My brother was coming for a visit. My mother hadn’t seen him for six months and it was two weeks before Christmas. This was special. I made an appointment for Mom to get her hair done at Penney’s with her favorite hairdresser the Friday before my brother and his wife were to arrive. I also called Atria arrange to have them take her and pick her up. Since the time we took the wheelchair for her appointment my back hasn’t been the same. I just can’t lift it. We would have to rely on the Atria driver. I thought all went as planned, until I spoke with my brother the next day. “I thought Mom was going to get her hair done,” he said. “What!” I said. “It should have been all set up.” I had to wait until Monday to call and find out what happened. “We thought you were planning on meeting her at the hairdresser’s,” she said. “We tried to call you.” It was true that I had been out all day shopping. They may have left a message on my phone which I usually can’t hear in a crowded store. “Why would I have to be there?” I asked. “Can’t you just wheel her into the salon?” “We are not allowed to leave anyone in a wheelchair. Someone has to be with her and we do not have staff that can do that.” I did not tell her what I thought of this. What could happen in the salon? When I took her we just wheeled her up to the hairdresser’s station and she stayed in her wheelchair for the whole appointment. This was ridiculous! My poor mother had to go another week with dirty hair. Finally I made an appointment with the hairdresser at Atria. My mother could get mad at me. I didn’t care. I wanted her to have her hair fixed for Christmas. I called and made an appointment for Christmas Eve morning. When we picked her up Christmas morning to spend the day with us she still had straight, greasy hair.
It was the weekend my sister came to visit that we first noticed how weak my mother’s legs had become. She had let me use the wheelchair the week before, but she was able to walk. I hadn’t seen her since then. That Saturday I received a phone call from my sister who was over visiting Mom. The guys were playing golf and I was at home catching up on chores. “Kathy, can you come help me? Mom has been sitting on the patio with me and I can’t get her inside.” “Why doesn’t she want to go back in?” I said. “It’s not that she doesn’t want to, she can’t. She can’t get her legs to work.” When I arrived they were still on the patio. We tried to get her to stand, but each time she would collapse back into her chair. I got the wheelchair and, with a lot of maneuvering, we managed to pull it to the patio door and hoist her in. I spoke with the nurse and caretakers at Atria and expressed my concerns. “Could it be the medication she is taking that could make her so weak?” I asked. They assured me that what she was taking could be the cause.
The next week I received two phone calls from Atria that my mother had fallen. The paramedics had been called both times. The last time they took her to the emergency room. She was OK except for a couple of bruises and cuts from where she had fallen. It was when they gave me the papers to sign when she was released that I noticed the paper with the list of medications on it. I stuck it in my purse to check over later. I got it out the next day to see what it said. At the top of the list was ‘Haloperidol to be given twice a day, morning and evening.’ This must be the Alzheimer’s drug the doctor wanted to try. I thought. I googled it. drugs.com: “For use in treating schizophrenia. Has been used to treat aggression and agitation in patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia, but it can cause serious side effects.” WebMD: Elderly patients with dementia related psychoses treated with anti-psychotic drugs are at an increased risk of death.” OMG! It could be the cause of her falls. And her doctor prescribed this?!