Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Parental Guidance

My Mom has been worried about my Dad's health lately (he turns 70 in October).  She sent this email to me and my siblings the other day. 


Thought it the best way to convey my thoughts, observations about your Dad.

We have read the drafts for our trust, power of attorney, health care directive and will set up the appointment to have notarized today. Glad that is more or less taken care of.

I am awaiting a call from DMV to set Dad up with an appointment for a behind the wheel test. It is challenging to get such an appointment -- it seems since I have tried about 10 times only to be told unavailable, both on internet and phone. Testy!

When Dad came back from LA he asked if I thought he should have a doctor appointment about some of his memory problems. I said yes and we set it up. Previously he asked if I thought he had Alzheimer's. I said no, but thought he had had some mini strokes like his Mom and that a doctor might prescribe some meds or suggest some diet changes. 

I made up a list of problems and showed to Dad before the appointment. He said he would give to the doctor.  He did not dispute any item. Later he said I should go in to the doctor's office with him so I did.

Here is my note to the doctor:

August 23, 2012


Regarding my husband:

Toughs it out all the time!

Concerns about these symptoms:
Shortness of breath, tiredness, rapid breathing with exertion
Some blocks of memory gone; recent example:
Tuesday we went to Berkeley, a frequent stop. I mentioned a store there and how they had changed it. He said he had no memory of it and did not know what I was talking about. We have seen it more or less monthly for past 15 years.
Chronic cough
Some movements seem involuntary (hand twitching)
Walking changes: feet sensitive, painful/balance
Driving: episodes with concentration problems; incidents where pavement markings ignored, vehicles in adjacent lanes not seen
Speech: slurred during some class presentations
Uses wrong word or inappropriate words on occasion
Simple spelling, math challenges, confusion*
Hearing loss

I will be available in waiting area if needed.

Suggestions?  Blood panel? Cholesterol? Blood pressure?

Thank you, XXXXXX (wife)

*Yesterday your Dad asked how to spell rectangle; he said I'm a complete blank.

So, I'm trying to maintain a balance, be objective, not overreact, protect grandchildren and others, while being sensitive to Dad's independence and any effect on our perceptions. When we got in the doctor's office Dad gave the doctor my list and introduced me. After taking notes and entering in his records doctor said: First, let's rule out Parkinsons and had him walk in the hallway outside the office and did a few tests to his arms, swinging them. I do not know what conclusions he drew, if any. He then said we would concentrate on one problem at this visit and see again in 6 weeks to see how things are going. Next he said,  "Are you ready to give up driving?" (I think this took us both by surprise). He said you do not want to be a danger to yourself or others.  He then gave Alzheimer's statistics, which I thought might be too high. Like, 40% of people age 70, 60% of those 80 and up are affected. Dad of course said no he is not ready to give up driving and said he drives to Berkeley, etc. all the time and recently drove to LA. The doctor said freeway driving is different than familiar territory. Dad then said my list was only my interpretation* and that when Grandpa was scaring us he was tested. The doctor asked if I would be comfortable with that solution - being tested at DMV. I said yes. The doctor then asked if our affairs are in order, etc. So that is the current situation. I finally got through to an Oakland office of Driver Safety and they said a letter is required by doctor for a test. So I have emailed Dr. XXX with that request. 

* I did not "interpret" anything and was waiting for doctor to interpret.

So that's where we are. Dr. XXX did prescribe a cholesterol med which we pick up tomorrow.

This of course could all just be a little "blip" and of minor consequence, but thought a full disclosure would clear the air. And, maybe Dr. XXX was just trying to insert a "possibility" that driving may not be an option at some future date and the test would ease my mind. 

Rather a difficult week.  



Needless to say, this email made me burst into tears.  I can't stand that my Mom sent this email out with a DO NOT REPLY TO THIS message.  But I guess I should be grateful that she has communicated with us about my Dad's health concerns AT ALL, seeing as when I was a teenager I found out my Mom had breast cancer via a family friend. @#$%!*&!@#$%!

Seeing as MY communication skills aren't all that great, I am not sure what else to write here. I guess I am feeling what anyone would feel if they received this kind of information about a loved one.  :[  


Rita Templeton said...

I wonder why she didn't want you to reply? She didn't want you to feel obligated, maybe, or anticipated that you wouldn't know exactly what to say? Regardless, if it were me I would need to reply with something. I have no idea what, but ...

My parents are in their sixties. My mom just turned 65 and so far they're still active and relatively healthy, but it scares me to death to think of them getting old and infirm (or insane!). My grandmother had Alzheimer's, and I saw my mother struggle with taking care of her. It was hard on all of us. I worry so much about the time when I'm thrust into that role, you know? I mean, it seems like your parents should always be ... parents. Like capable and functional, endlessly.

My mom is like yours. She lives four hours away from me. Once when I called just to chat and was like, "What are you doing?" she was all, "Oh, just getting discharged from the hospital." WTF, Mom?!

Claire Kiefer said...

OMG found out your mom had breast cancer through a family friend?!?! That is crazy and upsetting. But I'm glad she's okay.

I can imagine how scary it was to get an email like that from your mom, but try not to worry too much. The kinds of things your mom has observed about your dad seem pretty typical of people his age. And your mom is obviously very on the ball!

Wonder why she prefaced the email with DO NOT REPLY? Did you call your sister immediately? That's what I would have done.

Sending hugs southward.

Cheryl Ann said...

oh, girl - hugs and hugs and hugs to you and your siblings...

my parents haven't gone through any major health issues yet, but i've already asked them to be totally up-front and honest with my brother and i when something does happen. we'll see how that goes...

we got a lot of similar emails earlier this year, from Saul's mom, regarding his dad's health. unfortunately, the information was given to us as a reaction to his diagnosis, and not as a preemptive step, like your mom seems to have done. the news is shitty, regardless of the situation - we never want to see our parents as anything but the picture of health.

like i said - hugs and hugs...

sporkgasm said...

The do not reply thing is a little awkward. I understand why she might do it though. I'm sure it was as tough for her to write out as it was for you to read. My mom has very selective communication.

Watching a loved one age is difficult. But it's better than the option, which is them no longer be around. I tried to think that over and over watching my gram's health fail. My dad is healthy and 72, thank goodness. I don't know what I'm going to do when my mom or dad start having health issues. I depend on them so much still.

K.Line said...

Oh, J, how worrisome and stressful. I am giving you positive thoughts. Between your sister's recent health scare and this, you've had a tough couple of years.

On the topic of your mother's email subject heading, I suspect she doesn't want email replies because she and your dad either share an account or look at each other's on a regular basis. I take the do not reply to be more about email and less about not wanting to communicate - because she did communicate at some length and with eloquence.

I suggest (of course, I'm interpreting, you know your mum) that you call her and try to have a discussion. She may not think she wants to talk but her email was reaching out. Keep us posted, please! Kxo

Dancing Branflake said...

You're right- saying do not reply speaks volumes about the communication style in your family. I'm so sorry about this. I have no clue how I would react. No, I do. I would reply because I hate being told what to do. And I would call them.

My Dad had a stroke when I was fifteen. He's lucky to be alive, but it certainly changed the dynamic of our family considering I didn't live with him and I was already pretty far removed.

I guess what I'm not saying very well it is that people do and say weird things when life is in jeopardy. And that's okay.

GFS said...

goodness...what a way to learn something some important about someone so dear.

In your mom's defense, maybe this is the only way she could get it out to avoid her collapsing or breaking down in front of her. Chances are she takes "being strong" for her family (by not sharing about her own health). It may seem insensitive but it may be the only way she could cope with it herself.

I'm like that too, I like to write out my thoughts to avoid interruptions or even a break down.

I know it's alot, but give your mom a hug. She needs one and you need one too...and your papa too:)

Getting older sucks doesn't it! I have "what if" thoughts about my mom's health all of the time.

Praying for you (not just saying that either:)

GFS said...

goodness...what a way to learn something some important about someone so dear.

In your mom's defense, maybe this is the only way she could get it out to avoid her collapsing or breaking down in front of her. Chances are she takes "being strong" for her family (by not sharing about her own health). It may seem insensitive but it may be the only way she could cope with it herself.

I'm like that too, I like to write out my thoughts to avoid interruptions or even a break down.

I know it's alot, but give your mom a hug. She needs one and you need one too...and your papa too:)

Getting older sucks doesn't it! I have "what if" thoughts about my mom's health all of the time.

Praying for you (not just saying that either:)

Alisa said...

So sorry!

My sister and I just had a conversation about how difficult it is to have our parents aging! Makes us want to cry when we think of what's to come!


Trixie said...

Ahhh, no I am so so sorry. It must be incredibly difficult for you. So very sad. I assume she doesn't want you to reply because she is already overwhelmed and can't take one more thing, although she should allow you all to respond! It's only fair since he's your dad. I understand lack of communication, my aunt died and my dad didn't bother to mention it to me. I'm sorry you have to go through this. I hope you are all able to talk and work through this so you can be there for him. xo

Maegan Tintari said...

Oh man..... *sigh. I'm not sure what's worse, the news or how you received it :( I'm sorry.

WendyB said...

Did you reply despite the request? I can understand how your mother might not want to talk further right now -- on the other hand, it's natural for you to want to ask questions. I say do what you feel like doing as far as communications go.

Phoenix said...

Coming from a family that also sucks at communication, all I can do is say that I'm deeply, deeply sorry. It seems like tragedy multiplies upon itself when you're not allowed to talk about it.

If you haven't done so already (and it looks like you took a first step with this post), talk to your friends, who are your real family.

Don't carry things alone. It's too much weight for any one person to bear.

Hugs, Droll.

Tom Tuttle from Tacoma said...

So such communication style Is not unique to Asians..not gonna comment further. Agree with K.line's message. Pray. Praying for your parents.

Kristine said...

Oh I'm so sorry. It is such an awful feeling to feel helpless and worried about a loved one. The do not reply would drive me nuts but maybe your mom is trying to hold it together and stay very methodical and removed in order to keep herself sane. I tend to retreat and want to hide when I am overwhelmed. It is so heartbreaking to watch our parents grow old. I hope you are getting lots of cuddles with the cats. Sending you lots of love and good vibes.

Marsi @ The Cottage Cheese said...

This brings me to tears. It's so difficult watching our parents age. Both of my parents have had a lot of serious health problems, but they talk to me about it so that I get to process the situation with them. It sounds like your parents both feel like they are somehow keeping you emotionally unburdened if they don't give you the option talk to them about your Dad's symptoms (and before that, your mother's cancer diagnosis). But this seems unfair to you and your siblings. At least your Mom has implied that she will be keeping you in the loop about what's going on in the future. So your Mom told you not to reply, but maybe a phone call is in order? Even if not to talk about what's going on with your Dad, just to talk TO your Dad, to hear his voice.

My Grandmother is 93 and her Alzheimer's diagnosis came almost 15 years ago. We started seeing symptoms of dementia about 10 years before that. And my former boss was diagnosed 10 years ago and he still lives independently at the age of 78. Your Dad may have many good years ahead of him.
The doctor may be trying to prepare you parents for the worst, just so that they won't be in denial about what may happen in the future.

You and your family are in my thoughts, my friend.

cerebral e said...

One thing I've learnt from working in Geriatrics is that families are so weird. Also that I should spend more time with my parents. Pity your parents aren't where I am or I could see your dad in my Memory clinic.

My mum is similarly no-communicative eg not telling us our grandmother had died.

For what it's worth, your dad's symptoms don't sound like Alzheimers. Email me if you have any questions about ageing or memory stuff.

Not really related but I saw a woman last week who has Alzheimer's and has started hoarding used continence pads and dead animals.

hope505 said...

Sweet J...hoping the absolute best for your fam.

Here is a possible solution to the "do not reply": write your reply (or, you know, type) and send your thoughts in a card or letter to your mom.

This way, she'll know and have your support, you can express your love and concern and offer adult suggestions, or whatever you'd like to do, show her that you aren't going to pieces over this (even if you are) because I'm sure she wrote "do not reply" partially because she doesn't want you (and siblings?) to all panic, start jumping into the scene and possibly make a hard situation even harder with extra emotions...I mean, I don't know what sort of woman yer mama is...

Just a thought. Reply via snail mail in a comforting, supportive letter, maybe... "Dear Mom, I know you asked me not to reply to your recent Email, but I love you so much and of course the news you wrote has been on my mind. I'm here for you...etc." & "Please don't be angry" ! if you think it might upset her!

:::big huggs!:::

anita said...

my thoughts are so with you!
my mom is having a birthday party next week for my step-dad who is turning *80*!
my sister and i keep saying that number. "he's turning *80*!!"

i don't know much but as i was reading your mom's list of his symptoms, the first thing i thought of was parkinson's.

hang in there....

NellieVaughn said...

I am so sorry you are going through this. Because I like to torture myself, I imagined the letter was speaking of my own father. He is 56, I believe. If not, he is close to that. We've just recently started getting along with each other. There's so much time to make up for. If we could go back in time, taking knowledge and wisdom with us...

I cried reading this post. Big hugs, and be kind with yourself.

Kitty Stampede said...

Oh Drollski...This is such tough stuff to deal with.

I am dealing with something similar with my dad. He's been rushed to hospital numerous times over the past few months. Some major prostate issues. And he is still working, etc...apparently the one of those times the doctors said he was clinically dead. He is currently awaiting an operation that should help him..but his health did decline in such a small amount of time. so sad to watch. I HATE aging related poop.

It's so hard to deal with this subject matter. You just have to try and be as strong as you can, but of course you are going to be the opposite too. I would find it awful hard to not reply to the letter. I would have to for sure. It is great of her to be so extensive in the info and pass it along to you guys. She just hasn't wanted to pass the 'burden' on to you all. Family members are often like that.

Thinking of you...often, even before I knew this. Take Care Doll.

Lorena said...

All families have different ways of communicating.
Mine has very little communication and I could imagine getting an email like this from my mom - it's something she would do.
The good thing is your mom got it out of her system as she must have stayed up nights just thinking about how to process this.
Look at the bright side - she is including you all in this tough time - sometimes the tough times give us an opportunity.
Opportunity to say things that we have not said, to do things we had not done before.
In a difficult situation- it's all about the attitude.

itsCatherine said...

if any a time to cry. big big hug.

itsCatherine said...

if any a time to cry. big big hug.