DF - alzheimers, sneaky drinking, refusing assessment and the rest. New to this, help please(3 Posts)
There's a bit in this but I'll try not to make it too long. My DF (79) got a tentative Alzheimer's diagnosis about six months ago. It's early days and while he gets confused, mixed up about appointments, unable to do some daily things he used to do, forever losing things and obsessing about them to the extent that it feels like life is one long key/glasses/walking stick hunt he's still functioning pretty well. But when he drinks he becomes very confused for days. His consultant agrees to him having two glasses of beer (one pint) a day as this is really his only daily social outlet and something he has done his whole life. Despite this agreement recently he's been 'sneaking' drinks - pouring himself large/additional glasses when we have company and he thinks it's not noticed. Yesterday DM and I were out shopping and when we got home I noticed him hiding a glass he'd been drinking wine from. This morning DH found a separate hidden wine glass. I'm not anti-booze and I suspect he's very depressed by all that's happened him in the last five years so don't want to interfere with whatever independence/autonomy he has left (five years ago he developed a severe auto-immune condition and nearly died. The treatment for this has been very harsh and reduced his mobility massively - used to walk five miles a day and can now just about walk to the corner shop). This morning he came to me with 'don't tell your mother but somehow I took all my medications twice yesterday', the somehow being that he was massively confused by the booze. He's been referred to a geriatric psychiatry team for assessment and this would be a means of accessing OT and any other available help but refuses to attend and rang and cancelled the appointment they sent out which as he doesn't ordinarily handle his appointments any more shows the extent of his unwillingness (this is due to fear/stigma I think) they don't live with me but stay with me about a third of the time. DM is afraid and frustrated. I'm sorry this is long and rambling but I love him and I'm sad and I don't know what's best to do. We are in Ireland not uk btw so accessing private medical care not nhs. Any ideas/advice on how to deal with this without making things worse for him/crushing his spirit?
Dad, who was never a big drinker, just one bottle or perhaps two max after work and before tea and not every night, had a phase a couple of years ago where he started drinking more. It wasn't alcoholism as such, but we had to do something as his intake was snowballing, I think due to a combination of boredom as not able to get outside and work in the shed as before (arthritis plus losing interest due to alzheimers plus losing ability to complete tasks) and loss of inhibition (his old self would have been horrified at the self indulgence) and genuinely forgetting how much he'd had. The opening of the first bottle crept earlier and earlier till we'd come in from the shops at 11am and find him sitting on the sofa watching shit daytime TV, bottle in hand. Left to his own devices he'd potter off and open another bottle, and another, and another. He was mentally past trying to hide it, but initially at least I think had some inkling that it was wrong and would look a bit guilty and offer me a bottle to make me complicit (now he occasionally offers me a bottle just to be nice, which is lovely as Alzheimers has made my lovely caring selfless dad think only about himself 99% of the time).
We dealt with it by hiding the booze. Luckily in our case just the beers as he didn't start pouring wine or whiskey for himself (wine had always been for family mealtimes and spirits for social occasions so opening a bottle alone before dinner wasn't in his memory circuit whereas beer was). We ration them out now. He used to footer about looking for beer but gave up fairly easily. It sort of helped that he's a smoker- the drive to search for cigarettes is far stronger than the search for beer. We hide the fags and dispense them one by one too, or he'd have smoked 20 by lunchtime. Initially by leaving a packet with one in it where he will find it on his constant round of searches (hurrah! We haven't quite run out) but now we have stopped pretending and he knows that we are the gatekeeper to the fags- he asks, we disappear to the secret hiding place and reappear with one or if it's not long since he had one, stall him with "after dinner" or whatever.
Try not to start an argument with your dad about how much he drinks. He quite probably doesn't know or - due to the alzheimers- is incapable of really caring. It's hard not to snap at times and give off about the alkie-style drinking (or dad's case, desire to chain smoke), and it achieves nothing just makes them feel shitty, but the bright side is he won't remember it if you do lapse and snap at him now and then.
The difficulty in your case I suppose is that he can walk to the shop and- presumably- get more. It was easier for us as we live miles from anywhere. Maybe the corner shop staff could be instructed to tell him that his wife has already been in to buy a bottle of whatever and it will be at home
I know what you mean about autonomy, which is why we used to leave a bottle or two for him to find rather than hiding them all and only doling them out when he came asking like Oliver Twist. Same with the cigarettes. We still do that quite often though he doesn't really seem to care as much about autonomy any more. With regard to helping himself to extra glasses in company- tricky! Maybe keep the bottle close to you and offer him a top up before he asks, then at least you can make it a small topup if you are holding the bottle. Or keep the bottle out of his sightline (on the bench slightly behind the telly, a big greeting card or flower vase). The sight of a cigarette packet triggers the want for a fag in dad, if they're out of sight he seems to be content for longer before he starts searching for a lighter.
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