease called Dementia.  Hence, I wrote this poem as a way of expressing my feelings and frustrations.

Summer’s Abrupt End

It has been quite a while since my last post on August 3rd (I am embarrassed about how long it has been) about the fun I was having with the grandkids (click here to see that post).  Little did I know that 3 days from that day, my life would be turned upside down and all my plans changed.

On August 5th my 81 year old mother was not feeling well, and she had trouble holding her head up.  Since she had a doctor’s appointment already scheduled for the next morning (Aug. 6th), she and my dad (83 years old) decided they would just wait and go to the doctor then.  The next morning mom was worse.  By the time she saw the doctor, she  was so bad that he didn’t hesitate to admit her to the hospital and begin ordering tests to find out what was wrong with her.

The next week was full of uncertainty as mom got worse daily. Tests showed a couple of “minor” things which led the doctor to order more tests. It wasn’t until the second week (and mom’s number of Medicare-paid days were running out) that we finally got some blood work back that gave us a hint about what the true problem was. These tests indicated that mom had the West Nile virus, and more tests would be needed to verify the diagnosis! However, a transfer to another hospital was already in progress and the EMTs were there to load her in the ambulance. We decided to go ahead with the transfer because the hospital we were transferring to is an excellent facility and my younger sister works for that hospital with their outpatient therapy department. The transfer had a couple of “glitches,” but we finally got her settled on the neurology floor.

She was experiencing severe headaches, confusion, hallucinations (from all the medications), and extreme anxiety (Mom was diagnosed with mild subcortical dementia in late June and had begun having difficulty processing information or following steps in a process; the West Nile was exacerbating the dementia symptoms). This was heart-wrenching for us (my dad and my two sisters) to witness. One of us was with mom every minute of every hour of every day! After a couple of EEGs the neurologist told us the EEG readings were consistent with the West Nile virus and it had caused encephalitis. He also told us mom did not show any signs of having had any seizures. Thank goodness! She remained at this hospital for over a week and a half. Mom improved slowly and fortunately the last couple of days before they were going to have to release her, she improved enough to qualify for the acute rehabilitation hospital. Therefore, after close to three weeks in the two hospitals, we moved mom to the acute rehab hospital where she would receive physical, orthopedic, and speech therapies.

Mom stayed at the acute rehab hospital the maximum amount of time and made significant improvement, but she was no where near a “complete” recovery. She still needed assistance to do most everything, along with additional therapies, and to regain her strength. We located a skilled nursing facility close to mom and dad’s home that would take mom. She was there until last Thursday, October 17th. After two and a half months we finally brought her home that evening. She still has a lot of improvements to make, but she and my dad are taking “one day at a time.” We have hired a visiting nurse service to come daily and assist my dad and give him some time to take care of the daily “responsibilities” of life, as well as to give him time “away” to take care of himself. Fortunately my younger sister lives two houses up the street from my parents! Even though she still works fulltime, she is able to stop in daily and see how things are going. My older sister (who lives in Indiana) and I try to go visit as often as we can to assist with mom and give our younger sister a “break.”

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED IN THE LAST THREE MONTHS: Life is SO VERY precious and SO VERY short! FAMILY is the most important thing in your life. Spend time together and TELL the ones you love that you LOVE them OFTEN! You never know when you might lose a loved one, and then it will be too late!

Thank you, Lord, for giving me more time with my precious momma!

My precious momma and me!

My precious momma and me!

ADDITIONAL LESSONS LEARNED: Mosquitos carry the West Nile virus, so PLEASE ALWAYS spray with mosquito repellant!!

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