Saturday, December 6, 2008

Weeping Over an Oil Change: Welcome to Alzheimer's Disease

My father, back when he kept his cars in perfect condition, and really was a car expert.
I try to make my father's battle with this horrible dementia disease as funny as I can because it is funny sometimes, and laughing about it helps to keep away the tears. Today, for example, he woke up with a paranoid obsession about his car. He told me there was a conspiracy of the "enlisted men" against the "officers" to not care for his car properly, and since my sister's husband was a Marine enlisted man, he was sure his son-in-law was in on the conspiracy along with "that other husband."

"But I don't have a husband," I told him.

"Well, you clearly know more about this than I do," he said and on that particular subject I have to say I am the sole expert.

But the car oil change-conspiracy-obsession ceased to be funny when we picked up my sister at the airport this morning and all he would talk about was how we had to have the oil changed. We looked for the service report and saw that it had been changed in October and since my parents drive about 10 miles a month (my father, thank goodness, no longer has a licesnse) it is clear the oil does not need to be changed. But he would not be denied and grew increasingly agitated, which caused Mom to yell at me (when I tried to distract him with a photo album) and my sister to threaten to put him in a nursing home. I put my computer in the basket of the three-speed Raleigh and headed out to the WiFi Bakery for some blogging relief.

It reminded me of a story I heard at a support group for Alzheimer's families I attend. One woman there wept and told us this month that she had had to put her husband in assisted living because he has been insisting on calling her by his first wife's name. He was married to his first wife only four years and he has been married to his present one for fifty, but he kept perusing his old divorce papers and crying and telling his present wife that he never loved "that woman he was married to for fifty years." His agitation grew each day and he just became too much for his wife to handle.

That's the way my Dad was this morning. My sister has come all the way from Colorado and I've come all the way from Florida so we can give him a birthday party tomorrow and right now I don't even want to see him. I know it isn't his fault, but I want my old Dad back. And like the lady at my support group, even though I know an oil change is no big deal, I weep.

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Lena said...

Oh man, Robin. I don't know what to say, it is hard to hear about Pa acting this way. It is even harder, I'm sure, to be there. You and Mom are good to try and take care of the both of them, though. Are you at that cute little cafe with the neat cakes? That is my favorite place in Los Altos. Have a capuccino (sp?) for me.

Robin Chapman said...

Lena it is going to be okay. I guess maybe I caused him grief too when I was a child, so maybe it is payback time!

Devon C. said...

Would it have been possible to leave and take the car for an "oil change" and come back and say it was all done?

Robin Chapman said...

Gosh you are so logical! Wish it was that easy. Unfortunately when he's paranoid, nothing one does is right, so we just have an awful day. Here's an example: one day it was that mom wore an old shredded nightie. When we told him she was going to wear a nicer one she had stored away, he accused her of hiding it from him and trying to humiliate him by wearing the old one! We just have to weather these attacks, they are part of the disease, unfortunately.