Monday, November 23, 2015

the realities of growing old

i prefer to keep this blog about my triathlon adventures but a big part of the process is trying to achieve your goals while managing what goes on in your other life.  and my other life has been extremely difficult and very stressful.  not only has work sucked and continues to give me major stress but my parents are at the point in their lives where they are really struggling with their health. wrapped around all of this is the break down in the everyone's relationship with my brother.  i call him 'the snake' and will just leave it at that but our family is no different from many others.  it is not perfect and it is very sad to think that the people who should look out for you the most can be the ones that cause the greatest harm.

my  mum has been diagnosed with parkinson disease for quite awhile now.  we all handle the challenges that life presents differently from the next person and my mum choose her path.  which to me it looked like she just gave up right from the start.  my mum is now living in full time care.  she has her good and bad days but she is not the one we worry about the most.

my dad has been diabetic for awhile and it is managed by diet and drugs.  he has never done this well. then two years ago he had a pacemaker fitted.  this doesnt seem to cause too many problems.  then earlier this year he was told he had prostate cancer.  dad decided he didnt want to do chemo or radiation.  it is not the aggressive type and is very common in his age group.

in july he came up to perth and we went to the wafl hall of fame dinner.  we had a great time but the next day he fell at the perth train station and ended up in royal perth hospital for five days.  he was having issues with his balance and blood pressure and they needed to make sure he had not broken anything or banged his head too hard.  he did have a few scrapes and bruises.  they then diagnosed him with parkinson disease as well.  seriously.  i could not believe it.  the thing i hated the most was that they just came out and told dad without consulting anyone.  dad has always had a confused idea of what was happening with  mum.  some days he had this idea that she was going to get better and the next he needed money to pay for the funeral.  there are many different types of parkinson but my dad doesnt understand this so mums future became his.

so dad came home with more drugs and things just went a little downhill everyday from there.  in the last six months my dad has been separated from his wife of 55 odd years, was moved from his home of the last ten years, had his car taken away, gave up his dog because it was too difficult in his new home, had all his possessions taken out of his control, diagnosed with cancer and then parkinson disease and then struggling everyday with his memory and health.  some of these things should never have happened and that is on someone else's conscience.  my sister and i were left with picking up the pieces.

dementia comes in different types and is caused by many different things.  parkinson disease can contribute to it.  dad had a few episodes of wandering off and some times he was confused and wasnt making sense.  his short term memory was terrible but his long term memory was unbelievably good. then you could get him on a good day and everything was fine.  but then it just started getting bad and there were less good days and then none.  my aunt called me and dad was being taken up to hospital as he was not making sense and was being aggressive.  i left work and drove down to bunbury.  when i saw dad he did not look the best.  he looked very tired.  but he knew who i was and he was still aware of his surroundings.  at first we thought he was suffering from delirium. i stayed for a few hours and talked to him and made sure he was okay and told him that i was going to look after his cat jingles and he wasnt to worry.  that was the last real conversation i may possibly have had with my dad. later that night he had a major shift and became very aggressive and virtually sunk into severe dementia.

my sister was meant to be here but had broken her ankle and had to delay her trip.  i had to email her and tell her that the dad she knew wasnt around anymore.  i had to go back down to bunbury and meet with all the doctors.  the news wasnt good.  they had tested him for everything and changed his medication.  but there was no explanation for the immediate and sudden loss of dad's ability to look after himself and communicate.  he was talking but it was stuff from his past and it was all over the place.  i went back a week later and he knew who i was for a moment.  that is such a huge thing.  we sat and watched the cricket and i got glimpses of the old dad.  a small positive.

my sister and i are now looking for a place where dad can go.  he requires a high level of care and secure care.   we are hoping that once he gets settled there will be more improvements.   i am looking at places in perth so at least i can visit on a regular basis.  there is much more to all this but i dont think i need to elaborate here.  i miss my dad.  like anyone you find it hard to see them like this because he was always so strong and healthy.  i was lucky that day that i could get away from work and that i could talk to dad before his mind went into a tailspin.  you never think that it will be the last conversation though so i was very lucky.  i have always had a better relationship with my dad than my  mum.  i have some really great memories and for now they will have to do.









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