You may wonder what it is like to be around someone who cannot be reasoned with who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It is really bizarre to see someone you know very well change moods so quickly and not be able to reason, or use common sense. Sometimes what is very normal to them makes no sense to us.
There was a weekend at my parent’s home that I will never forget. My Mom had called me in the middle of the week telling me how difficult Dad had been. She said she was not able to reason with him like she had previously. She was getting worried and scared at times. I told my wife when I hung up the phone that my Mom sounded very different on this phone call. It was hard to believe it could be that bad. I figured she was just tired and needed a break. I let my wife know that I was going to spend the weekend with them to give Mom a break, hoping that it would let her recharge and continue to care for Dad.
I arrived Friday night and everything went well. We had dinner, visited, and Dad went to bed and got a good night of sleep. Saturday morning we ate breakfast, and then Mom went shopping. I needed to rotate the tires on my vehicle and that is something that Dad loved to help me do. I knew it would keep him busy and focused on something positive. Initially, he did better than I had expected. He showed me the tools and we jacked up the vehicle. We were rotating two wheels at a time. Dad would trade with me when I got a wheel off. Once I got the wheel on, I would let him put the lug nuts on and tighten them. What I realized is that he could not remember what direction to tighten the lug nuts. I had to delicately help him finish and he was glad for the help. It wasn't just one wheel, but rather all of them. This took us all morning.
We got in his Jeep and went out for lunch. The whole time I was driving he talked about how much fun he was having and how beautiful the weather was for a Jeep ride. It was perfect weather! We were having so much fun; it was like we were dreaming. Alzheimer’s seemed to be gone for the moment. He said he could cruise all day.
We ate lunch and continued to have great conversation. He looked at me and said, “Your Mom puts up with a lot from me. I don’t know what I would do without her.” I told him she was happy to do it. Then, he said the one thing he would like to do is to drive the Jeep again. I asked him, “Are you feeling good today?” He said he was and it seemed like he was doing well. I told him we could go to the high school parking lot and I would let him drive. He lit up and was ready to go. I also let him know that I was not going to tell Mom.
We drove about 15 minutes to get to the school. It was starting to get really warm. I stopped in the middle of the parking lot and asked him if he was ready. He said, “Ready for what?” I said, “Do you still want to drive?” He said yes, so I got out and walked around to the passenger side, but he was still sitting there. He asked what we were doing. I asked again if he wanted to drive. He got out and by the time he got to the back of the Jeep he forgot again. I could tell this wasn't going to work. I let him know that I needed to go to the bathroom and he agreed that we should go home.
He was incredibly quiet the entire ride home. We parked by the barn and as soon as I shut off the engine he reached for the keys and said, “This is MY Jeep and no one should forget it. I can drive when I want.” I smiled and said, “You are right. You can drive anytime.” We got out and he came around and got in the driver’s seat and just sat there with the key in his hand. He wanted to drive, but could not figure out what to do. He got out and acted incredibly mad. I went in the house and went to the bathroom. He came inside and was pacing around like he was angry. I suggested we get something to drink, but he refused. He insisted on going back outside. It was getting up to 100 degrees that day. I didn't know what else to do. I couldn't reason with him.
He made a comment about never getting to go out in the Jeep. I asked if he wanted to go for a ride to cool off and he agreed. We took off again and he remained very quiet. We got just two miles down the road and he quickly said, “Pull over there.” It was too late for me to turn, so I went to the next turn. We got turned around and back to the stop sign when he told me in his very angry voice, “When I tell you to turn around you better do it!” I calmly said, “Okay, what would you like to do?” He said, “Take me home NOW.”
We started back home and he became very fidgety and proceeded to tell me that if I didn't get him home quick he was going to go crazy. I was very worried that if he got his seat belt undone he might try to jump out. Luckily, we only needed to go 30 mph the entire way back home. On the way back he told me to drop him off at the driveway. Then, when we got there he pointed and told me to park at the barn. I shut off the engine and he said, “This is MY Jeep and don’t forget it.” He was absolutely furious. We got out and just wandered around.
I couldn't tell what he was going to say, or do. He noticed all of the mole holes in the yard and decided to get his machete and proceeded to stab the ground to get the moles. The whole time he was acting very angry. I kept my distance and tried to redirect him. Again, I could not reason with him.
At this point I didn't know what to do, so I texted Mom and asked how soon she could come back, hoping that she could calm him down. She came back within thirty minutes. During that time I remembered that he liked to show off his knife collection. He could do this all day, every day! He agreed, and by the time Mom got there we were at the table looking at the knives and he had been telling me stories about each one. We finished that and put everything away. Then, all of a sudden he looked at Mom and said something about not letting him drive his Jeep. She calmly let him know that he had not had his license for six months (he chose to give up driving). He blew up and yelled, “Thanks for telling me that now!” He was red in the face, his eyes were huge, and he was yelling at a very close distance to Mom. I stayed close in the background to see what he would do with me there. He didn't seem to notice me. He continued yelling at her that she should just sell his Jeep if she won’t let him enjoy it. She let him know that it was his Jeep and she was not selling it. He glared at her and said, “That’s just great!” and stormed out of the house. We were struggling to try, but neither of us could reason with him. How can you convince someone of something when they cannot remember the truth, and their brain is telling them something different? For someone with Alzheimer's the answer is...you can't.
It was only about 1:30 in the afternoon when he stormed out and he remained outside in the extreme heat for the rest of the day, primarily cutting every tree branch he could reach. Then he would take the little branches and hold them next to a tree and cut them into little pieces with the machete. This made no sense and I was afraid he was going to cut his hand. When he wasn't cutting branches he was in the barn holding his head, then every so often he would throw something like he was mad. I went out to offer him some water and asked if his head hurt. He said no. He also got the weed eater working and started going around inside the barn using it. The barn has concrete floors, multiple gas cans, and other stuff, so we feared for his safety.
Again, I could not reason with him. He did not understand what he was doing.
Mom called a couple of doctors to see what we could do to calm him down. Nothing was working. They basically said he was at a point where his medications were ineffective and he would need to be admitted to the hospital to try to get the medications balanced. If the medications could not be balanced, she was told we had reached the point of placing him in a memory care facility. We had a hard time believing this until three other experienced health care professionals told us the same thing.
My Mom was told by a nurse at the neurologist’s office to call the police to report that he was out of control and they would handle it and get him transported to a hospital. My Mom quickly reminded them that he has Alzheimer’s and she could not take a chance on the police using force if our dad was unreasonable.
We were finally able to get an ambulance to arrive late in the day to get him to a hospital to work on finding a balance of medicines that would hopefully help him. My brother-in-law showed up, in advance, to try to help reason with Dad. When he showed up Dad seemed happy to see him and calmed down a little.
When the medical personnel showed up, Dad was a completely different person. He joked with them and asked what he could do to help. He could change for short periods of time for different people. I let him know that we were concerned about his health and safety and we really wanted him to get checked out. He completely agreed to do whatever was needed. It was shocking to me that he was a completely different person again. I had been worked up for so long that day that when the medics pulled me aside to ask questions I fell completely apart. They realized that Dad was unpredictable and not himself.
Dad’s medications were changed over a two week period and he was able to come back home. We were advised that he would not get better and we really needed to consider getting him into a facility sooner rather than later for everyone’s safety, and so Dad could adjust easier. We found out soon after that they were correct. Dad was too irrational and unpredictable. We were not at all prepared for that day or how fast he was going downhill at the time.
For those who get this diagnosis it is a great idea to think ahead for the worst possible scenarios so when the time comes you can be better prepared on how to handle the situation and take the best action for that person, if necessary. This disease is unpredictable, so it is important to know all of your available options before you need to make a decision.