Saturday, January 08, 2011

Making the Move


For a long time now I have been trying to keep my blog postings on the upbeat and happy side.  

I try to avoid political ranting and raving.  

I try mightily to keep my bitching to a minimum (not always successful.)

I try to not get too sad (with the notable exception of the recent death of my Mother this past September)

However, there has been a constant nagging situation just behind the facade of my happiness that I present on this blog on an almost daily basis.  And that situation is the rapid deterioration of mental and physical health of my longtime friend (51 years this January 27th) who shall remain nameless out of respect for his privacy.  Those who know me personally know who I'm talking about.  

My Friend lives with his longtime partner in a doublewide on 22 wooded acres outside of Georgetown, DE.  I always assumed that his partner, a nurse, would take care of my Friend.  However, since his partner retired from his nursing job last year, his mental health has deteriorated even more rapidly than my Friend.  

For the past month I've been trying to teach them how to use simple functions like the computer only to have my Friend's partner call me yesterday and tell me "I don't even know now to turn the computer on."  He can't even perform a simple function like turning on his TV with a remote control. 




My Friend has lost most if not all of his cognitive abilities, although he tries hard to hide it.  They are both very forgetful.  Now his partner is losing his cognitive abilities also.  


When they panic because a renewal notice comes in from Sam's Club, I know it's time to act.


But what to do?  I'm not a family member.  And to be perfectly truthful, I'm not a caregiver type.  It just isn't my personality.  During my Mother's long descent into her mental and physical shut down, both of my brothers took care of her.  They did an excellent job.  I am proud of them.  But I felt guilt because I didn't do more myself.  I'm in the same situation now.  


I cannot escape the feeling that I have a responsibility to do something.  My Friend is the reason I moved to Delaware.  He is  one of my longest, and oldest living friend except for some former classmates I still have as friends.  Although we cannot share our life as we did before when he had his mental facilities about him, I still feel a responsibility to do something.


Today I did something.  I called my Friend to ask him for his nephew's phone number.  I had never talked to his nephew before but I felt it was time to notify a family member of my Friend's situation.  The excuse I gave to my Friend for asking him for his nephew's phone number was I needed a number of one of his family members in case either one of them was in an accident.  He fell for my excuse.


I called his nephew.  His nephew knew who I was.  This was a good beginning. 


I informed my Friend's nephew about my concern and asked him if he was aware of his uncle's deteriorating mental and physical state.  He said he was.  He said his mother (my friend's older sister) has the same situation:  the onset of dementia and Parkinson's disease.  I was relieved, I didn't have to convince him.


I told my Friend's nephew that I would continue to monitor the situation and inform him of any change for the worse (which will eventually happen.)  I remember what my brother said when my Mom started to go downhill.  He said "Ronnie, I don't want to make you feel bad but it's not going to get any better.  It only gets worse over time."  And he was right.  He should know, he is the care pastor of his church.  My Friend is not going to get better.  It's not a question of if but a question of when.


We exchanged phone numbers.  I sent e-mails to members of my Friend's church who are also helping both of them with the increasingly daily crises of their day to day living functions.  


We all want to keep my Friend and his partner in their home, living on their own as long as possible.  But we have to face the inevitable.  At some point one or both of them will have to go into some kind of assisted care facility.  


That is a day I am dreading.  


This is my Friend.


Me (the Wolfman) and my Friend (Frankenstein) in better times. 
Philadelphia, Kater Street Gay Community Center Halloween Celebration 1980

8 comments:

  1. Ron,

    Sorry for the situation; glad you care.

    Lar

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  2. I had to do something Lar. I couldn't sleep last night which is very unusual for me. Hopefully I can sleep tonight.

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  3. What a tough situation; one wants to help, but knows you can't do much, or as much as others want you to do. It is so hard to set limitations on others, not feel the guilt of saying 'no'.
    Good luck sorting this all out.

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  4. Oh God, I'm so sorry to hear this.

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  5. You're a good friend. ((HUGS))

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  6. Thank you Hannum. I feel guilty though that I can't do more. I can't have them live with me. I'm taking care of an 82 year old now. He's a handful not to mention taking care of myself. I'm starting to go a bit off the rails myself.

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  7. You're young Rick. You probably haven't encountered this situation yet in your life. I have. My Mother, her two older sisters, my best friend's mother and now my best friend. Dementia is a cruel disease because the person you know is no longer there. A couple of years ago I realized that I could no longer talk to my friend the way I used to because he remembered nothing. Now it's to the point where he can't even keep food in his mouth. His bottom jaw literally hangs open and the food falls down on his chest, the table, then the floor. This is why when I die I hope I go fast. I don't want one of these long and lingering, dehumanizing descents into hell.

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  8. Spo,
    You, more than most, understand my dilemma. I've always helped my best friend when he needed my help. Now I feel helpless. I can't have him (or his partner) move in with me. My partner is 82 and, although he is fine physically and mentally, he is still a handful. He needs a lot of attention. A LOT.
    My friend shouldn't be driving. Am I the one to take away his car keys? He is stubborn. He wants to continue driving. Thank God my Mother saw her deteriorating mental state and handed her car keys over to us voluntarily. My brothers and I stepped in to take care of our Mom during her slow descent into the fog of dementia. I can't do the same for my friend. Someone, in his family or his partner, has to step in. But his partner is going downhill fast. I have a headache just thinking about this. It is constant dark cloud over my head. This is one of the downsides of old age, seeing your friends disappear. It's funny, my friend and I used to joke about getting Alzheimer's (or dementia.) Now it's no joke.

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