Thursday, August 12, 2010

Yep, WB thinks he can drive.....

Third MRI yesterday and a score of 13 on the Mini Mental Exam. I was halfway expecting this. WB's original score was 18/30 on October 16, 2007. Then we plateaued for awhile. It was down to 15/30 in April and now its August and we are at 13/30.

Not so good. I would easily score 30 as would most of my family and friends.

Today he met with Dr. Kinney who he hadn't seen in about 12 weeks. Dr. Kinney is the doctor over the research trial at UAB. I find that we are settling in with the team there; Hollis, Roberta, Dr. Tolbert. You can't go through this with a group of people and not bond in some way or another. I especially find Roberta a comfort ~ she just gets it.

On MRI days, we head down to the Spain Rehabilitation building for the test then back up to the Callahan Eye Foundation where the Psychiatric Research office is located. There, WB gets a MME, blood work and an exam with Dr. Kinney. I am not present for the MME or the exam.

However, the first words out of Dr. Kinney's mouth when they returned was, "he wants to drive." 

To which I say, "Hell yea, he wants to drive!"

So, Roberta gives me the contact information for another doctor at UAB who will test WB for $200 and give him the go-ahead, a set of parameters or take his license. See, WB does not get this. WB cannot grasp that Dr. Kinney is setting him up to remedy this problem for me. He knows that WB cannot pass this test. WB can no longer sign his name!

WB thinks he can drive. But, he no longer has the reasoning skills to shoulder the responsibility of the entire act. This whole driving thing has been one of the major sticking points for him and the same issue that landed him in the hospital less than a month ago.

After this exchange I just looked at him with the look that he and all who know me know so well.....and he said, "well, I've probably said too much."

Sitting back in the waiting room I fired off the following to WB through tears while sobbing:

"So, you think it appropriate to come and ask a Dr. who's seen you once in 12 weeks if you can drive when we (the family) has made a decision that you should not. The family that sees to your every need, stays with you constantly?"

"So, do you have any idea what would happen if you were driving and were pulled over by the police?" "Could you find your registration and insurance papers. Could you tell him where you lived or the directions to where you were going?" Oh hell, WB, they would take you to the hokey under suspicion for DUI!

"So, are you more comfortable now with working the gas pump and getting the gas cap back on the car?"

"SO, do you think you can pass a test?"

"Do you have any idea today what the cost of repairs would be should I take our vehicles in to have the bumps and bruises fixed from your just backing in and out of the garage and driveway?"

"Do you think you could find your way there and back when you cannot find your way out of Walmart?"

And there was more.....

"Would it be possible today, just today for you to worry about something else? How about that I cannot handle the additional stress of letting you drive to a south Alabama hunting camp alone (with a gun) because I am up to my throat and choking on it all".

Then through gasping sobs and a raised voice I say.......

"How about this WB. You just want to drive. But I want my life back. My house, my career, quality time, down time, alone time. I want all of that, but I cannot have it. Chances are,  I will never have it and all you can obsess about is your driving!"

"And further, do you have any idea how hard its been to jerk the system to protect your Drivers License because I know how important that is to you? That I have gone way beyond what most would do to help you retain this level of independence."

"That your daughter will be leaving for college in less that two days and instead of this being her time, you've got to make a scene about wanting to drive!" 

Then as I plow through my purse, I produced the keys, dropped them in his lap and said, "Here you go,  DRIVE!"

To which he replies with his head hung low, "I'll never ask you this again."

HARUMP. Well, that's a lie and a half.

Again and again, over and over WB may think at that very moment that he will never ask it. WB may believe it, but the disease will not allow it. The disease will continue to play tricks on him. I know it and I know that he cannot help it.

Read all of the caregiver books and manuals with their clever antidotes and strategies you care to and I have. We practice them all. We know that confrontation of any kind is met with severe anxiety and sometimes aggression. We know that to argue over anything with WB is a total and complete waste of time. We very rarely ever say, "don't you remember?"

I spend 24/7 with man who can longer appreciate what it takes to care for him. The doctor appointments, the medicines, the calls, the attorneys, the cleaning up of the business, keeping the lights and his sports channel on and all while raising a daughter and getting her in and ready for college. This is my bully pulpit, my sounding board, my refuge, however, Blogger simply does not have enough post space to list what goes on here each and every day. God, we love him and everyday this is a test of our faith and in all we believe, AMEN.

What is so strange, is on those rare moments when I have a complete come-apart, it sometimes registers with him. (We commonly refer to this as getting out the customer bat)

Back in the car and on the way home I apologize to him for the outburst. I further explained to him  that I knew he could not help this, but that he needed to try and grasp that I was nearing a full-house with my abilities to cope and manage. I went on to say (in calm and loving voice) that I needed him to understand why his NEEDING to drive and his continued unreasonable demands were placing a stress on me and that I could not at this specific moment handle and that just one additional ounce of BS from him would probably cause me to make decisions that none of us really wanted. Further, if the day comes when you, WB, can no longer process and understand this, I'm done.  That if you, WB, cannot relax about this issue and give it up, I would see to it that driving was no longer a question. No license, no driving around the neighborhood with me in the car, period ~ the end ~ kaput.

To which he repeated, "I will never ask that again."

We will see. We shall see how long this lasts. Remember, we report that we can have a complete understanding about certain issues and in the end, AD takes over and the cycle just repeats itself.

But then oftentimes, I believe that he is so undone by all of this that he tests us. Or, has AD produced an unreasonable, selfish, self-absorbed person who would in an earlier life been so selfless? It makes me ponder, is it a little of both?

The girls could tell when we returned that all was not right with the world, but I had no energy left to speak of it. I find that if I have to recant event(s), the higher my blood pressure gets. More and more, solace for me is found later when writing/reflecting.

I never had kids who acted out in the grocery store line or in public, I cannot remember ever having to jerk one up to a nose to nose position and threw clenched teeth say, "I am fixing to beat your a$$".  My kids only ever needed the look. This maneuvering and handling of a grown man who sometimes acts 3 is new to me, as it should be. How we handle it most days is textbook, how we handle it others is not.


Topics still in the draft bag:

The Phyche Nurse
Turning Gray Overnight
Wonderful Neighbors
The Dreaded Day ~ Moving Kate

Keywords:  Alzheimer's Dementia and Driving 
My name is Rhonda Brantley. My husband, Billy Ray Brantley, has Early Onset Alzheimer's Dementia.


  1. It hurts my heart that you have to go through this. I can only hope that if the day comes that I have to deal with this, I can do it with half the grace you are.

  2. Rhonda, the following is a quote from Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and author of "Life's Healing Choices". I hope it can be a source of encouragement for you. You are such a source of encoragement for me.

    If you’re discouraged, turn it around by remembering God teaches you patience during delay. Ask him to transform your discouragement into patience.

    You may be going through difficult times right now and feel like dropping off the planet. You’re discouraged because the situation you face seems unmanageable, unreasonable, or unfair.

    It may seem unbearable and inside you’re basically saying, “God, I can’t take it anymore. I just can’t take it anymore!”

    But you can.

    You can stay with it longer because God is with you. He’ll enable you to press on. Remember, you are never a failure until you quit.

    Don’t quit. Resist discouragement and finish the race God has set before you.


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