Elizabeth Berrien · World Class Wire Sculpture and Illustration · (707)445-4931 · ALZHEIMER'S FACILITY DUMPS DOD FOR 85TH BIRTHDAY
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Dad's birthday with tabletop pony
"Dod" on his 85th birthday.
A note from Elizabeth Berrien, November 2005:

My Dad is in his 80's and in failing health. Earlier this year, his progressive dementia made it necessary for him to leave his beloved farm and move to an Alzheimer's care facility. It was comforting to be told by management that the facility would be Dad's home for the rest of his life. This is especially important to persons with dementia, who need the security, comfort and stability of a regular routine and familiar faces. For patients like my Dad, in what this facility describes as "Stage 4 dementia", even small changes can be traumatic.

Here's how that Alzheimer's facility treated Dad... could it happen to someone you love?

November 25th, 2005

Hi Folks,

We are home at last - what a marathon.

The Temecula show itself went quite well - will probably lead to much more corporate work next year.

As we were packing to leave for the Temecula installation, my sister called from Olympia in a panic - while vacationing in San Diego, Mom had collapsed suddenly and ended up at Scripps Memorial. Well, there are far worse places to end up... Temecula is within an hour's drive of San Diego. So we set up camp in Escondido, mid-point between Mom and the Temecula show, and spent a week commuting between the two. We were lucky - Mom has a devoted "extra daughter" in the area to help sort out medical updates and give Mom a place to convalesce (Scripps detected 90% arterial blockage, added 4 stents, mom is now feeling & sounding great).

While the Scripps was working on Mom, that Alzheimer's care facility in Olympia we'd thought so highly of decided this was a great time to dump Dad. Thank heaven the folks have a living trust in place - instead of stressing Mom further with the news, we kids went to bat for Dad and managed to wrestle enough time to hunt down a group home and make as gentle a move as possible.

All the same, it's a real pisser - When we first placed Dad with them, it was with the understanding that the facility was willing and able to provide Dad with a permanent, stable environment that would provide him the comfort and security of a consistent environment as dementia renders him progressivley more confused. As Dad manifested typical dementia-related behavior changes (incontinence, stumbling and falling, occasional combativeness, and what they call "non-compliance"), they starting raising fees (which we accepted and approved) to reflect his extra care needs. Their management continually assured us that no matter what, they were equipped to keep Dad comfortable for the rest of his dwindling life.

One of the female residents there closely resembles our Mom. Apparently Dad resembles this woman's husband, so they really got along - at first. Unfortunately, at times they would bicker and/or take a swing at each other. As this became a concern, we arranged with Dad's doctor to review and adjust Dad's meds. A tricky balance - toning down the combative episodes with tranquilizers would also increase the likelihood of Dad's frequent falls (the last one sent him to ER with bruised ribs).

On Nov 11th, the Alzheimer's facility abruptly called my sister and told her it was time to take Dad somewhere else - saying he had more needs than they wanted to care for. She protested - they hadn't even started Dad's new changed-meds regimen, which wouldn't go into effect til the 14th. We ALL protested - by changing meds, we might have reduced or even stopped the behaviors the Alzheimer's didn't want to handle. If they'd been as concerned for his well-being as they claimed, they would have allowed time for the medical re-assessment, or even proposed it themselves.

We have a strong suspicion that someone with lesser needs just applied to the Alzheimer's facility, and the facility decided it'd be most profitable to rent them Dad's room. This form of cherry-picking seems to be legal in Washington state, but stinks to high heaven from an ethical standpoint. Had we refused to take Dad out, the Alzheimer's facility threatened to charge us for a one-on-one, round the clock caregiver at $250 a day til we caved in.

So Friday the 18th, after the 5 to 8PM ceremony in Temecula for illuminating the sculptures, instead of returning to the comforts of a hotel room and jacuzzi we started the 19-hour mush to Mom and Dad's farm, 45 minutes outside Olympia. LOTs of questions and concerns... Can we stall the Alzheimer's care facility for a second week without incurring those $250/day charges? (no) Can we find Dad a safe and comfy place on short notice that will accept him as he is, with the expectation of improvement with changed meds? (yes)

MY husband and I arrived at the folks' farm on Sunday Nov 20th; my brother was already there, holding the fort for as long as it takes...

As anticipated, Monday morning the 21st the Alzheimer's care facility called my sister to inform her that they were about to assign Dad round-the-clock, one-on-one care. my sister requested that family members be allowed to take on this duty, and they agreed, so my brother and I drove over. When we arrived Dad was at lunch, eating quietly at a table with three other men. The nearest caregive was at another table, spoon-feeding a different resident. We don't call this one-on-one care. If it shows up on the final bill, we will dispute the charge.

By this time, my sister and brother had inspected a small, men-only group home and found it satisfactory (we hope it stays that way). With the help of an elder advocate, they expedited a flurry of assessments and paperwork to get Dad discharged from the Alzheimer's facility and admitted at the new place. The move took four of us - my brother and me, my sister and her husband, and two trucks. Dad was plenty tired, and fell asleep in his comfy recliner watching Monday night football.

We returned on the 22nd to give Dad a little birthday party. We brought a chocolate cake with white icing & sprinkles, several birthday cards, and a large-ish plastic model of a solidly built buckskin horse with a kindly eye. It reminds me of my own mustang, Dutch. When I found it in a thrift shop I meant to keep it for myself, but on sudden impulse I realized it might help Dad think of his youth on the ranch in Colorado. While my brother and I sat with Dad the day before, I'd drawn pictures. He glanced at a horse without interest, but perked up when I drew a saddle and bridle on it - perhaps the difference was that a bare horse you have to do chores for, but a saddled horse you have fun with?

Dad is mostly deaf and has speech dysphasia, so it gets hard to tell what he's thinking or feeling. When he saw his birthday horse, it was almost like it was too much - he stole a quick glance, then looked down. We could hear him say "my dad used to tell me to..." which indicates the buckskin horse is indeed taking him places. Still looking down, Dad explored all the birthday cards. He took a pen and started writing so tiny it was hard to decipher. Finally, by watching the pen's motions as he wrote, we could clearly make out the last word... "thanks".

We will look for more western-theme goodies for Dad - is his straw cowboy hat still in the shed? Can we get images of cattle drives, chuck wagons, deer, elk, fishing gear? Maybe I have an old bridle he can hang on his wall. The new place has Muu-Muu, a cat that's almost a twin to Buzzy, the bobtail Dad left behind (Buzzy lives with me now). Muu-Muu is a real stinker, just like Buzzy. It was nice to see him sleeping on Dad's bed when we arrived.

Dad's new roommate is an articulate older gent who is Russian and grew up in China. He took one look at the buckskin horse and launched into a treatise... "in Russina/Chinese, this is pronounced 'Monguil'. These horses are so sturdy, they can goes many days no food no water... in Mongolia, they deliver the mail." Since He and Dad both like the buckskin horse, I placed it in their room on a tabletop where it has a kindly eye to watch over each man as he sleeps and and greet him as he awakens.

As soon as the family has rested up from this crisis, we will launch a major and organized publicizing of Dad's dumping - with the BBB, with west coast Alzheimer's agencies and support groups, and with the media. It's been traumatic and chaotic, but we were lucky - Dad's family has the built-in resource of several members with sophisticated, executive problem-solving skills. Most families are not so lucky. What happens to dumped Alzheimer's patients who DON'T have our resources? When they fall between the cracks, where do they land?

My husband and I are home now - having completed a 2,850 mile, twelve-day trip. Arrived last night to find new flooring in the kitchen - and a thin layer of dust on every surface from the floor sanding (ah well).

I still have loads of wirework and shipping of sculptures to galleries, [meant for Monday, but sidelined by the folks' concerns] which means this will be an even more dizzying workload for the Xmas season. Tomorrow I hope to bring some fresh works by the Ferndale gallery and ship to the Chicago gallery, Tuesday I make a delivery loop from Eureka to Mendocino, Santa Rosa and back. I promised Mom that if she could resist flying back to the farm the day after discharge (she REALLY wanted to attend the Nov 20th family gathering at the farm), we will repeat the event in December - So somehow, I will find a way to work that second trip into the wiring schedule.

All in all, my husband and I have so much to be thankful for today [Thanksgiving] - that our parents are safe and comfortable, that we have a family and friends that really pull together in a crisis, and that we ourselves are comfortable and enjoying good health. We hope all of you are finding much to be thankful for today, too.

Kindest regards

Elizabeth Berrien

Dad was discharged from the Alzheimer's care facility on Monday, November 21st.
We have since heard that they did indeed have someone new scheduled for orientation on November 23rd.
George Wyley Berrian passed away unexpectedly on December 20, 2005, barely a month after his involuntary discharge from The Hampton Alzheimer Care Unit in Tumwater, Washington. I stand by my recollection that the Hampton dumped our Dad with total disregard to where he would go next or whether the abrupt change might indeed be life-threatening.
World Class Wire Sculpture · Elizabeth Berrien (707) 445-4931 · email wireladye@yahoo.com

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