Tuesday, March 31, 2015

One Step Forward Two Steps Back

Thank you to everyone for your kind comments, texts and emails. They made me feel less alone in this journey into the unknown that I am taking.

I was so hopeful when I took Dad to that psychogeriatrician. I was sure my worries were over. I imagined a kindly magician who would take all responsibility out of my hands. He’d smile at me as he pulled a rabbit from his hat, saw my father in half and put him back together properly. I’d thank him, my father and I would sweep from the room and go out for coffee.

Instead I got a prescription for risperidone, an antipsychotic drug. My reading had told me that this should be a last resort not the first. But I hoped – oh how I hoped – that these pills would contain the magic we so badly needed. So I ignored these doubts and my obedient, trusting dad began taking them.

There was no magic. Dad’s sleep was worse than ever and he was more confused at night than he had been, wandering around the apartment, emptying drawers, looking for things he couldn’t name.

And the side effects, like wicked fairies gatecrashing the ball, came bringing their unwelcome gifts: stiff legs that made walking even more difficult than usual, tremors in his hands that sloshed his tea in its mug. And worst of all incessant meaningless talk that poured out of him, accompanied by greater confusion than before.

It tore my heart to watch him struggle with thoughts that he couldn’t marshall, a world gone strange and to know it was my doing, if not my fault. I stroked his white hair, kissed his cheeks, while the knowledge of my complicity in his situation twisted in my belly.

A week after my father began the drug I rang the doctor and we took him off it. We were back where we started.

This evening he’ll begin taking Avanza, an antidepressant that apparently helps with sleeping. 

I don’t hope for magic any more. I know magic tricks are only sleight of hand. I have my fingers crossed that this medication will grant him a few hours sleep each night. That would be something.


  1. It really is trial and error with medications. My mum is 84 years old (and in a wonderful aged care facility)and her Doctor has tried a myriad of different drugs over the past 18 months trying to control her depression which seems to fight against her moods with Alzheimers. For a long time she has not been 'in a happy place'. She also trialled risperidone but she had side effects and it didn't suit her either.
    More recently, she has had hallucinations (seeing small children playing on her bed and strange adults visiting her room) but that seems to have stopped. She confuses night with day and for many weeks she would go back to bed straight after breakfast then think it was morning when she had her lunch. By 3pm, she would look outside and see daylight but think it was pitch black and late at night. She even made phone calls to my sister asking her to rescue her from a paddock where she had been taken, saying she was cold, wet and alone. She was in her room.
    She went through a stage where she was obsessed with her bowels (working and not working). Having short term memory loss played havoc with her not being able to remember if she'd been to the toilet then thinking she was constipated. This was never the case as they have her on meds to keep her regular. They even performed enemas which proved that she was not constipated.
    She has been on Mirtazapine recently but I am not sure if that is her current medication. The doctor has to find a happy medium between having her feel good in herself, being calm and not agitated about things but not be too medicated which is when people have falls. I visited on Wednesday and she was quite bright and seemed happy.
    I'm waffling on but I hope it helps to know you are not alone and you are doing the best for your dear Dad. Keep asking questions with the doctor and keep pushing for better meds.

    I hope you have a peaceful Easter with your family,

    Joolz xx

  2. Thank, Joolz. You're right. Your comment did make me feel less alone and I'm grateful. It's so awful, isn't it, to watch someone you love so distressed and to be unable to help them? I wish you and your family all the best.

  3. Hi Bee. I found your site having followed Kate. I'm at a similar stage with my Mum who was formally diagnosed a couple of weeks ago. Then she had a fall, got completely diorientated again and is now back at the residential home I moved her to in October when she had a fall and flooded her house in very quick succession. I had a call from the home today saying the 'sundowning' is worse and she's being verbally abusive to staff and residents and it needs to change or she goes. God, what I'd give for a magic cure. Or just something to calm her and put her in a happy place.... It's hard to remember its the disease and not them. (and I thought 'world' backwards was hard too!).

  4. Oh Hockeywidow, that sounds awful. I wonder what you did. Did you find some medication that worked to settle your mum or have you had to move her? Such unfair and awful decisions!

  5. What a journey...thanks for sharing :)