Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Happy anniversary (Part Three)...
I knew Riley and I had to move. I just didn’t know where the best place was for us. After lots of discussions and research, I decided to look around for more of a “country” feel. I didn’t need a bigger house, but I did need more room to breathe. I needed more privacy for Riley’s disturbing behavior. And Jade, the dog, needed a place to run.
I found a house on-line, but it felt so far away. Alea and I took a day to check out a few houses that were more in the country. We had several places lined up to view. When we drove into the driveway of one house we were amazed at how “at home” we felt. As we always do – we analyzed the location. Riley would not be able to go anywhere without me taking him. He could not walk to the store. The kids would only be able to make “planned visits” rather than dropping in on a disaster. I knew that this would be the right place for us.
The house sits on a ½ acre lot and is surrounded by horse pastures and planted fields. Although the house is 2000 sq ft, it feels small. The hall bath was just a closet turned bath and the kitchen was very outdated. The original two-car garage had been converted to a huge bedroom, which I now use as my office. Other than the garage conversion, there had never been any other updates. Walking into the house was like walking back into the early 60s. I didn’t mind. The 60s were good to me.
Several weeks prior to the move, Riley was acting differently. It’s hard to describe because the behavior of all end-stagers is irrational. I guess it’s because we caretakers are around it so much, we learn to understand what the “norm” is and what isn’t. It’s like taking care of a 2-year old child who has their own language. Somehow the parents understand what the child is saying, while others have no clue what that kid just said.
Riley seemed unable to grasp his fork. It seemed he had lost his ability to use anything more than a few words at a time. I called Alea to come over and observe. She agreed something was more wrong than usual. We knew that taking him the emergency room meant he would most likely detox. We also knew that our explanation of what we saw happening may not be understood by outsiders – even if they were medical professionals.
Alea and I sat at the dining table discussing the reasonable options. We didn’t notice that Riley was attempting to walk down the hill to the mail box. He made it to the porch steps where he fell to the asphalt. It was a pretty substantial fall and he was unconscious for just about 15 minutes. We didn’t know if he was simply passed out or truly injured. So we made the judgment call, but instead of calling 911, we took him to the hospital ourselves.
It was a long wait to actually get into a bed in the ER. Once we were in, there turned out to be some controversy as to what to do with Riley. The head of ER came down to talk to us personally. The hospital did not want to admit Riley. They did not have the facility to accommodate a detox situation. Since Riley had stated that he did not want to detox or go to rehab, admission for any other medical related problem was not realistic. He continued to say that they can’t treat the problem without getting past the most apparent problem (the inebriation) which colors how he can be treated. However, they would run a few tests to see if they could determine whether or not he had a stroke.
We waited hours – all night and into the next morning. Finally, the head doctor came back and confirmed that Riley had indeed had a stroke. This put a whole new spin on things. The hospital was legally obligated to admit him. No other detox facility in the Tidewater area would take him because he was considered to be “high risk with a low expectation of survival.” But the hospital we were at had no choice. Legally they had an obligation to admit him because to send him home would mean he would not survive.
Riley was admitted to the ICU and they began a regime of medication to ease him through the detox. We were told the chances of his survival through the rigors of detox were extremely low and to expect the worst case scenario. We knew what to expect. This wasn’t our first rodeo. This time, we stayed away from the hospital and let them do their job. We decided standing vigil would not help him. He would not know who we were and we could use the separation to get some much needed rest.
We returned to the hospital when we got the call that he was out of ICU and in a regular room. We began taking turns going to see him and before he was discharged, we had a meeting with the doctor. Riley had in fact suffered a stroke and he would have difficulty with short term memory. There may be other factors which would reveal themselves over a period of time. It was recommended that Riley go to a nursing facility, but they had not been able to find one who would accept him. He was too much of a risk. We took him home.
He wasn’t drinking when we moved into the country house on October 1st. It would take a quite a few months before he would manage to get his hands on some beer, then vodka, then back to beer. He had managed to get the booze on his own – I didn’t buy it for him. But when he woke up one day with DTs and asked me to buy him some vodka, I did not decline.
Then one day, Riley made the decision that he wanted to alter his drinking choice. He asked me to not buy him anymore vodka, but instead to get him beer. I was happy to accommodate him because I thought, maybe, he would go from beer to ice tea. I am guilty of occasional bouts of being irrational. I was quickly brought back to reality when I realized he was drinking more than a 12 pack a day. We are currently up to about 16 beers a day and he is also drinking wine. I’m watching him decline. I don’t regret taking him to the ER that last time. But, I won’t be rushing to heroic measures so quickly next time.
Now we are faced with making a decision about staying in this house or moving elsewhere. Some issues have come up concerning our dog and outside maintenance of the house. We are at the place of resigning the lease and are not really sure if we want to. I don’t want to move back to the Outer Banks. Riley wants to move closer to the city which would put us in walking distance to a store where he can buy booze. I would like to stay in the country with lots of land and privacy. We are at a crossroads and we must make a decision soon. The idea of moving is distasteful to me. I planned on living her for years – not just one year.
The future for Riley is not very pretty. I imagine that he will continue down his path of self-destruction and eventually he’ll be back to where his was before his stroke. Drinking beer has slowed down the process, in my mind. A knowledgeable friend, whose alcoholic step-father switched from hard liquor to beer, died within a year after the switch. She explained that outwardly he may not look as bad, but internally he really is just as bad. If I’m being realistic, I think Riley may live another year, maybe two… but then he is the “Immortal Alcoholic.”
My future is pretty darn bright. I have high hopes for publishing my book which will lead to publishing the other books I have started in my brain. I just wrote the my first newsletter which offers a more personal glimpse of my life and activities as well as updates on blog posts and book happenings. I have the beginning of a website for Linda Jane Riley. I’m planning on a few trips to such things as a writing conference and a sewing cruise. My FaceBook page is providing support for end-stage caretakers where they are not judged or belittled and can connect with others in their situation. My blog is getting more than 350 hits a day, which means I probably have a lot of people who keep coming back.
The short of it is… I’m happy with my life. Does Riley complicate my life – without a doubt. But, life’s full of complications.
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at 7:47 AM