This was my father-in-law’s response when I walked him to the car the other day, and I asked him to get in. My father-in-law, despite his Parkinson’s induced dementia, is still pretty congenial, so this reaction took me aback.
As he paused to process how to get in the car, I realized that the last 3 times he did so, it was to visit the doctor, with one of these appointments involving several injections. And then I understood his reaction.
“It’s OK. Today is a spa day! We’re going to get your haircut. No doctors or needles today!,” I explained.
He gave me a little giggle, cracked his usual smile, and complied with getting in the car.
My mother-in-law needs help getting him to appointments now. Parkinson’s not only robs you of mobility due to tremors and rigidity, but also of motor planning and problem solving skills. Your brain plays all kinds of tricks on you, making changes in flooring seem like holes, and turning on your feet a somehow impossible achievement. Performance with simple tasks like standing up are unreliable; sometimes it happens with little help, sometimes it takes all you have to lift him up. Tasks that should take 5 minutes may take 30. My father-in-law also has the added issues of cognitive decline and difficulty managing his secretions. We are quickly approaching the time of needing a wheelchair for adventures outside of the house.
There are multiple tricks I’ve learned over my years as a physical therapist to help break these motor planning pauses, these festinations. Counting out loud. Pausing to “reset.” Verbal cues to “take big steps.” Subtle tactile cues to weight shift. These all work to some degree.
But the mental challenge of not wanting to go to another doctor this week? That I can’t help. I wish I could make him better. He deserves more. These are the days that I wish I had a magic wand to take it all away. Sigh…
One thing is certain, though. Somewhere in that brain ravaged by Parkinson’s is a guy who still knows how to set boundaries. And that’s a good thing.
Are you caring for a loved one with an illness or disability? I’d love to hear about your experience.
As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.