Barbara from Illinois

My husband's elderly aunt and uncle have 2 married sons, one of whom lives out of state, the other out of the country. Ron and I lived within 2 miles of Uncle Morrie and Aunt Sally. Morrie had stage 4 Parkinson's by this time and had been hallucinating, seeing people floating outside his 4th floor windows, watching people climbing out of the tv screen, etc. He was also very paranoid, calling the FBI to tell them someone was out to get him and more. It reached a point where we finally had to hire someone to be with him 24/7. We had a new man starting to spend the night with Morrie as Morrie needed help getting to the bathroom during the night. The man's folding bed was about 10" from Morrie's bed. But, around 3:00 am, we received a call from the police that they had found Morrie in his robe, underwear, and socks running down the busy street next to the condo. Morrie managed to silently slip out of his bedroom after undoing the belt that he had on tying him to the bed rails, get somewhat dressed in socks and robe and walker, then leave the condo! He was 'trying to find a phone that wasn't bugged so he could tell the FBI someone was spying on him through the tv!' The police had taken Morrie to the local hospital, and he was being transferred to the psych unit for evaluation at a different hospital where they had a space for him. Ron had Power of Attorney and was able to sign the papers, etc.

Sally was in the early stages of Alzheimer's, very angry, suspicious of everything, difficult to manage as she wanted to be in control. She had been having some chest pain, so Morrie called me to ask what to do. I told him to call 911 immediately, that I was on my way over. But the housekeeper did not want to send Sally to the hospital. I spent 5 minutes arguing with her and finally told Morrie that the housekeeper was not a doctor, nor his family, and had no business telling him what to do. I had to tell him Sally could die if it was a heart attack, that I was hanging up and calling 911, which I did.

These are but two of the basically weekly occurrences for the years while Ron and I were caretakers for his aunt and uncle. It finally got to a point that we didn't think we could handle much more. Our nerves were very frayed as, for example, we were sometimes having to make pretty serious decisions that we'd rather the sons made. But that couldn't always happen. Caretaking is a tough job for family members who are not really trained in this area. Then, you always have a family member or two who start questioning what you are doing (though they never offer to help!). We finally had to tell his sons that it was time to move their parents near one of them, that their care was more demanding at this point than we were able to handle. Morrie was released from the hospital the same morning his son arrived to fly him back to live in a beautiful nursing home less than 30 minutes from the son. Morrie loves it there! Sally was moved a few weeks later. Her room is across the hall from Morrie's. She was not as happy as Morrie at first, but gradually felt a part of things and "needed" for certain tasks that were assigned to her to help her acclimate.

Sadly, Morrie has passed. We fear Sally's Alzheimer's was so disturbing to him that it just broke his heart and he gave up. Sally is oblivious, doesn't know who we are anymore, though she says she's sure she knows us from somewhere, we're on the tip of her tongue. We miss both of them.

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