Thursday, September 9, 2010

Boppa's Last Vacation

Lorrie & Rod, and I took Dad/Grandpa/Boppa to Effingham, Illinois for a Labor Day weekend with my oldest son and family. We rented a cottage at Camp Lakewood Campground on Lake Pauline. My son and family stayed in their Minnie Winnie a couple sites down from the cottage.
The first night went fairly smoothly with Dad getting up to go to the bathroom about 5:30. I slept on the pullout in the main room. It was the second night that things fell apart. Dad got up at 2:45 to go to the bathroom, but was very confused. After he went to the bathroom I got him back to bed. But an hour later he did the same thing, only this time he wanted to go to his room, room 204. He wanted to go to room 204, now. I finally convinced him to go back to bed again and I lay down to sleep. But an hour later he was up again. This time when he went to the bathroom but when he came out he said he couldn't go, he needed to see a doctor. It was then I realized he was constipated.
Since he has Alzheimer's anything that upsets his system upsets his ability to cope. So, I had him put his hearing aids in, sat him down and gave him a plate of strawberries and a juice box. While he was eating I explained that we were on vacation with his grandson and family and that Lorrie and Rod were in the other bedroom sleeping. He said "Ohhhh, I'm sorry." I told him it was OK and that he would probably be able to go to the bathroom in an hour or so. We went back to bed, again.
This incident made me realize we needed to give him something to help him remember where we were and why. So at breakfast I had him write his "Bucket List." I called it Boppa's Last Vacation and I asked him what he would like to do on his last vacation. With a little prompting he wrote down seven items.
1) visit relatives
2) go swimming
3) go for a boat ride
4) go fishing
5) go tent camping
6) build a campfire
7) sing around the campfire
I had him fold up the list and put it in his pocket. Every time he asked where we were I had him read the list and he would smile and laugh. Each time we did one of the items I had him check it off.
Between the strawberries and the list it worked, because the third night he only got up once and didn't ask to go to room 204.
The one unfortunate thing that did happen Monday morning after we got a picture of him sitting on one of the great-grandson's Scooters, was when I mentioned taking him down to the dock to fish. He absolutely refused to walk anywhere and did not want to fish. I got upset. I yelled and stalked off in a huff.
After I calmed down I realized why it had upset me so much. My childhood memory of my father is of him fishing. He loved to go fishing. He loved fishing. But this part of my father is not there anymore, the Alzheimer's has eaten it away. So, when he refused to walk down to the dock to fish, it was that moment the realization hit me full force. Tears come to my eyes as I type this.
This is what every caregiver of an Alzheimer's patient goes through. It is ugly. It is painful. It is inevitable that you will have these moments where you blow up, because another part of the person you love has been eaten away by the disease. In spite of it all there is a positive, the Alzheimer's patient will forget the incident within a few moments. You won't forget and all the people who witness it will not forget, but the Alzheimer's patient will forget.
So, Boppa's Last Vacation was a success. And yes, it will be his last vacation because it is too hard on him to be out of his routine, his room, his familiar surroundings. The sad truth is that he will only get worse. But, we have some wonderful memories of his last vacation around the campfire, riding in the boat, swinging while we played horseshoes and of course him goofing off on the the scooter. We did make him laugh a lot on his last vacation.