She Worries Too Much! – When Your Loved One Hides Symptoms

I stopped the car in the handicapped zone in front of the hospital.

“Stay in your seat until I get your walker,” I reminded Rodger when I heard the telltale click signaling the opening of the clasp on his seatbelt.

“I can walk. I don’t need it.”

He hated the walker and frequently “forgot” to use it at home. He was weak and on oxygen from worsening C.O.P.D. (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), and on blood thinners after a heart attack.  The combination put him at very high risk for a fall and to make matters worse, the tremors in his hands were increasing in frequency and intensity. The movements of his arms and legs were often stiff.  All signs of Parkinson’s disease.  I had suspected he had it for quite some time.  Months before I had insisted on a consultation with a neurologist even when his primary care doctor didn’t agree with my diagnosis. Neither doctor was thrilled with my persistence. Who was I to think I knew more than his doctors?

“I see no signs of Parkinson’s disease,” the neurologist stated after only a few minutes of observing Rodger. He had him sit and then stand. Next he had him walk across the room and turn around and come back. “Smile,” he said. Not sure to whom he was speaking we both did our best to accommodate him. We both did a very poor job of it.

“If we walk down the hall, wait a few moments, and come back in here he will be shaking and you’ll see what I’m talking about,” I said.

“That may be true but I see nothing now and I have another patient due in five minutes. If the symptoms continue or worsen schedule another appointment and bring him back.”

So there we were, back. The slow shuffling steps  he took while hunched over the walker and the masklike look on his face  were symptoms so prominent I was sure there was no way the doctor could doubt me and he would get the care he needed for this latest insult to his body.

Then it happened. As soon as he entered the hospital his demeanor changed. He took a deep breath and stood as tall and straight as he ever had. His walk morphed from a shuffle to measured steps that were a bit slow but nothing out of the ordinary for an elderly man. He held that posture until we entered the elevator that would take us to the fourth floor. Seeing that we were alone, he dropped the pose and leaned heavily on the walker breathing deeply. He stayed that way as we exited the elevator and passed people walking down the hall, right up until I opened the door and ushered him into the doctor’s office. Once inside he immediately pulled himself upright and the shuffling stopped as he walked to a chair and sat down.

“What brings you here today, Mr. Carducci?” the doctor asked.

How does he do that? How can he morph into a vision of relative health when only moments before he was showing every symptom of a very serious illness? I wondered if the doctor had seen the same sly “gotcha” gleam in his eyes that he cast my way before he spoke, “She worries too much. Don’t listen to her.”

The doctor looked at me, shook his head, and sighed.  I’m sure Rodger thought he’d fooled him again but, after having him go through the same serious of tests and movements he’d done before, the diagnosis was quite different.

“Mr. Carducci, you have Parkinson’s disease.”

Rodger bowed his head and sat silently for a few moments. When he finally looked up and turned toward me the sly gleam had been replaced by a look of sorrow so deep I almost wished he had pulled off his act again. His hand began to shake and he slumped in the chair.

As the doctor and I began to discuss what treatment he would receive and what to expect in the future, I heard Rodger mumble softly.

“She knew it.  She’s the only one who knew it.”

Sometimes being right is a very painful thing.

Does your loved one deny or try to hide symptoms from you and/or the doctor?

For a very interesting and informative article on this type of denial go to: http://www.humandevelopmentmag.org/articles/fa-summer10.pdf and read the piece titled,

“I’m Fine! Fine! Fine! Dealing with Maladaptive Denial by Suzanne Meyer, I.H.M.

For more information about C.O.P.D http://www.copd-support.com/  and http://www.copdfoundation.org/

For more information about Parkinson’s disease: http://www.parkinson.org/ and https://www.michaeljfox.org/understanding-parkinsons/living-with-pd/topic.php?support-groups

As always, I look forward to your comments.

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Big Turkey! – Moments in Caregiving

Some moments in caregiving linger on and bring a smile to one’s face long after they happen.

From the first moment he saw her, Rodger was head over in heels in love with baby Ava. When he found out we would be going to my daughter’s house each morning after the birth of her first child, he was up and ready to go before sunrise every day.

“What time do we go?” he asked as soon as I wandered into the kitchen and reached, bleary eyed, for a tea bag and my microwaveable cup.

“Not for while yet. You have to have breakfast and take your medication. I need to take a shower and get dressed. And besides, the new mom and dad need time to get going in the morning too.”

“They need us. We have to go.”

Knowing he would pace and worry until we got there, I sipped my tea on the way to my room, showered as fast as I could and pulled on a sweat suit. My hair was hopeless. I put it in a pony tail and grabbed a baseball cap to cover it. Then I packed a bag with his medications, a blood pressure monitor, thermometer, stethoscope, his nebulizer, band-aids, Depends, a change of clothes, and some food I knew he would eat. Just like I used to pack a diaper bag for my daughter when she was a baby and she would now do for her child.

As soon as we arrived he went straight for the baby who was nestled quite contentedly in the arms of her other Grandmother.

“I’ll hold her. I know what to do,” he said, his tone of voice a clear indication he disapproved of her technique. Fortunately, my daughter’s mother-in-law was amused rather than offended and helped get baby and Great-grandfather settled comfortably in the overstuffed chair he preferred.

IMG_0288

And so it went. If the baby wasn’t being fed or changed, he wanted to hold her and he wasn’t shy about chastising any of us for taking too long to hand her over. Often I would look over and see her deep blue eyes staring into his faded brown ones and thank God they had this time together. Was she transferring innocence to him as he silently shared his wisdom with her? I like to think so.

Lots of pictures were taken by proud parents and grandparents, of course.

One day, not long after our help was no longer needed, I gave Rodger one of the photos. In it, he was sitting in that overstuffed chair holding Ava who was wrapped in a beautiful pink blanket. I knew he missed her and waited to see him light up when he saw her. He stared at it for a few seconds, a puzzled look on his face and said, “That’s me.”

“Yes, that’s you.” I answered.

He looked at for another few seconds before the smile I was hoping for appeared. He tapped the picture and pointed to the baby and announced, “Big Turkey. Happy Thanksgiving!”

The proud new mama wasn’t thrilled to think anyone could mistake her baby for a turkey but now that time has passed and Old Grampy, as Ava now calls him, is no longer with us, it’s one of the most precious memories we have of him and the little girl he loved so much.

As you can see, Ava looks nothing like a turkey.

Ava Dancing Queen

If you have an amusing story about a moment in caregiving, please share it here. I’d love to read it.