We’re not ready to lock up my dad with Alzheimer’s. But we’re hiding the knives
|Toronto Star 09 Nov 2019 at 12:28|
“We have to hide his knives,” I tell my brother as we stand in my dad’s one-room apartment in a Toronto retirement home.
“And his nail clippers. And his scissors. And his X-Acto knives. Because he’s gonna wake up tomorrow, forget what it is and cut it off.”
We’re talking about my dad’s new radio bracelet, a sophisticated (and expensive) piece of tracking tech designed to pinpoint his location in the event he becomes lost while out on his thrice daily walks.
And as we discuss precautions to ensure its survival, I gradually become aware that he’s standing next to me, taking this all in, aware his kids are discussing his well-being as if he’s some sort of inanimate object — like a table.
Ah crap. For all my progressive virtue-signalling and affinity for buzzwords like “agency” and “consent,” I’m the same insensitive clod I’ve always been.
My dad, it should be pointed out, is three and a half years into his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, with no cure, is a ticking time bomb for the rapidly aging baby boom.
And as his short-term memory continues to erode — a drib here, a drab there — it’s become easier for me to pretend the guy who taught me how to throw a ball, ride a bike and print in impeccably rendered block capitals won’t be embarrassed by blunt descriptions of his cognitive state.
Truth be known, the way I’m talking about him now — in the third person while he stands beside me — is pretty much the way I’ve talked about him, in my intemperate, half-joking way, since I was a teenager.
But now it feels different, more consequential, important to get it right.
Alzheimer’s can do that — yank things into perspective.
Yes, he’s still engaged, marching to his own drum, a perennial 12-year-old whose whimsical approach to life helps temper my own natural cynicism.
But how long, I wonder, till the memory-gobbling Pac-Man in his brain clamps down for good?
How long until this disease with no known cause or cure, that affects one-third of people over 85, wreaks havoc on his easygoing, ferociously independent personality?
It’s this aspect that’s most troubling, as his kids struggle to respect his autonomy while keeping him safe.
“Lock him up!”
That’s the suggestion from the professionals overseeing his care, who don’t know him well but profess great concern for his safety.