Some people who have Alzheimer’s disease have behavioral problems and are difficult and disruptive. Dad is not like that. Sometimes a friend might even question whether dad really has Alzheimer’s because he is so quiet. I remind them that each individual case is different. But so far, I am thankful that dad has not progressed to a point where he causes problems for himself and others.
Dad has always been fairly quiet. Now he is even more so. Sometimes when I visit he hardly talks at all. It is especially difficult on the days he is sitting in the television lounge. The television is always on. Dad sits and half watches. His hearing isn’t very good, so if I try to talk to him, he really can’t hear or understand me. Yesterday was like that. We spent an hour watching the television with very little conversation.
Today was a little better. We were in his room and my son and grandson were there too. Dad loves to watch his great-grandson talk and play. He still doesn’t say a lot, but he smiles and gives hugs and high fives.
Even on days when I take dad out for lunch, he sits at the table beside me but says very little. When I talk to him or ask him questions, he asks me to repeat them. I don’t think it is all from his poor hearing. Partly it is because his mind is elsewhere and I have to “bring it back” before we can have a conversation.
On the other hand, dad never complains. He doesn’t complain to the staff at his assisted living facility and he doesn’t complain to me. If he is asked to do something, he does it to the best of his ability – such as getting weighed on the scale once a month.
The staff at the assisted living facility love him. They tell me he is cute and he is funny. He does have a good sense of humor and when he answers a question it is often with a non-serious answer. If he is asked what he would like to drink, he would respond “booze” some of the time.
The only time he is not in good humor is when it is time for him to take a shower. Over the past year, most of the staff have learned how (and when) to approach dad so that he isn’t as likely to object to his shower. They have also learned it is easier to let him sleep in than it is to get him up and dressed when he is not ready to do so.
Overall I am happy with dad’s day to day life and with the people at his assisted living facility. One problem I have noticed lately is that they are frequently under-staffed. The turnover rate has been high lately and I find myself wondering if I just didn’t notice last year since I didn’t know the staff as well. Some of my favorite employees are leaving or have left. They say they are burned out.
Being an aide in an eldercare facility is not easy. The pay is low and the work can be demanding. I often wish there were a way to pay the better staff more. I know turnover is an issue for people who care for their elders at home also. Any care worker still has a home and family of her own to look after. When conflicts arise between home and family demands and the work demands, the individual must usually choose the family. I believe one aide quit because she was required to work on a weekend day. All facilities must be staffed 24/7 yet few want to work nights or weekends.
In the back of my mind, I always know that I have to watch out for dad’s care myself. So far we have been lucky in that dad doesn’t not require much staff time. He has his shower twice a week. An aide comes in daily to make the bed and straighten out the room. He requires very little one-on-one attention, and is, in fact, happy to sit in his room or in the lounge alone most of the time. He doesn’t want conversations and rarely goes beyond saying hello in response to a greeting from another resident or staff.
I know some time things might be different. I might even have to hire an extra companion to care for him a few hours a day, if dad gets to a point where he needs more attention to help him walk to the dining room or to take care of his bathroom needs. In the meantime I am happy that dad is satisfied and I try to relax instead of worrying about the next crisis.