My Father is Crazy–Literally

I’ve heard a saying along the lines of every family is crazy in its own way. But my family now has a literally crazy member, due to Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

My father recently spent weeks in the psych ward of a hospital where he had to be tied to his wheelchair by “the vest,” an armless shirt with two straps attached to it, two straps that are strung behind the wheelchair and tied there. My father can’t walk safely, yet he tries to stand and walk repeatedly, so the vest kept him safe from getting up and falling.

When I visited him in the psych ward at the end of August, he told my mother to leave the room because he had something to tell me. He put his hand over his mouth, as if we were being watched, and said, “She’s friends with the devil. No one believes me, but it’s true. She’s friends with the devil.” He concluded that this is why he needs to kill her.

Later that same visit, he announced that everyone in the hospital thinks that he’s a spy for the president.

He also thought it was ridiculous that he, of all people, was in a psych ward.

He was kicked out of his first nursing home because he hit a nurse, which he doesn’t remember, and shook another resident’s hand so hard that the staff thought he had broken it. The head of the nursing home told my mother that all of the other residents were afraid of him.

He is now in a nursing home that specializes in patients with dementia, but he’s still a handful to the staff. He can’t be trusted to be alone, so he sleeps on a mattress, put out specifically for him, in the common room. He still tries to stand and walk, and, two days ago, trying to get up from his wheelchair, he fell flat on his face, necessitating a visit to the local hospital, where a CAT scan showed his actual head to be fine, while we know the brain inside is not.

He keeps trying to take his clothes off, so he has to wear an outfit that zips up the back, an ensemble he can’t wriggle out of.

He accused my mother of being the girlfriend of his roommate John. On another occasion, he told her he has a girlfriend. He has moments of lucidity, so my mother doesn’t know if he’s being serious or if he’s just messing with her. He is the kind of man who, angry at being in a home, would mess with her.

He admitted to her that he can’t help but be mean. When my younger brother visited him recently, with his wife and two daughters in two, my father told him, in front of them, that he was fat, lazy and an idiot. I believe this is what he really thinks: He was always a negative man. But he didn’t always say what he thought before. And now he has no filter. When I first saw him in the psych ward six weeks ago, he was calling a nurse a “selfish pig.”

I live six hours away from my parents. I call my mother regularly, but I can’t call my father. His speech, due to Parkinson’s, is too garbled to understand by phone. My mother said, if he’s lucid one day, she may call me while she’s visiting him, so he can at least hear my voice.

My father is only 71, he has no quality of life, and he would be embarrassed if he knew what he had become. I wish there were some way of helping him, but there is no cure for Parkinson’s, no cure for dementia. So he and we will have to wait for him to be at peace. He and we will have to wait until his body decides to give up. His mind is already gone.

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