Archive for Dementia

Dementia and Other Terrible Dragons We Can’t Slay

What caused Dad’s death?

I don’t think I will ever know for sure.

Nonetheless, it’s a question that randomly nudges me during my hospice’s Interdisciplinary Group (IDG) as we discuss our patient’s recent deaths.

I know when my father died: the sixth day of February, in 2012. I know where he died: at the care facility where he spent his final two years. Or the where of his death could be identified as a particular town within Sacramento’s metropolitan area. I once knew his street address and room number. I still know the zip code of where he died, since it was the same one he’d had when living at his suburban home of forty-plus years.

How did he die? His death certificate had a heart-related cause of death. How could Dad’s death not involve his heart? At ninety-plus, the hard-working muscle in the middle of his chest must have been exhausted after all those decades. But on dreary days in long meetings, I wonder if dementia murdered him. Yep, I wrote murder. How foolish and melodramatic! But with dementia’s reputation for cruelty and relentlessness, didn’t it destroy Dad’s life as if wielding a thousand, or hundred thousand, paper cuts? At first dementia’s intent and weapons were overlooked, but each cruel, insubstantial slice lead to his demise.

Dad had an ample supply of stubborn in his DNA. He avoided doctors like black cats or sidewalk cracks. Only one neurologist examined him. That brief, awkward visit occurred well after dementia (along with a cranky knee, hearing loss, prostate problems, and a legion of other lesser ills) had its hooks into him. With little enthusiasm, the physician prescribed additional medication and appeared relieved when we departed. Read More →

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This Damn Grief

keysLet’s say it’s two or so months after your loved one’s death.

You are standing in the middle of the kitchen.

Your doctor’s appointment is across town and even if you left now, you’d be ten minutes late.

For the ninety-ninth time, you survey the pile of bills on the kitchen counter, and then the empty ceramic dish your youngest son crafted in elementary school that perches on the telephone table, and then the hooks on the wall by the door to the garage.

Now you start to cry.

You can’t find your car keys. And if you can’t find the keys, you can’t leave your house . . . let alone get to the doctor’s office. But that’s not the worst. Though in your early seventies and still feeling “young,” you are afraid that like your mother (who died a dozen years ago) and favorite uncle (currently in a pricey memory care facility), and also your best friend’s spouse, you are getting Alzheimer’s.

You can’t find your keys. And this morning, after your usual breakfast of granola and one slice of toasted wheat bread, you placed the carton of skim milk in the cupboard. Stupid? Forgetful? Silly? Last week, when mowing the lawn, you couldn’t locate the cumbersome green waste container for tossing in the grass clippings. It wasn’t until the next day that you spotted it in the corner of the garage. Who moved it where it didn’t belong? Gypsies? Gremlins? Read More →

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Death Certificates and Heart Failure

county-clerk-300x225Death certificates are some of the worst reading material you’ll ever own.

But they are necessary for the “business” after a loved one’s death. I suggest purchasing a number of certificates, with extras stashed in a file instead of requesting a few more and then a few more.

On a practical note, the mortuary handling the death will most likely create and complete the death certificate. Official copies can be obtained from a county clerk’s office*.

Insurance companies, banks, and similar institutions requiring proof of death will often want the legal certificate issued with the county’s seal. However, when handling my parents’ estate, the companies that requested an official certificate versus those that didn’t even want a copy of a copy were never predictable.

You will scrutinize the certificate, confirming the facts are accurate about your beloved: date and place of birth, full name, his or her “usual occupation,” location of the grave, and what is

The cause of death . . .

Will death’s cause surprise you? My father’s certificate proved unsettling. According to the one-page document printed on sturdy paper, Dad died from the mundane . . . “Heart Failure.” Read More →

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