Dad Has Left The Room!

It has been an eventful week!

I flew to Las Vegas last Thursday for my uncle’s 90th birthday party and had such a wonderful time! I stayed with my mom and cousin from Thursday through Monday and what a pleasant visit we had. It was so funny that at the party Saturday night, my mom kept introducing me to family (like she has always done in the past) but everyone she introduced me to said, “Oh I already know Terri” or “Yeah, we’ve been chatting on FB for a while”. Prior to 2016, I did not know many of my cousins and the ones I did know, we really didn’t communicate. Since working on the family tree, starting the family newsletter and reaching out to them for information, I have established myself within the family and it feels great!

It took stepping outside of my comfort zone and opening myself up to the possibility of rejection to connect with them and I am so glad I did. Of course, with such a large family, not everyone is going to like me and I’m really okay with that. I have one cousin that didn’t even acknowledge me while I was there. I said hello and she just kept walking. Did it hurt my feelings? Well, there was a tiny pang of hurt but I told myself, “her loss” and went on with enjoying everyone else around me, never giving her a second thought. I consider that a triumph!

Amazingly, my mom wanted me to extend my visit a few days but I could not because I had made a commitment to stay with my dad while his wife had surgery.

Now, let’s get on to that story…

I arrived home Monday night and didn’t really do much Tuesday except watch movies and relax. I had to be up early Wednesday morning to meet my dad and step-mom (T) at the hospital for her surgery. She knew she would be staying the night at the hospital so she booked us rooms close to the hospital so I could stay with my dad. You see, my dad has Alzheimer’s and T is with him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We knew it was going to be hard on him.

The day at the hospital went as expected. Dad was confused most of the time and really anxious. Later in the afternoon, we checked into the hotel, went to dinner and then back to the hospital so he could see T and say goodnight. The night however, went completely sideways for me. From about 8:30 until 11:30 my dad unpacked and packed his overnight bag. He laid things out, rearranged them, put them back then started all over. In the course of 20 minutes he put his deodorant on three times and brushed his teeth twice. The only break in this cycle is when I would take him downstairs for a cigarette. Outside he saw a car he thought was T’s and asked me, I kid you not, 16 times in a ten minute period, “Why is T’s car parked there?” My poor dad was so lost and confused and I was trying so hard to keep him calm but I could not.

At 11:30 I started insisting that he get in bed so he could get some sleep and be rested to see T in the morning. It was 11:49 when he finally got into the bed. It was all downhill from there. At 12:59 am he woke up and started hitting my foot saying, “Let’s go, we gotta go”. I told him it was only 1 am and he needed to get back in bed. After about 10 minutes, he got back in bed. At exactly 2 am I heard him in the bathroom and then he went to the door trying to open it. Again, I convinced him to get back in bed. The same thing happened at exactly 3 am. Once again, I got him back in bed. At 3:30 I looked over and saw him sleeping and snoring softly. I thought I had won the battle.

Well, I dozed off and at 3:54 am, I looked over again and saw that he had made his bed. I jumped up and ran to the bathroom but he was not there. He had left the room! I cannot tell you what a panic I was in! I ran downstairs hoping he was where I took him to smoke. Nope. I ran to the front desk and explained to the clerk that my dad has Alzheimer’s and had gotten out of the room.

Michael (the Front Desk clerk) sprang into action! He radioed security to come inside and told him where to start looking. Michael then took off to search each floor for my father. All 3 of us went in different directions.  I stopped at the room next to ours and told T’s friend that dad was missing.  I then went back out to check by our cars. Michael found my father on the 2nd floor completely lost and confused. I am so grateful that he did not get out of the building! He took him back to our room, on the 3rd floor, just as T’s friend was coming out of her room, so she stayed with him and sent me a text that he was back in the room.

I can’t tell you enough just how gentle and kind Michael was to my father who was so confused and scared. My father is a U.S. Army veteran retiring with the rank of Sgt. 1st class. He is a very proud man and this disease has ripped away just about every ounce of dignity he has. Michael treated my father with so much care and respect. Michael’s immediate reaction to the situation and patience and respect in dealing with a man who was so scared and confused really needs to be recognized in my book so I sent an email to both his manager and the corporate office. The situation could have been so much worse and I am so grateful that Michael was there!

By now it was 4:39 and I was beyond stressed and exhausted but I was not going back to sleep. I went downstairs and got a cup of coffee and then sat up for the next two hours. My dad would only sleep for about 15-20 minutes at a time so finally, at 6:45, I took him downstairs for breakfast and we were back at the hospital by 8 am.

I feel truly blessed that T asks me to help with my dad but at the same time, I feel like such an utter failure for the way things turned out. I know that it is not my fault and I know that my dad cannot help what he does. He was out of his element and away from T who is his everything. My heart breaks for what he is going through and how it affects his family, especially T who deals with it every single day. I appreciate how much she does for him and how wonderfully she takes care of him. I obviously need to learn some tools in caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.

This week has been an emotional roller-coaster and I’ve learned some lessons. Thank God it’s over though!

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