Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s and physical illness

One Very Bad Day In Memoryland– A Blip or Ralph’s Future?

 

IMG_0470This is the view I went to sleep and woke up to this morning and will again tomorrow, a far different view that I posted, was it only yesterday morning? And was it only yesterday that I mentioned a niggling suspicion that something was more “off” than usual with Ralph? It seems like ages ago.

After I posted those concerns yesterday, I went to wake Ralph up for the second or third time in the morning and this time I made him get out of bed. He’d slept for about sixteen hours and although he was not as spacey as the night before (including symptoms I realize now that I downplayed in my post) he still didn’t seem quite right to me.  I couldn’t exactly say why, but intuition kicked in and I called the Brain Center at Emory. They took my symptom description extremely seriously and told me to head to an urgent care. Urgent Care listened to the symptoms and immediately sent me to my local hospital emergency room. It freaked me out a little that Emory was so concerned.

Even as we drove and I repeatedly retold Ralph where we were going and the reason, I wasn’t sure if I was over-reacting. Was there something actually wrong or was Ralph just exhibiting his new level of cognitive impairment (that scary word dementia swirling in my head)? And which would be worse—that he’d had a small stroke (or that a large one was about to come) or that his Alzheimer’s had progressed?

Actually, at this point in real time (real time interrupted every two minutes as I jump up to turn off his malfunctioning hydration buzzer) I don’t know which is true. The hospital admitted him because the tests run yesterday showed his white blood cell count seriously elevated, but the doctors are puzzled because the tests so far show no sign of the infections that usually accompany this kind of count. The count itself  has come down somewhat today, perhaps because Ralph has been getting intravenous hydration, but the numbers are  nowhere near normal and the hospital is keeping him at least another night while waiting for some more testing results.

Meanwhile, again perhaps thanks to hydration, he seems lucid when he is awake. But, except when a couple of close friends visited, he has mostly been asleep. I’m not sure if he is exhausted by this experience, if he is ill, or if this is about how much he’d like to sleep most of the time at home if I let him. Similarly, is illness or being in the hospital or some combination of both the reason he has no appetite and is generally shaky weak and without a modicum of energy? More worrisome because so out of character, Ralph has not asked about his dogs; nor, amazingly, has he voiced any interest in smoking.

The doctors have said that cognitively compromised individuals are more prone to becoming disoriented as a result of what would seem minor illnesses or health issues, including anxiety, for others. Given that we are moving in three weeks, (and don’t let me get started on the practicalities that threaten to go awry now) Ralph is certainly under stress. But has the stress caused him a temporary physical and mental set back or has his new normal dropped a notch or more. The doctors tell me I did the right thing in bringing him in, and given his blood count I guess they are right, but I wonder if he is now on a slope that is only slippery but also more steeply downhill than I am ready to handle.

And there goes that damn buzzer again!

 

 

Physical Illness in Memoryland Part 2 Or How Sick Is Ralph Anyway?

dog with tea.jpg

 

I’ve lost track how many days have passed since I had to stop writing a post because Ralph was heading off in his truck. I didn’t catch him but he was back in fifteen minutes. He had headed to his office for a pack of cigarettes. He smoked one, had a beer and went back to bed.

He  followed the same routine for the next six days: in bed most of the day until shortly before supper. Each afternoon he smoked one cigarette and has one beer and then ate a hearty meal before a second cigarette and back to bed. During the day I brought him turkey soup, glasses of water, cups of tea, and cold medicine. He coughed occasionally but not that much. He blew his nose when I reminded him it might be a good idea. When I asked him if he felt better or if the cold seemed to be going away, he considered before answering yes, he did feel better. But every day when I suggested it might be nice to take a hot shower or sit up a bit he said, “In a bit. I’m resting now.”

On Friday, concerned that maybe I was missing something, I called his doctor to see if he should start an antibiotic since his smoking might make him more vulnerable. I was told that his symptoms as I described them didn’t warrant antibiotics. Yesterday was rainy so I didn’t even suggest getting out of bed, hoping a little extra babying would get him over the hump.

And sure enough he slept through the night without a cough or sniffle (irksome since I’m still coughing myself awake). This morning I told him I was meeting a friend for a quick breakfast and running a couple of errands I put off yesterday.

“Are you sure you’re up to it?”

“Up to what? I’m just having breakfast and going to the drugstore and ATM.”

“I thought you were sick.”

“No, you’re the one who has been sick with a cold this week.”

“Oh right, I forgot.”

“So you’re getting over your cold.”

“Yea, I think I am.” He nodded. “I feel better.”

When I got home two hours later, he was still in bed. I suggested a shower. He thought about it.

“In a bit. I’m resting now.”

After he ate lunch, I again suggested he take a shower. “It’s a sunny, warm day and a little fresh air wouldn’t hurt,” I cajoled.

“In a bit. I’m resting now.”

The thing is. I don’t think he’s down to the last remnants of his cold. I also think that the drastic cut in his intake of nicotine, caffeine and beer is affecting his energy level; he’s probably in a kind of withdrawal, which is obviously a good thing in that maybe he won’t go back to as many cigarettes or beers a day, but meanwhile my instinct tells me that if we’re not careful this total non-activity could become the newest normal.

But what if I am misreading the situation. What if I am being cold and heartless. Fortunately he’s got an Emory appointment which means 1., he has to get out of bed and 2., I’ll find out if I’m wrong and he’s actually sick.

Still, this is another glimpse of the future when determining what Ralph’s capability—how hard to push him and when to let him be—will be increasingly difficult.