Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It HAS to be said!

"The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone."
- Harriet Beecher Stowe

I find it very hard to begin this particular post. But, they say that anything worth doing is difficult to do...well then...this post must be solid gold! ;p In all seriousness though...what I have to say has gone unsaid for far too long. I hope that you will bear with me as I attempt to kill two birds with one stone.

The first bird I would like to kick in the kisser is this...

I have, in past posts, waxed metaphorical and because of this some people may be confused as to the exact state of my dad. Allow me to be completely clear. My father has Alzheimer's. It is an aggressive and incurable disease. His Alzheimer's brings with it Dementia, Psychosis, and Aggression. It is a horrible thing to witness and possibly one of the worst ways to lose a loved one.

My dad, as hard as it is to hear, is lost to us. He is NEVER coming back. My mother on the other hand is NOT. My mother, as far as we know, is not afflicted with the disease that has taken my dad from us. That is not to say that my mother is in perfect health...there are some very deep concerns that my sisters and I are losing sleep over every night. This is our lives and we are dealing.

I would like to speak directly now to all the "friends", "family", and "friends of the family" that would seek to offer their "sage" advice to my mom in her time of need. My dad is where he is for a reason! Late last summer, my dad reached a point in his illness where hospitalization was necessary. The psych ward at University of Utah, while a competent and caring place, is a very cold and clinical place for your loved one to be confined. While he stayed there, the rest of us searched high and low for someplace that my dad could go that would be comfortable, friendly, and...warmer.

There were stipulations. My dad had to be in a secure lockdown type of facility and they had to have an in house 24 hour qualified nursing staff. These were NOT suggestions! They were, and STILL ARE requirements. In addition we wanted a place that was...nice. Friendly, warm, compassionate...and didn't smell of urine or look like a prison. That place was Silverado. Thank God for them! I shudder to think of how it would be to visit my dad in most of the other options we looked into. And we DID look into ALL of them.

This decision does not come without its downfalls. Silverado IS far away. Silverado IS expensive. BUT Silverado IS THE BEST PLACE THERE IS!!! There are those who would say to us, or my mom, "When are you going to move Allen down here closer?", "He needs to be closer to everyone down here.", "He would be so much happier if he were in Provo, or Spanish Fork.". Let me be blunt. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT! If you should happen to visit my dad on a "good day" and wonder 'why is he in this place so far from home' and 'he could be cared for at home why isn't he there'. PLEASE try to remember that you happened to catch my dad in a good MOMENT. Chances are once you left he proceeded to shout at people in the dining room that they were all going to die because the plane was crashing, or started smashing all his dishes for no apparent reason. My dad is not a bad man. My dad is not a dangerous man. His disease...is.

It is true that his meds have reduced his paranoia quite effectively. That is so AWESOME!...when he takes them. A skilled nursing staff sees to it that this happens. It is not always easy...and during those times when it's not...we are grateful for their expertise. But, remember that, even though his paranoia is under control, he is still DEMENTED and PSYCHOTIC! He needs constant supervision and he needs a controllable environment. He is most of the time looking for an escape. Trying to take doors off their hinges, trying to open doors that (luckily) he can't, or planning to dig a tunnel out with the other residents. You might try to familiarize yourself with the disease before you offer an opinion based solely on the emotion of the moment. Try spending a complete day with my dad. Try spending even five straight hours with my dad, and you will see that he is where he needs to be.

My mom struggles with where my dad is every day of her life. She feels guilt, and sadness, and frustration to an extreme. She wants to simply carry my dad away. This is a justifiable emotional response. She misses him. But, what her emotions do is to cloud her logical judgment. She doesn't realize the impact of such a decision. When others feed her desire to have him home...it leads her further down an emotional pit of despair. Because, that is NEVER going to happen. Alzheimer's doesn't have a cure. My dad will not get better. Not amount of medication will reverse what has been done, and what continues to happen, to his brain.

So, before you think about how sorry you feel for my mom, and how happy everyone would be if she could just have him closer to home, think about all that that would entail. I don't care if you think you have some kind of "in" with a facility closer to home, unless they have a secure lock-down building AND a 24 hour skilled nursing staff, it doesn't matter. So, your suggestion does nothing but aggravate the issue. Instead, think about all that I have said and offer this to my mother...

"I know that you are hurting. I can't even imagine how bad it must be. But, he is in a good place. A caring, beautiful and safe environment. Be happy that he is where he is. And, if you ever need to get up to see him. Give me a call. We can work it out."

There now...isn't that better?

Now, onto birdy number two...

My family, like most every family in the world, is dis-functional. We have never had a reason to doubt the love our parents have for us...but growing up in a family where praise and encouragement were rarities had its toll on all of us, each one in its own way. Communication between each of us was never our strong point. So, perhaps there is alot of misunderstanding by each of us. Because we have a hard time communicating our feelings to each other...we assume too much. And, in addition to making an ASS out of U and ME...alot of hurt gets passed around. Most of the time...I like to think that this is unintentional.

I would like to bridge a vast gap here and offer some insight for all of us.

First, we are our father's children. My dad was a workaholic! No denying that. He was always the first one at the airport and the last one to leave. And, it wasn't just the airport. His workaholic nature pervaded his religious and civil assignments as well. He absolutely threw himself into his roles as City Councilman, Bishopric, Mayor, and Bishop. As his children we are no different.

Each of us works hard! We work hard at everything we do. We wouldn't be Allen Woodhouse's children if we didn't. Not ONE of us works harder than any of the others! Seriously...let me say that again. NOT ONE OF US WORKS HARDER THAN ANY OF THE OTHERS!!! IF we can get that through our thick skulls...that will be a huge step in the right direction.

Second, all of us have grown up. I know that may sound obvious and strange...but think about all that that implies. As a "grown up"...I have earned the right to be respected by all those around me. Those who don't respect me...I don't have to have anything to do with them. As a "grown up"...I make my own decisions. I also suffer the consequences and rewards of making those decisions. NO ONE ELSE has a right to take that away from me! I don't have to justify a decision of mine to any of you and you should feel the same. As a "grown up"...I have enough on my plate to worry about without your life and what you are doing with it. I don't care how you spend your money! I don't care if you go on vacation or not! I don't care if quit your job or not! I don't care if you want to become a $2 stripper in New Orleans!!! Your life is yours! I hope you LIVE it! I will rejoice with you in your triumphs! I will be sad with you when something doesn't happen the way you wanted it to! I will support you in EVERYTHING that you have decided to do! WHY? Because you are family! I may not agree with all of your choices...but they are YOUR CHOICES!

Lastly, there is one person, in all of this, that is in desperate need of ALL the attention that we can spare. That is our mother! While it is true that she has been through a tremendous amount of pain and despair...she can get better. But, not without our help. She is in no position to make vital decisions on her own right now. Her judgment is clouded by her depression, frustration, and God knows what else is going on mentally and physically. As a diabetic there are numerous dangers which are new...to her and us. Of course we don't expect her to snap back into "normalcy" but she needs to have certain things done. Things that she no longer has the luxury of choosing whether or not to do. IF she can't make those decisions on her own...then she needs us to be strong enough to make those decisions for her. Out of love! I'm sure that none of us, as children, ever WANTED to go to the doctor. But, if our mother, and father, hadn't made us go...well some of us might not be alive today.

Well, there you have it. Quite possibly my longest post to date. I'm sure I have left some things out which I shouldn't have...and I'm quite sure that I've stepped on more than a few toes. But, I am not sorry. I am hopeful!. I hope that we can be a bit kinder to each other. I hope that we can understand and respect each other a bit more. I hope that we can help each other see my mom through this darkest of periods in our immediate families history.

I love you all!

Sara Jade Woodhouse