Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sometimes I wait too long to write, and I end up with more to say than should be written in one post. I also struggle with brevity - I like words, and I love to use them. My apologies ahead of time for what should probably be two posts. The summer has afforded me some time to see friends that I don't see often, and I am so thankful for that. We lived in west Texas for twenty years before coming back to what we consider home - Fort Worth, Texas. Leaving the dry flat landscape of west Texas was not too difficult; leaving the friends we love like family was painful. I'm thankful for all our ways of communicating - cell phones, texts, Facebook, etc, but nothing replaces seeing, talking, and hugging those dear friends. Because it's a six hour trip one way, we don't have that luxury very often. 

Billy in the main dining room.
Our dear friends, Billy and Kathy Futrell...yes, we share names.
We could just say Billy and Kathy squared!

Billy Wayne, Billy Jack, and Kathy!
I can't forget Boo, their cute little Maltipoo! 
The last time our Midland friends saw Billy was March 2011, and I know how difficult it is to visit Billy now, and see him as the disease takes its toll. For a long time, Billy looked perfectly normal physically, and he followed most social norms, so unless  you spent much time with him, you had no idea of his Alzheimer's. The physical aspects of the disease are appearing with Billy - his eyes have lost their luster, he moves very slowly, and he struggles to communicate. He does talk, but he doesn't follow the same topic, and we usually have no idea what he has said. He's also started the quick repetition of a syllable or word like so many of the AD patients do. I remember his mom making alliterations with most of her sentences. She used to tell her kids they looked "clickety clack." From a scientific standpoint, I would like to know why those with this disease have some similar patterns of speech. I learned that when patients with dementia begin cursing after never doing that, it usually means the front right temporal lobe is damaged; that is where our forbidden words are stored. The brain is a fascinating organ created by God, and Alzheimer's is an evil force. 

The unit has a new resident who has changed the dynamics of the group, and I'm not sure if it's this man's influence or just that Billy is changing, but Billy has gone through some noticeable changes the last few weeks. He's combative when the staff tries to change him, and he's strong. I've helped with the process before, and I know he's confused about what is going on. He doesn't want people "messing" with him, and pushes them away. They've learned it's best to wait for him to calm down - then try again. Sometimes it takes half an hour for him to calm down, and I hate that he is wet or soiled during that time, but I also know it's best to wait for him to calm down. The last few weeks, he's been upset when we start to leave. He wants to go with us, and when we say no, he wants to know when we are returning. I nearly always say I'm coming back the next day, and he nearly always says, "That's a long time." He follows me to the door, and several times, he's tried to leave, and I have to hold the door so he won't get out. The last few evenings, though, he's been better about not getting upset. I am thankful for small things like that. 

I'm also thankful for my daughter and her strength through these rough patches. Our hearts are broken over Billy's disease, but we rely on God's bolstering, each other, family and friends, and so many who offer up prayers on our behalf. I'm amazed at Shelley's kindness and strength when she visits and cares for her dad. She's had to do some really tough things lately - like help change her dad's adult diaper. I know that all of us would do whatever we need to do for our parents who certainly did for us, but when your dad is so young, it really stinks. Shelley takes it in stride, tries to make him as comfortable as she can, and never looks back. Billy doesn't want his daughter to see him like that, so she takes his hands and holds them tight, looking him in the eye and telling him to look at her. That way the staff can do what they need to, and Shelley keeps him from fighting them and maintains his dignity. I've helped with the process also, and it is not an easy task. I'm thankful and proud of her ability to do that. She often feeds him his meals, and that's another labor of love. 

I mentioned the new person in the unit...he's a handful - constantly pacing and wanting OUT of the unit. He asks everyone nearby to help him get out. He's getting slightly better because I saw him sitting during a meal tonight. Last week, he ate chicken salad with his hands while standing over me - that was fun. I dodged the plops of chicken salad, and only ended up with some fruit cocktail on me. I'm amazed that his wife was able to keep him home for as long as she did. She said she would block the door with her body, so he couldn't get out of the house, but he got away one day. The police found him in a neighbor's house, and that helped her realize she had to get some help. She certainly has more tenacity than I do. 

Something really sweet has happened with the presence of the new man. I've mentioned walking Betty before - she's a tall thin woman probably in her 60s with beautiful thick silver hair. She walks up and down the hall, shows little emotion - happy or otherwise, and she rarely utters a sound. That has changed with the arrival of the new man. They are smitten with each other. He is gentle and tender with her, holds her hand, asks her how she is feeling, and she smiles. For months, I didn't know she was missing her front two teeth because she rarely opened her mouth. Shelley said they were walking down the hall holding hands yesterday, and Betty was glowing. I notice that when the new man's family visits, Betty sits in the TV room with them. It's wonderful to see her so happy. I know her son visits sporadically, but I don't know if she has any other family. 

It's very sweet to see, and I am happy they have some smiles during the day. Should Billy decide to love on another lady in the unit, someone will need to remind me that I thought it was sweet for Betty and the new man. I may not be as keen on Billy making another lady smile! Actually, Billy is sweet to all of the residents most of the time. The little ladies who can talk tell me what a sweet man he is. One of the ladies tonight brought him a half roll of toilet paper. He took it graciously, unrolled a few feet, and handed it to me. I have no idea why she brought it to him, why he took it, nor why he handed it to me; but the whole thing seemed normal to them. I'm also amazed at how the residents have conversations with each other. One will say something that really makes no sense, and another will respond with a comment that has nothing to do with what was said. They have the cadence of conversation among themselves with no real meaning, but it satisfies a need they have to interact. Very interesting to watch. 

Enough of my rambling and observations for now. I have much on my mind, and I appreciate an opportunity to share. My next post will come soon - ideas are percolating! Peace and love to all. Our God is an awesome God. 


  1. Dear Kathy,
    Thank you for the update. What a precious gift you have in your precious daughter! We love you all and pray that the Lord continues to provide not only the strength to continue in your loving service, but also an overflowing joy in His Love.

  2. Alzheimer's/dementia etc are horrible, but isn't it wonderful that God provides people in our lives to help us laugh, daughter's who love and care.....and homes where our sweet husbands can be cared for. I always thought I'd care for David at home til the end, but that was impossible, Billy is bigger and stronger than us.
    Keeping you all in my prayers!

    1. Dear Delores,
      I check your blog often to see how you are doing and if there are any changes in David. I remember telling our case manager at the Alzheimer's Association that I wanted to keep Billy at home until the end. That was about four years ago, and I was not prepared for all that caregiving would entail. I know Billy is in the right place -such loving people who handle him with lots of TLC. I am very thankful for places that exist to care for people with dementia. It is so different from caring for others. Extraordinary patience and thick skin is required. Thank you for keeping us in your prayers just as I do for you and David. The journey is difficult, and we need lots of prayer. kk