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"Dod" on his
A note from
Elizabeth Berrien, November 2005:
My Dad is in
his 80's and in failing health. Earlier this year, his progressive
dementia made it necessary for him to leave his beloved farm and move
to an Alzheimer's care facility. It was comforting to be told by
management that the facility would be Dad's home for the rest of his
life. This is especially important to persons with dementia, who need
the security, comfort and stability of a regular routine and familiar
faces. For patients like my Dad, in what this facility describes as
"Stage 4 dementia", even small changes can be traumatic.
Here's how that Alzheimer's facility treated Dad... could it happen to
someone you love?
November 25th, 2005
We are home at last - what a marathon.
The Temecula show itself went quite well - will probably lead to much
more corporate work next year.
As we were packing to leave for the Temecula installation, my sister
called from Olympia in a panic - while vacationing in San Diego, Mom
had collapsed suddenly and ended up at Scripps Memorial. Well, there
are far worse places to end up... Temecula is within an hour's drive of
San Diego. So we set up camp in Escondido, mid-point between Mom and
the Temecula show, and spent a week commuting between the two. We were
lucky - Mom has a devoted "extra daughter" in the area to help sort out
medical updates and give Mom a place to convalesce (Scripps detected
90% arterial blockage, added 4 stents, mom is now feeling &
While the Scripps was working on Mom, that Alzheimer's care facility in
Olympia we'd thought so highly of decided this was a great time to dump
Dad. Thank heaven the folks have a living trust in place - instead of
stressing Mom further with the news, we kids went to bat for Dad and
managed to wrestle enough time to hunt down a group home and make as
gentle a move as possible.
All the same, it's a real pisser - When we first placed Dad with them,
it was with the understanding that the facility was willing and able to
provide Dad with a permanent, stable environment that would provide him
the comfort and security of a consistent environment as dementia
renders him progressivley more confused. As Dad manifested typical
dementia-related behavior changes (incontinence, stumbling and falling,
occasional combativeness, and what they call "non-compliance"), they
starting raising fees (which we accepted and approved) to reflect his
extra care needs. Their management continually assured us that no
matter what, they were equipped to keep Dad comfortable for the rest of
his dwindling life.
One of the female residents there closely resembles our Mom. Apparently
Dad resembles this woman's husband, so they really got along - at
first. Unfortunately, at times they would bicker and/or take a swing at
each other. As this became a concern, we arranged with Dad's doctor to
review and adjust Dad's meds. A tricky balance - toning down the
combative episodes with tranquilizers would also increase the
likelihood of Dad's frequent falls (the last one sent him to ER with
On Nov 11th, the Alzheimer's facility abruptly called my sister and
told her it was time to take Dad somewhere else - saying he had more
needs than they wanted to care for. She protested - they hadn't even
started Dad's new changed-meds regimen, which wouldn't go into effect
til the 14th. We ALL protested - by changing meds, we might have
reduced or even stopped the behaviors the Alzheimer's didn't want to
handle. If they'd been as concerned for his well-being as they claimed,
they would have allowed time for the medical re-assessment, or even
proposed it themselves.
We have a strong suspicion that someone with lesser needs just applied
to the Alzheimer's facility, and the facility decided it'd be most
profitable to rent them Dad's room. This form of cherry-picking seems
to be legal in Washington state, but stinks to high heaven from an
ethical standpoint. Had we refused to take Dad out, the Alzheimer's
facility threatened to charge us for a one-on-one, round the clock
caregiver at $250 a day til we caved in.
So Friday the 18th, after the 5 to 8PM ceremony in Temecula for
illuminating the sculptures, instead of returning to the comforts of a
hotel room and jacuzzi we started the 19-hour mush to Mom and Dad's
farm, 45 minutes outside Olympia. LOTs of questions and concerns... Can
we stall the Alzheimer's care facility for a second week without
incurring those $250/day charges? (no) Can we find Dad a safe and comfy
place on short notice that will accept him as he is, with the
expectation of improvement with changed meds? (yes)
MY husband and I arrived at the folks' farm on Sunday Nov 20th; my
brother was already there, holding the fort for as long as it takes...
As anticipated, Monday morning the 21st the Alzheimer's care facility
called my sister to inform her that they were about to assign Dad
round-the-clock, one-on-one care. my sister requested that family
members be allowed to take on this duty, and they agreed, so my brother
and I drove over. When we arrived Dad was at lunch, eating quietly at a
table with three other men. The nearest caregive was at another table,
spoon-feeding a different resident. We don't call this one-on-one care.
If it shows up on the final bill, we will dispute the charge.
By this time, my sister and brother had inspected a small, men-only
group home and found it satisfactory (we hope it stays that way). With
the help of an elder advocate, they expedited a flurry of assessments
and paperwork to get Dad discharged from the Alzheimer's facility and
admitted at the new place. The move took four of us - my brother and
me, my sister and her husband, and two trucks. Dad was plenty tired,
and fell asleep in his comfy recliner watching Monday night football.
We returned on the 22nd to give Dad a little birthday party. We brought
a chocolate cake with white icing & sprinkles, several birthday
cards, and a large-ish plastic model of a solidly built buckskin horse
with a kindly eye. It reminds me of my own mustang, Dutch. When I found
it in a thrift shop I meant to keep it for myself, but on sudden
impulse I realized it might help Dad think of his youth on the ranch in
Colorado. While my brother and I sat with Dad the day before, I'd drawn
pictures. He glanced at a horse without interest, but perked up when I
drew a saddle and bridle on it - perhaps the difference was that a bare
horse you have to do chores for, but a saddled horse you have fun with?
Dad is mostly deaf and has speech dysphasia, so it gets hard to tell
what he's thinking or feeling. When he saw his birthday horse, it was
almost like it was too much - he stole a quick glance, then looked
down. We could hear him say "my dad used to tell me to..." which
indicates the buckskin horse is indeed taking him places. Still looking
down, Dad explored all the birthday cards. He took a pen and started
writing so tiny it was hard to decipher. Finally, by watching the pen's
motions as he wrote, we could clearly make out the last word...
We will look for more western-theme goodies for Dad - is his straw
cowboy hat still in the shed? Can we get images of cattle drives, chuck
wagons, deer, elk, fishing gear? Maybe I have an old bridle he can hang
on his wall. The new place has Muu-Muu, a cat that's almost a twin to
Buzzy, the bobtail Dad left behind (Buzzy lives with me now). Muu-Muu
is a real stinker, just like Buzzy. It was nice to see him sleeping on
Dad's bed when we arrived.
Dad's new roommate is an articulate older gent who is Russian and grew
up in China. He took one look at the buckskin horse and launched into a
treatise... "in Russina/Chinese, this is pronounced 'Monguil'. These
horses are so sturdy, they can goes many days no food no water... in
Mongolia, they deliver the mail." Since He and Dad both like the
buckskin horse, I placed it in their room on a tabletop where it has a
kindly eye to watch over each man as he sleeps and and greet him as he
As soon as the family has rested up from this crisis, we will launch a
major and organized publicizing of Dad's dumping - with the BBB, with
west coast Alzheimer's agencies and support groups, and with the media.
It's been traumatic and chaotic, but we were lucky - Dad's family has
the built-in resource of several members with sophisticated, executive
problem-solving skills. Most families are not so lucky. What happens to
dumped Alzheimer's patients who DON'T have our resources? When they
fall between the cracks, where do they land?
My husband and I are home now - having completed a 2,850 mile,
twelve-day trip. Arrived last night to find new flooring in the kitchen
- and a thin layer of dust on every surface from the floor sanding (ah
I still have loads of wirework and shipping of sculptures to galleries,
[meant for Monday, but sidelined by the folks' concerns] which means
this will be an even more dizzying workload for the Xmas season.
Tomorrow I hope to bring some fresh works by the Ferndale gallery and
ship to the Chicago gallery, Tuesday I make a delivery loop from Eureka
to Mendocino, Santa Rosa and back. I promised Mom that if she could
resist flying back to the farm the day after discharge (she REALLY
wanted to attend the Nov 20th family gathering at the farm), we will
repeat the event in December - So somehow, I will find a way to work
that second trip into the wiring schedule.
All in all, my husband and I have so much to be thankful for today
[Thanksgiving] - that our parents are safe and comfortable, that we
have a family and friends that really pull together in a crisis, and
that we ourselves are comfortable and enjoying good health. We hope all
of you are finding much to be thankful for today, too.
discharged from the Alzheimer's care facility on Monday, November 21st.
We have since heard that they did indeed have someone new scheduled for
orientation on November 23rd.
George Wyley Berrian passed away unexpectedly on December 20, 2005,
barely a month after his involuntary discharge from The Hampton
Alzheimer Care Unit in Tumwater, Washington. I stand by my recollection
that the Hampton dumped our Dad with total disregard to where he would
go next or whether the abrupt change might indeed be life-threatening.
Class Wire Sculpture
· Elizabeth Berrien (707) 445-4931 · email firstname.lastname@example.org
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