Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Card Confusion

The day before the movers were coming, in October, my dad announced that he'd like my help....with his Christmas cards! I do have to admire him for thinking and planning ahead, but this was a bit too much. I'm wondering if Dad was so overwhelmed with packing and the prospect of moving that doing Christmas cards seemed like a safer, more predictable activity. Anyway, I helped dad pack the cards and redirected him for the moment.

Earlier this week Dad and I got back to his cards. He had a pile of cards he had received in previous years and he had an address list for "Christmas" on his computer. He would tell me who he wanted to send a card to, and I would find the address and print out an envelope. We ran out of Christmas cards, having used up all of the leftovers from three previous years. Dad seemed to obsess about this and kept looking through the card box. Yes, there were cards, but they were general greeting cards (some of which we used) and Birthday cards. He had a hard time, a very hard time, letting go and moving on to something else. We put the cards aside and I went on home, promising to come up another day with more cards and copies of a Christmas letter we had crafted together.

The next day I had three calls from Dad. First, he had to tell me he found a pile of cards from previous years and he was worried that we hadn't made cards to send to these particular folks. He was quite insistent. I asked him to look inside the cards to see if he could see "done" written in them. Since he had been shuffling through the cards as I addressed the envelopes I had begun to mark them in this way. Yes, he saw "done", so he was put at ease. About fifteen minutes later he called me about the Christmas cards again. He was upset that we hadn't finished them. He could only find three cards, oh, and by the way, how super of me to put stamps on them. I had not put stamps on any of the cards. Then it dawned on me that we had made out cards for three family members and had prepared them for mailing. Dad had found those particular cards and not the others that were waiting for his Christmas letter. I explained this to Dad. He had a hard time understanding me when I told him that someplace there was a pile of other cards that we would finish when I returned. He was pretty adamant that we had only done three cards. A bit later he called a third time. This time he told me that he had a pile of cards and envelopes. He was confused about why they weren't sealed and stamped.
All three calls came less than 30 minutes apart. Dad was acting like a car spinning its wheels in the mud. He was working very hard at this and wasn't getting anywhere. He was stuck. This 'stuckness' is also called perseveration and it is a behavior related to the disease. It will help me to find ways to redirect Dad when he gets caught up in a cycle. This time I reminded him that we hadn't finished the cards and I would be up the next day to help him. I guess that was enough to help him move on as I didn't get another call.

The next day I returned and we finished the cards. They are signed, sealed and on their way to delivery.

One of my biggest frustrations in trying to help is that when Dad calls I can't see what he is talking about. Sometimes it is something on his computer screen. Other times, like with the cards, it is something he has in his hand. He sometimes has a tough time giving me enough accurate details for me to 'see' what he has. I have begun to research remote access software that would allow me to tune into Dad's computer to see his screen. I also realized that we might be able to set Dad up with iChat. In that way he could show me what is in his hands.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Dad wants to drive. He doesn't like interfering with my schedule, or that of my son, to have us take him places. Although he can afford it, he doesn't like paying a taxi to take him out. And even though he's found he can easily walk to stores to get whatever he needs, he wants to drive. He wants the independence. He doesn't want to admit to his failings and he wants to be a normal guy. I think that in America cars are highly symbolic of virility and strength.
In March Dad had his driving evaluated by an occupational therapy organization that routinely evaluates driving ability. The recommendation was that Dad not drive. A report was sent to his Doctor. Dad stopped driving. When Dad decided to divorce my step-mother he also decided he needed to be able to drive again. Although he hadn't actually lost his license, as nothing was submitted to the State, he requested a re-evaluation from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Dad studied for the written test and he passed both it and the driving test. Dad began driving again.
Do I think Dad should be driving....I'm not sure. I worry that he will suddenly realize that he needs to turn and he won't check to see if other cars are in his way. I worry that he will be distracted by trying to change the heat setting or radio, and won't see another vehicle/person/road barrier until too late. It used to be that I didn't worry about him getting lost, but now that he's moved and is in unfamiliar neighborhoods, that actually has happened. Dad decided he needed a battery from Radio Shack. He printed out a map from Google to locate the store but had a hard time getting there anyway. Evidently he mentioned to the clerk that he had gotten lost on his way to the store and perhaps he made a comment about his concern about getting home. A customer in the store, one who obviously has some angel wings hidden under his jacket, led Dad back to his apartment. The good news is that Dad was frightened enough by this experience that he hasn't driven since.
Dad's car has a GPS system built into it. I'm not familiar with how it operates and I keep promising myself that I will sit in the car, program the GPS for 'Home' and then write basic instructions for Dad to operate the system. Dad's iPhone also has a map program and he can get directons on that. However, it too takes many steps that Dad can't seem to remember. I could write step-by-step instructions for using that as well. But,  I haven't done either of these things. I guess my procrastination is rooted in my conflicted emotions regarding his driving.
This week Dad got a letter from the Department of Motor Vehicles asking him to turn in his license. Apparently the Doctor finally submitted the report from March with the recommendations that he no longer drive. Dad wants a hearing. Out of principle, I agree with him. In practice, I think I'm happiest with someone outside of the family making the decision. A decision that probably is the best for my dad.