I received a call today from a daughter whose parents live in our area. Dad is 83, mom is 80 and they have been married for 60 years. The daughter called because her father was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and has been “doing some strange things”. I discovered that the “strange things” really aren’t that strange to those of us that are professionals; but very upsetting to his wife and children.
Dad has been urinating outside the front door of their condo and recently urinated outside of his Church. He recognizes this behavior as inappropriate, tells his wife what he has done; becomes very angry and frustrated and has begun acting out in other ways. His daughter told me that mom is “in denial”; that dad has “done everything” throughout their marriage; and that she is very worried. She also said that dad mentioned he probably shouldn’t be driving anymore.
Most of the calls we receive usually result in our staff providing crisis stabilization services. Sometimes the crisis is so extreme that the patient is unable to remain in the place he most wants to be… his own home… Because this daughter reached out before a more serious crisis occurs, we now have the opportunity to work with the family and the patient as they begin to navigate the maze that is Alzheimer’s disease.
Once our crisis prevention services are in place, the level of anxiety and stress facing the adult children should diminish and the quality of life of the patient and his wife should improve. If and when a crisis does occur, the current investment this family is now making, of time, money and planning, will truly spare them unnecessary pain and anguish.
Let’s hope that as more people obtain early diagnosis, more physicians will recognize the need to give the patient more than just a prescription. Let’s hope they will give them information or access to other professionals that can guide them throughout the disease process and become an integral part of the patient’s on-going health care team.