I was hoping things would calm down in dad’s Assisted Living Facility after the altercation I wrote about last week. For now, that seems to have “blown over” and there aren’t any immediate changes that I can see.
Because of the altercation last week, dad’s companions were all encouraged to visit during the hour prior to Happy Hour and to accompany him to the activity room at the right time. I didn’t want to let him arrive late and be frustrated again.
The management at his ALF assured me that the Activities director “always” goes around right before Happy Hour to round up the residents who usually show up. However, on Monday I received an email from one companion that she sat with dad until almost 4 o’clock when she decided it must be time for Happy Hour. She approached the front desk and asked what time it would start, and was told it had started at 3:30. She then took dad to Happy Hour where he arrived just before it was too late.
The companion who usually shops for dad visited him on Tuesday. She checks his room, cleans the kitchen and makes note of any snacks or supplies that he might need. Then she also gets him to walk a bit, play some checkers and ended up taking him to Happy Hour before she left.
This week, however, she noted something she had not seen before. There was a bottle of Johnny Walker in dad’s kitchen! Where did it come from? She emailed me, but I had no idea. She asked the activities director and he didn’t know either. She wasn’t sure he was allowed to keep it there, but I was sure I had never seen a policy against it. Still, I figured I had better check.
First I emailed my son and the other companions. I learned that dad had asked my son for a bottle of scotch. My son saw no reason not to, and brought his grandfather the scotch. I wished he had asked me first, as I could imagine there might be see some repercussions from the ALF if they found out about it. Of course, since the companion had already asked the Activities Director about it, the cat was already out of the bag.
Yesterday I telephoned the Director of the ALF and we spoke briefly. I had 2 questions for her. First, could they test dad for a UTI as several people suggested such an infection might be responsible for dad’s behavior. She immediately dismissed that idea as she said the altercation was a one-time event. She was ready to move on to the next issue.
It seems she already knew about the scotch and was quite unhappy about it. I asked whether there was a written policy on residents keeping alcohol in their rooms. She did not respond directly to that question, but rather focused on the fact that his doctor’s orders were for no more than 2 drinks a day. And, the law requires them to follow doctor’s orders.
I said he never drinks more than 2 drinks a day. In fact, he usually drinks only one drink a day and sometimes he puts half of it in his refrigerator to finish later. I didn’t think he wanted the scotch so he could drink more. I thought he wanted it so he would have more control over his own life. He will still drink only one drink a day. (Though in fact I had not spoken to dad about this – I do know that I never saw him drink more than that.)
She became quite adamant about it so I asked how much he had already used from the bottle since he got it on Sunday. She said she would look in his room and then get back to me. She said I should wait for her return call as it would just be “5 minutes”.
I waited 20 minutes and then called her office. I was told she was on another line with the physician and she would “call me right back”. I waited another 40 minutes and became increasingly frustrated with the wait. It was a beautiful day and the forecast was for the next few days to be colder and rainy. I wanted to walk on the beach!
Finally I decided to just go for my walk anyway. I would have my cell phone though I wasn’t sure I would be able to hear that over the sounds of the surf. Sure enough as I was walking along I heard music and then realized it was my cell phone. I answered and was pleased to find that I could carry on a conversation even there at the beach.
The director found almost no scotch had been removed from the bottle yet. It was about what I expected. She then said that if he doesn’t drink anything in the next few weeks she would like to remove it from his room anyway. I said no, I would rather they leave it if he doesn’t drink or if he has only a little as it gives him a sense of control over his own life.
After a bit of talking around that decision, she said she would have to call his doctor and have his orders changed. She has to have a paper trail to cover what is actually happening. I said that sounded fine to me and we left it at that.
I also asked the companions to keep an eye out to see if dad seems to be consuming more alcohol. I doubt he will, but if he does I want to know right away. As I said to the director, dad is not an alcoholic, nor has he even consumed 2 drinks in a day in all the time I have spent with him. Maybe when he was much younger with his friends he might have, but I never saw it. (And I do have some experience with excessive drinking as a problem because I worked in public health areas that included treating substance abuse patients.)
While I had hoped things would be calmer after last week’s altercation, instead, that conflict may have caused dad to decide that he needed his own supply of scotch in case he gets to Happy Hour too late to get a drink. He may have memory problems, but when something is important, he doesn’t forget. That is just my opinion. For when I asked dad about Happy Hour last weekend, he didn’t remember any problems at all – or at least he didn’t admit to any.
I understand how the Director of an Assisted Living Facility might be concerned about alcohol use of a “generic resident”. For that reason, I thought they would have a written policy on whether residents were permitted to keep or use alcohol in their rooms. However, I had never seen such a policy and that was why I asked about it. If a resident were an alcoholic, I could see why they wouldn’t want him to have access to his own bottle. But then, I would bet, this facility would not accept an alcohol as a resident.
Another possible issue is if a resident is taking medications or has a diagnosis that would prohibit the use of alcohol. But again, it seems to me that the policy should be written and spell out those circumstances in which a resident may or may not keep alcohol in their rooms.
Dad is in his mid-90’s now and I hate to see anyone add restrictions to what he can do. He can’t still drive. He doesn’t get out to eat very often, especially in the winter, and he doesn’t remember how to use his computer. I am glad to help him maintain at least a little independence if I can.