Friday, February 17, 2012

Reading the comments about caregiving agencies...

online I have found negative reviews about agencies, frequently complaining with statements like "the caregiver they sent was stealing things".

I moved to a relative's house in order to provide care and oversight because she has Alzheimer's, and lost my job because of it, which means I have had plenty of time to observe and interact with someone with Alzheimer's (and look for work, given that everybody wants you to apply online these days, and some still accept faxes; once employed again she'll have to be watched by her sister and maybe niece, both nearby).

Pretty much daily she accuses me of stealing her fanny pack, which she hides when we return home thinking people are after her money, and then can't find on the hook she consistently put her fanny packs on for around ten years (probably more). Today I learned from the words of her mouth that until my arrival she did just fine for years with her "six" cats (there are and have only been four cats in my presence), but "since you came I've lost two": each day she fights over the cats being unfed and starving, demanding food or demanding we go get some: we have around four 24-packs in the house of wet kitty food, and they are each fed half a can per meal twice a day with dry food between and overnight, but she can't remember ever doing this--often within minutes of feeding them, with fresh food in the dishes on the floor, and a just-emptied can in her hand, she starts demanding cans of food, and proclaiming, "but the food on the floor is this morning's/last night's! Besides the fanny pack, her teapot covers, the can openers (and frankly just about anything) goes missing randommly, often unfindably despite perhaps three family members pouring over her house, only to reappear later and inexplicably.

Early on we learned from her, or I should say from other people who she talked to I learned, there is another man in the basement who keeps her hostage, and then one who is sweet, nice, helpful, and so on. From a neighbor who came of "concern" I learned that, apparently, I have been bringing two young women into the house and taking them downstairs.

As far as men go, there is actually just me. So apparently I am a animal-starving sweet schizophrenic kidnapping kleptomaniac who the world would count as one of the luckiest guys ever, though (I would have to say for the last bit) still under the curse of God.

And the best part? When she says these things (and she does believe them certainly) she seems completely normal, witty, able to converse. There are many times she is not, and anybody who sees her will often notice how frail she is, but without extensive interaction and being there to know better, one might actually believe it, and never be the wiser. Her sister is just down the road, and we see her almost every day, and she comes to visit (or vice versa), and frankly my family knows me, so they know better. But this relative of mine was not some pathological, paranoid, delusional liar, who would make such things up about people, and from what bits of input she is able to retain about the world, and inferences she is able to make, and interpretative powers left to her, one can probably be certain there is no ill intent.

"The hostage taker", for example, may be due to the fact that even when she has her keys in her hand staring at them, she often does not recognize her house key. If she just takes them out as she approaches the door from outside, she will often use it: so long as she does so by feel, and not looking at it to determine which is which (or in other words, this tends to mean she only ever unlocks the door to get inside when we are returning in the dark and the porch light is not on). She has repeatedly accused me and the family of taking her keys (the ones we did are to the car, because she has lost her license, but would not accept it when she did, and does not remember now that she did: when she does, she calls neighbors and acquaintances and friends telling them she has never been seen by a specialist to be properly and thoroughly evaluated! Though she has. And then notices that I have one (a copy), so semi-regularly, when by some miracle she is up very early and feeling ambitious, I get an early wake-up knock to come unlock the door so she can let the dog out (she has a deadbolt with no knob) and then demands "I want a set of keys for my own home, I'm getting tired of this!" (Not repeating the ritual of coming for help, which she can't remember, but that she keeps finding herself unable to find (recognize) her keys).

The extra cats? She often looks for "the other" Fluffy, a cat she had when my mother was a teenager (and which the identically appearing and acting female she has is named after). I am guessing the other she is looking for either is one who was named Morris, and looked like a bigger version of her "Charlie", or the one named "DeWitta", whose "personality" and manner is just like that of Charlie.

But speculations aside, she is not rational. Glib, ordinary banter and gossip won't give it away. Try explaining, however, that the mail-order price reduction offer on a pendant from such and such company must be mailed in, even after she recognizes that (for some reason) she needs the postage paid return envelope to use it, must be mailed and cannot be taken to a store to be used, and she will insist we still go to the store to check.

"They don't have one".
"Let's go!!!"
"Which one [name]."
"Let's just go to it!!!"

Most times people today do not converse deeply, which means they do not argue, but merely comment and opine, adding to the "conversation" and smarminess, so someone like my relative is not going to be found out by outsiders without demanding detail that must be verified, or stating something convincingly, or asking her to strain herself a bit with an unfamiliar (so difficult) concept or thought, and then competently talk about and criticize it. This is not good: it is why she was almost able to starve herself to death before anyone realized something was the matter (you would be surprised how long someone can go without eating before changing appearance, and then only suddenly and rapidly losing weight). I said "detail that must be verified", by the way, because ask her details about the prior day, and she may fill you in completely (wrongly, and not knowing any better). With that comment on the poverty of the ever-"communicating" generation aside...

The whole point of all of this is, that if you have a relative with a disease like this, get involved, and don't farm all the work out to someone else: we get that you're busy, get over it and change your life. People like this need your help, and some poor Joe or Sally you hire for assistance and would fire for false accusation and bring thereby into ill-diserved disrepute really might be working to help, which is not to say that there are not bad caregivers out there and that you should not be careful, it's just I kept stumbling on the "s/he was stealing so we fired him/her; don't hire from these people" accusers who, interestingly enough, often consist of people who are not overly involved with their "loved" ones that are afflicted with conditions like this.

If you give a dang about someone in need, being busy or occupied with "more important things" are not realities (if true at all) that you will use to excuse yourself from coming to their aid, and that as long as necessary for whatever cost. If you are a caregiver, beware, as these things will come up, especially from someone growing paranoid and unable to reason, limited, losing their independence (rightfully due to incompetence, and probably before a declaration thereof if the diagnoses and extent of care I have seen from the doctors towards my relative are indicative of the modern medical ethos), and needing someone to blame (don't think for a moment they will accept explanations that they are having real issues, as many probably will not): perhaps be prepared to become a fixation for blame.

And then remember, however, suffering, loss, and giving in the provision of need towards those who require it, God requires of all men and women everywhere. Don't forsake such endeavors just for difficulty or danger. Don't lose heart.

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