Thursday, May 1, 2014
Trials and tribulations...
Those of you who have read my book, “The Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife”, know that Riley is facing some legal issues. Because there is a pending trial, I cannot go into details. However, I can tell you a few things that I've learned in this process.
When someone is arrested for a crime the person is usually tried and sentenced. But what happens when the person arrested doesn't really understand what he did was wrong or not even remembers what he did that has caused him to be arrested?
The process of determining that someone is not competent to stand trial is a long arduous task. Medical records must be gathered. Psychiatric exams must be completed. Many court appearances must be made and information must be gathered from witnesses of the incompetency. All the while the attorney fees and costs keep mounting up.
For Riley, just the task of appearing in court was difficult. When we first started going to court – almost two years ago – he was able to walk with a cane. Now he must use the walker and even with the support, he falls often. He has fallen both going into and out of the courthouse.
In the morning before leaving for court, he must not drink any coffee or eat any breakfast. Once inside the court room and the court becomes in session, no one is allowed to leave until the judge says it’s OK. Riley cannot hold his bladder or bowels and he cannot wait for the judge to deem it is OK to use the restroom. If he doesn't eat or drink, he can usually wait until there is a break in session. That’s a long time for him to go without food, coffee, or water. He does wear disposable underwear, but if he should have an “event” the underwear is not enough to contain the situation let alone the odor. The fear of this happening is just as uncomfortable as the lack of food.
When Riley was arrested, he was released into my custody and the bond was waived. There were certain criteria that I had to agree to abide and I did agree in order to keep him from being behind bars. I am not just his caretaker but the one who is completely legally responsible for him getting to court and that changes my to warden/caretaker.
The reality is that he is in a prison of his own making even without going to trial. He does not leave the house without my assistance. He doesn't even go into the yard. His days are spent watching TV and not much else. He lives in his room and emerges for coffee in the morning and dinner in the evening. He is incapable of doing much else. Simple trips into the real world (for haircuts, etc.) must be planned a day in advance. His world is his own creation from years of damaging his body with alcohol. He is just not physically or mentally capable of managing his own life.
For me there is very little support. The kids have demanding jobs and with the economy such as it is – they would be hard pressed financially to take any time off work. The VA told me there would be respite for me, but as it turns out I must show that I can afford to pay for the nursing home if something happens and he cannot return home. If I could afford that – I’d have already placed him in a home. I get nowhere by talking to social services or Area Agency for the Aging. I’ve resigned myself to just making do the way things are.
At this point, I can still leave him alone overnight so there is some relief. But, I would not leave him alone any longer than that. I fear he will attempt to cook rather than eat the food I’ve left already prepared for him.
The situation as far as court proceeding as concerned is complicated, confusing, and leaves one scratching their head for answers. Even though independent evaluations have been done, the court often wants a determination of competency made by their own doctors. The state evaluation is far more intensive than the independent ones, so I understand why the DA would want this information. Actually it is a good evaluation because it will cover days rather than hours of observation. This information is good to have, if the court releases it to the caretaker.
Personally, this evaluation would be a wonderful break providing me with some much needed time away from Riley. I have no idea how long the break would be but anything more than 24 hours would feel like a trip to Relaxation Land.
When I look at Riley, I don’t see a man who is a danger to anyone except himself. I see a lost little boy in the skin of a grown man who is confused about why I (and the family) think he is not capable of living by himself. He can’t see his breaks in the trains of his thought. He doesn't hear how irrational his rationality really is. And when he doesn't get his way, he doesn't understand that his passive aggressive attitude is simple the temper tantrum of a spoiled child.
Although I love Riley, I fell out of married love with him many years ago. I haven’t viewed him as a real husband in more than 15 years. And now… now… he has become my child – a 12 year old, insolent, demanding boy. I am 65 years old and am exhausted at the demands of being responsible for this pre-teen yet 70 year old. I would like to be able to protect him, but I believe it is too late for that.
I’m telling you all this because I want you caretakers of end-stage alcoholics to be aware of what may be your future. I suggest you be diligent in doing whatever you can to prevent him/her from breaking any laws – especially those that may lead to a criminal trial. I would like you to understand that with each year of continual drinking, the brain is regressing and you may end up with an adult with the capacity of a teenager. I remember back when my kids were teens – if alcohol had been added to that mass of raging hormones I think I would have not survived!
Who knows how long the court situation will go on? All I can do is comply with their requests, follow my lawyer’s advice, and see what happens.
at 9:58 AM