Public Service Announcement

June 22, 2010

If you’re here for June ICLW and want to read an introduction click here first: June ICLW. Otherwise, please join me in raising awareness. Many of you going through infertility now will not be confronted with this problem for many years. But, at some point, your parents WILL get older so I tell you this now. Aging sucks!

When Pops got pneumonia last year I told his story to everyone I could think of. Because I learned A LOT. I learned something that I don’t think is common knowledge to non-health care workers. And it was even missed by at least one health care worker. And I don’t want others to have to go through what I went through last year. And what I may be going through again – but this time I’m armed with knowledge. This post may get a little long so I won’t make you read the whole thing to glean the important information. Here it is:

INFECTION (of any kind, pneumonia, bladder, etc) in OLDER individuals CAN CAUSE AN ALTERED MENTAL STATE. Once the infection is treated the mental state returns to normal. My father was so far gone last year that I had no hope he would make it back. But he did. And here’s that story.

Last year my father seemed to be in some sort of general state of decline. But we couldn’t figure out what was wrong so we chalked it up to depression (which he has battled his whole life). Gradually he was becoming weaker and weaker. Hygiene went out the window. Finally, during a routine check up, his oncologist ordered a home health service to come in and help him out. So he had a CNA nurse come in to help bathe him and a physical therapist to work with him. And there was an RN caseworker who was a complete beeyotch.

I started to get reports that he was having serious memory issues. So I spent a week working from his house every afternoon so I could see for myself. I didn’t see it at first. With me he often seemed quite lucid. Perhaps that’s because I was feeding him. It was only after this whole ordeal that I realized he hadn’t been feeding himself properly. He had been eating a consistent diet of microwave popcorn and steamed potatoes with salt and butter. And nothing else.

He slept most of the time I was there that week. He did seem a bit foggy at times – asking me where my brother was. My brother moved across the country more than 10 years ago. But I had not yet witnessed him forgetting how to dial the phone. The RN caseworker came by one day. Pops’ door is almost always unlocked and most of his friends walk right in and call out to him and/or knock on the door as they open it. It’s been like that for years. Since he’s in the wheelchair now it’s more of a necessity. But this was different. This woman, a relative stranger, walked right in without knocking first or calling out. And then proceeded to interview him while he was eating the lunch I had made for him. No “Sorry to interrupt your meal” or anything. She just walked right in, sat down and started interrogating him. He did not pass her test. His answers did alarm me somewhat but I couldn’t tell if he was just being uncooperative because she was rude and bitchy, or if he was really that out of it. Or both. What pisses me off most, to this day, is that she listened to his breathing with a stethoscope. A two-time lung cancer survivor who had pneumonia and she didn’t pick it up. Grrrr. That meeting concluded with she and I on the front porch. Me sobbing while she told me he had dementia and needed to be put in a home – pronto. She didn’t have the authority to do it herself (although I didn’t know that at the time) but her manner was one of “If you don’t put him away I will.” SO not helpful. I called my brother in tears. He started researching nursing homes online.

It was a few days later that I heard the cough. And noticed him forget how to use the phone. A friend had called and he had answered. But they were disconnected. When the friend called back I watched him stare at the phone. He was looking at it as if he’d never seen or used a phone before. I finally answered it and handed it back to him. That friend, a PhD in Psychology, came over the next day. I wanted his help in evaluating my father. At that point I had begun to believe the witchy RN. I thought he some sort of rapid onset dementia.

The next day was… eventful. The friend came over. Along with another friend. We were having some appetizers and wine and visiting. When suddenly my father wheels himself from the table to the kitchen and starts rooting around in the cupboard for something. We all noticed it and thought it odd but didn’t say anything at first. Then I offered to help him find whatever he was looking for. Once the dish in question was located he sort of sat there for a bit staring off in to space. And then he started fiddling with the drawstring on his sweatpants. We thought maybe they were too tight and helped him loosen it. And then… well… let’s just say his intentions were to urinate in the dish. In the kitchen. In front of everyone. We stopped it from happening but that was a real eye opener. It was clear then I had to take him to the doctor. But I was still unsure of what might possibly be wrong with him. It wasn’t until Right Guy arrived later that he concluded it was likely pneumonia.

The next day we went to the doc. He said it definitely looked like pneumonia. He tried to admit him directly to the hospital but there were no free beds. So we had to go sit in the ER all night until they could find him a bed. The bed he eventually got was on the pediatrics ward. 😉 Once there, I thought I was home free. I thought I could go home and rest. Nope. He was so out of it that he kept trying to get up and walk away. Except he was too weak to walk. Even on good days he doesn’t walk well and uses his wheelchair. So I had to stay with him 24/7 for a few days until he became more lucid. At that point he’d lost control of all bodily functions so that was… um… fun. At least in the hospital I could call someone else to clean it up. Yesterday I got to do it myself. Ewww.

Even after he started to regain some lucidity he was still in and out of it. I really didn’t think he could possibly come back mentally. One day the doc asked him if he knew where he was. His response? He very matter-of-factly stated that he was in the Department of Corrections. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. On the one hand he got the answer wrong so clearly he wasn’t all better. On the other hand… a hospital IS a little bit like being in prison. I have to give him that one. 😉

So anyway, he’s sick again. And it made me think of last year so I thought I’d post this story in case it’s ever useful to anyone. The doc said yesterday he didn’t think it was pneumonia this time. Or the cancer. He thinks it’s bronchitis. He sent him for an Xray just to be sure. We should get those results today. But he’s obviously not doing well. When I went to pick him up yesterday I found him lying in a soiled bed and he wet my car seat on the way home from the doc (I knew I shouldn’t have let them give him coffee!). I had taken a chuck from my emergency Pops car kit (it has 2 changes of clothes, some Depends and a couple of chucks to protect my car seat) but it wasn’t enough to protect my seat. So off I went to buy OxyClean in large quantities. I got some spray for my car and some powder to wash his sheets in. My SIL claims it’s the best thing for those sorts of problems. She learned that by having 3 kids. And taking care of Pops is really kind of like having a toddler so… Maybe I’m not cut out for this parenting thing. I’m so exhausted. And after all that I had to go home and find the energy to try to make a baby since the OPK stick still says GO. Oy.

UPDATE: The Xray shows he does have a bit of pneumonia. Just a small amount. No change in treatment. Hopefully he’ll bounce back with the oral antibiotics. Fingers crossed.

UPDATE: 4 days later and we’re in the ER. I think he’s gonna be admitted.


6 Responses to “Public Service Announcement”

  1. Wow, that’s wild. I never would have known that, but it makes sense. Thanks for educating me!

  2. Kristin Says:

    Hey, woman…yes, I’m in Cary, NC. Are you in this area too? Email me through the email me link on my blog.

  3. Man-Annie Oakley Says:

    I apologize for commenting without you knowing me – I found you through Calliope’s blog. I read this story with my mouth agape. If they know that there is an infection of some sort and he is that mentally out of it, as well as being a TWO TIME LUNG CANCER SURVIVOR!!! why did they not have him on IV antibiotics? To really get it going through his blood stream? I’m sorry to be presumptuous, but this had me awestruck. Sitting in an ER for 24 hours to wait for a bed, putting a grown man with obvious infection related dementia on a Ped ward, and saying there is a little pneumonia?!? Holy crap! I’m up in arms for you!! Perhaps you live in a small town, and this sounds like a lot to deal with on your own. Maybe I’m not getting the full picture – but something in his treatment rubs me the wrong way. Especially the home Health Nurse who came to examine him – how rude! OK – I’m off my soap box, and I apologize. I just couldn’t help but comment. I wish you luck in your efforts to care for him during his recovery, and I wish him a speedy healing!

    • Stolen Eggs Says:

      Thanks for commenting. Just to clarify… this was last year, and once it was identified as pneumonia, we got him to the hospital but simply had to wait. It was full. It’s not a small town (not a big city either) and it was a private hospital. Other people in the ER were calling other hospitals in the area and it seemed like they were all full/busy. I have no idea why. Once we got him admitted, and I’ll take a peds bed over NO bed, he was on IV antibiotics for 5 days followed by oral antibiotics when he was transferred to a rehab facility to better recover before going home.

      He is now sick again. But this time I caught it earlier so it’s not a full pneumonia just yet. Not nearly as bad as last time. His oxygen levels are normal (normal for him anyway) right now (last time he needed to be on oxygen). I still have my doubts about the oral antibiotics given his history. And I’m worried he’ll forget to take them. We may yet end up back at the hospital. But for now I’ll just watch him closely. Thanks for your concern!

  4. […] made it back yet (if you haven’t heard of infection induced delusion/delirium you can read about it here). In fact, he’s worse mentally today than yesterday. I’m hoping it’s my […]

  5. Lisa Says:

    Caretaking is difficult, dirty, frustrating, smelly, heartbreaking work, especially for an adult who suffers the indignity of not being able to care for himself anymore, and your positions being reversed. You sound loving, concerned, capable and caring. Pop is lucky to have you fighting his battles for him.

    Think positively about your own life and what you want. It will give your mind and body one less hurdle to get over.

    Lisa ICLW#72 yourgreatlife

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: