The Twilight Years Are Here

The Twilight Years Are Here

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hold Onto It

April 28, 2011

I’ve said it before and I am going to say it again, “You can not reason with a demented mind. It is absolutely, positively impossible.” I promise you that any attempts to do so will result in a battle fueled by frustration for all parties concerned. No one will walk away victorious. The key is, knowing when it’s time to walk away.
Whenever possible, I try to change the subject but the level of his current fixation determines whether that will work or not. At other times, a distraction will work to sidetrack his thoughts. But if all else fails, there is simply no other choice…it’s time to walk away.
Sometimes when I retreat, I feel as if I am running away but I’ve come to understand that in reality, it can become simply a matter of my survival. When you are caring for someone you love, you have to remember to first take care of yourself. Nobody is going to do it for you, anymore than they will volunteer to take the weight off your shoulders. That’s just the way it is.
There is nothing easy when you are trying to function 24/7 with someone who has Alzheimer’s. It isn’t easy for the person living it and it isn’t easy for the person taking care of them. Hell, the bottom line is, it isn’t easy for anyone who comes in contact with it!

Dad has been more confused, more disoriented, more depressed, more uncommunicative, more apt to fall into favorite repetitive stories, and even less steady on his feet for the past few weeks. His lab work is good and he isn’t on any new meds that would be causing any more side effects than usual. His weight, Pulse Oxygen and Blood Pressure have been running consistently in very good range for him. He eats well and sleeps well. He is mentally deteriorating much faster now while he seems to have, in many ways stopped his physical deterioration.
He has been much more antagonistic than usual. He acts as if he is spoiling for an argument sometimes. I don’t know if it’s the Alzheimer’s or if he is somehow aware that Easter Sunday 2011 made it exactly 1 year since Mom died. It could easily be a combination of both or something all together different.

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year. I can picture the last 24 hrs of her life so clearly, down to the minutest details. I have often wished over this past year that I could erase parts of it. At the same time, I have prayed that I will never forget others.
Dad doesn’t have that luxury. The Alzheimer’s that plagues him is in control. It takes away as many good memories as it does the bad. Over time it changes details, people, names, dates, times, places, and events. It spins deluded, convoluted, and quite often nonsensical memories that trail in its wake.

Dad is starting to have a lot more episodes where he doesn’t recognize the family that lives locally or even in his home. Often, he becomes agitated for no apparent reason. Until recently, it was fairly easy to isolate things that disturbed him and once they were corrected to his satisfaction, he would settle down. Lately, his reasoning makes no sense so it’s virtually impossible to figure it out or to correct it.
The hardest of all is watching him becoming more delusional. Tonight at dinner, he told me an elaborate story about how he was once a weatherman. It started out that he had to learn all about weather as a pilot, “Not during the war of course because the military told you all you needed to know about the weather. It was their job to worry about it. All you had to worry about over there was doing your job and keeping your ass from getting shot down so you could go home.” I was floored when his story turned from the usual wartime memories to end up with him explaining that he was a weatherman on T.V. “for quite some time until they brought in that bald headed guy I can’t stand (Jim Cantore)”. If I had been a stranger listening to the tale he was telling, I would probably have believed him because he sounded so sure of the details. He even went so far as to say that he hasn’t liked Jim Cantore since the day he met him and knew he was going to be his replacement. “Of course, that was long before your time.” He assured me. I nodded and asked questions when it seemed he wanted me to but mostly, I just let him spin his fantasy until it played out. Sometimes, the greatest gift we can give as a caregiver is to simply listen.

At another point today, Dad wanted to know where everybody was. I explained that Melissa had taken all four of the kids home to her house. He quietly said, “I never would have thought you were that kind of woman.” Startled, I asked what he meant. He replied, “I never would have thought you were the type of woman who would give your children to somebody else to raise. I would think you would want to do it yourself.”
“Dad, three of those children are Melissa’s. Jordyn is mine. We take care of hers when she’s at work and she takes care of them and Jordyn when she isn’t. We help each other out.”
“I know that!” He interjected sharply before he shook his head sadly, “Who helps her with them? She shouldn’t have to take care of all those children by herself! That’s too much for her to do.”
“We do.” I said softly. “We help her a lot, Dad. And she helps me a lot by taking Jordyn and giving us a break from taking care of kids. I think we both need a break sometimes.”
“I love those children and I think most of them are the cutest kids I have ever seen. I want them here. They belong at home with you. Besides, she doesn’t have any help over wherever she is with them.” His agitation steadily grew, “Children should be with their mother!”
“Dad,” I quietly tried to reach him, “They are. Cameryn, Ayla and TyTy are Melissa’s children. Jordyn is mine. I am helping her raise her children and she is helping me raise mine. We are a blended family. I thank God every day that we have most of my children and grandchildren living near us but sometimes we all need a break. Melissa’s children need to be with her at their home.”
He rose from his chair and glared at me as he excused himself to go to the bathroom. On his way out of the room, he said quite clearly, “She shouldn’t have to do it alone. And if you were a good mother, you wouldn’t let her. You would be raising your own damn children.”

With tears in my eyes, I made my way downstairs. It was lost. Not a battle… not a war… but a piece of my heart. There are things about Alzheimer’s you cannot escape. There are things you cannot ignore. There are things you will never be able to forget. There are things that break your heart and attempt to shatter your very self. If you don’t have strength to draw on from the very depths of your soul, my advice to you is to get out. Put your loved ones in the hands of someone who can be detached to some degree because this a job that will breathe joy into you at times and suck it right out of you at others. I promise you this, it can be very hard to pick up the shattered pieces and go on sometimes. But if this is what you are meant to do, you will do it because it’s the only thing you can do. And if you are doing this all because you love someone then the strength you seek is already inside you. Find it… use it… hold onto it!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Help for Caregivers

If you are taking care of a loved one, I strongly suggest you check out this amazing website. It is honestly helpful and supportive.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cannot vs. Can

The move into the beginning of the Severe Stage of Alzheimer’s kind of took me by surprise. It happened gradually. Over the last few weeks, Dad has become more confused, more disoriented, more prone to emotional outbursts, more combative, more likely to blame others for things he has done, more intense on the things he fixates on, more likely to make things up to fill in memory gaps in the stories he repeatedly tells. Then you have the things he is less… less able to recognize family members who live outside our home, less able to remember something that happened moments before, less able to complete a simple task, even with direction.

There is a wonderful poem (anonymous) that was written for Cancer patients. I am going to share it here. It is full of promise.

What Cancer CANNOT Do
Cancer is so limited---
It cannot cripple love,
It cannot shatter hope,
It cannot corrode faith,
It cannot destroy peace,
It cannot kill friendship,
It cannot suppress memories,
It cannot silence courage,
It cannot invade the soul,
It cannot steal eternal life,
It cannot conquer the spirit.

Now, let’s relate that to Alzheimer’s…

What Alzheimer’s CAN Do
Alzheimer’s is so limiting---
It can cripple love,
It can shatter hope,
It can corrode faith,
It can destroy peace,
It can kill friendship,
It can suppress memories,
It can silence courage,
It can invade the soul,
It can conquer the spirit.

I purposely left out one line of the poem as it is the only thing the two have in common… IT CANNOT STEAL ETERNAL LIFE! It is a robbing disease. It steals everything from you. With Alzheimer’s, there is NO promise other than it will rob you blind.

Do I sound angry? I have a right to be! Day in and day out, I watch this disease steal a tiny bit more of someone I love very much.
I pray for strength, understanding and patience. I pray a miracle will happen and someone will someday find a cause and a cure. I pray for all the others who are in my shoes providing full time care to their loved ones. I also pray that the people who read this never have to LIVE it. I know I couldn’t do any of this if I didn’t believe in the power of prayer.

I’m not preaching to anyone. I am simply telling it the way I see it because I am here living it. I am dealing with Dementia.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Goodnight, Sweetheart

Tonight after dinner, Dad announced he was going to watch some T.V., something he normally does. I came downstairs to take a bath after letting him know I’d be back in a little while. While I was in the tub, I would have sworn I heard Dad talking to someone. Unable to imagine who it might be, I hurried to finish and go check on him.

As I went upstair
s I clearly heard him say, “Did you see that, Sweetheart? All you ever see on The Weather Channel are people trying to sell you stuff and tornadoes.” I popped my head over the balustrade to see him sitting in his easy chair. From my perspective, I couldn’t see anyone else in the room (it is a HUGE open-air room). As I quickly scanned the room, he turned his head toward the chair closest to him and said, “I’ve really missed watching T.V. with you. I really miss talking to you at night.”

Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked in the direction he was looking. There in the chair Mom always sat in was a framed portrait of her. I ducked back and sat on the stairs for a moment to catch my breath, tears rolling silently down my cheeks, as I heard him say, “Hell, Sweetheart, I just plain miss you.”
Taking a deep breath, I crept down several stairs and made a show of stomping up them. Dad looked at me sheepishly. “I’m not crazy,” he announced quickly, shaking his head. “I just miss her so much. I miss talking to her and watching T.V. with her and seeing her beautiful face.”
Choked up, I could only nod. He struggled to rise from the chair, grabbed his walker and excused himself to go to the bathroom. The instant he was out of the room, I had my phone in my hand and was snapping pictures. I put the portrait back in its normal place and sat down wondering what I would say to him when he returned.
I shouldn’t have worried because he didn’t return. After about 15 minutes, I tiptoed down the hall to find him in bed snoring softly. As I turned away, he made a little snorting noise and called out, “Goodnight, Sweetheart.” He almost always hears me (or senses me) no matter how quiet I am.
With tears in my eyes and a smile on my face I replied, “Goodnight, Dad. Call me if you need me.”
“I will. You call me if you need me. Goodnight, Sweetheart.”

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Life on the Inside Looking Out While Living on the Outside Looking In

I am frequently told things like, “I don’t know how you do it,” or “I couldn’t do what you do,” or “I would go crazy in your shoes.” Then there are the questions like, “Don’t you ever get tired of it?” and “Doesn’t it get to you, doing all you do?” and “What are you going to do when he passes away?”
This is from someone who is living their entire life on the inside looking out while living on the outside looking in. This one is about just me…

“I Don’t Know How You Do It”
There are several answers to this. I get lots of help from above. I pray for wisdom, strength and patience constantly. I have faith that I’ll be shown the answers. I BELIEVE I can make it all work. And it honestly usually does.
My youngest daughter, Melissa, and I have created a blended family that is mutually beneficial to everyone. I have sole custody of my 12 yr old grandson. She is a single mother of three children ages 10, 4, and 2. We have found a way that works very well for us. She works 3 days a week (full time) so I have all the kids and Dad on those days. The other 2 days of the school week, the boys either stay with us or stay with Melissa depending on a number of factors. Weekends she keeps all of the kids at her house. This gives Dad (and me) a much need break from the chaos of children. I KNOW I couldn’t manage without her help. I KNOW she couldn’t manage without mine. That’s an amazing gift! And on the rare occasions when I leave town to recharge my batteries, I know that she can manage things in my absence (and has).
I have found a kind of peace within myself that I didn’t even know existed before we moved here. It’s a place where I can go and draw strength. It’s a place I can believe in myself. I can believe in what I’m doing because I KNOW it’s the right thing to do.

“I Couldn’t Do What You Do”
Trust me when I say you can’t possibly know how you would react until the situation is at hand. I wasn’t sure I could do what I do. When the situation first presented itself, I was terrified. I hated myself for stopping to ask myself if I was willing to give up my entire life as I knew it to move here and take care of, not one but both, of my elderly in-laws. I will never forget how I cried uncontrollably as I questioned why it was falling on my shoulders. And then I realized it was because it was something I only I could do in our situation.
My husband was gone less than a week after his father called to ask for our help. He moved in with them while I stayed behind to pack up our lives and get ready to move our son and grandson yet another time (we thought we were going to settle where we were after a lifetime of many moves). Six weeks later, practically everything we owned was placed into 2 storage units, I had handed our family cat (of 8 years) over to my daughter, kissed her and 3 of my grandchildren good-bye, hugged various friends that I haven’t seen since and we drove off to a whole new life.
That’s when I knew I HAD to do what I do. The funny thing is, looking back now, I know there never really was a choice for me at all. They called. They needed us. We came. And I don’t regret it for a second. I love my life and I love what I’m doing because I love the people involved unconditionally. I don’t know how to love any other way. When you love somebody, you will do anything and everything you can for them. So yes, I bet you could do what I do.

“I Would Go Crazy In Your Shoes”
If you honestly think I don’t have days where I go crazy, stick with that and quit reading this post right now (illusion is a magical thing). Trust me, there are plenty of days when I go crazy. I just try hard not to let most of them show.
For example, take today. In addition to a normal day with Dad and the kids, my son and his fiancĂ©e got stuck for a babysitter. Now, I will never pass up a chance to keep my future grandson (he’s 19 months old and adorable!) so of course I said yes. While dinner was cooking, I took the two youngest (still in diapers) downstairs for a diaper change. We then hustled upstairs to get dinner for 7 on the table.
After dinner, I was cleaning the kitchen when my 4 yr old granddaughter announced that the baby had peed in Pop’s chair. About that time he ran into the kitchen so I snagged him up. He was dry as could be but there was a definite odor about him. I shouted back, “Baby Kam didn’t do it.”
No sooner had the words left my mouth than I saw 2 yr old Ty streak past minus his shoes, socks, and pants. Snagging him up I instantly knew he was the culprit. Laughing, I asked, “Can’t you guys just stay clean and dry for a little while?” and headed for the stairs.
As I passed Dad finishing his desert at the dining room table I heard him say, “Oops,” Instantly a rumble came from the vicinity of his chair and he grinned at the babies in my arms. “I guess not.” He rose from the table and said with a twinkle in his eyes, “You change them and I’ll change mine.” I barely made it down the stairs before I burst out laughing.

Then you have the kind of crazy where you’ve been asked the same question 40 times in a day or heard the same story a dozen times in a span of a few hours (only its told slightly different each time because details are so easily forgotten), it’s the kind of crazy where you want to scream to make it stop. There are a lot of different kinds of crazy and you get to see brief glimpses of them occasionally. But that’s when I stop and pray for wisdom, strength, and patience.

“Don’t You Ever Get Tired of It?”
Honestly? The answer is sometimes, for a brief moment in time, maybe. But it doesn’t last long. I get tired of fighting against an insidious disease. I get tired of watching Dad struggle mentally and physically. I get tired of not being able to go where I want to, when I want to. Because Dad requires 24 hour a day constant care, I get tired of not being able to leave the house at all most days. I think more than anything, I get tired of just plain being tired.

“Doesn’t It Ever Get to You, Doing All You Do?”
You can bet your ass it does. It would get to anybody. But you simply do what you have to do.

“What Are You Going to Do When He Passes Away?”
Obviously, this is my least favorite question of all, first and foremost because I am sitting here trying to extend his life. Look, let’s face it. We all die. In fact, from the moment each of us is born, we are all dying. But I don’t think anyone actually wants to dwell on that fact too much. We are here to live.
I can’t answer this question. I have no clue where we will go from here. I thought we were settled just before the series of events took place that brought us here. I know we will have to sell the house and find a new place to live. I know that I won’t go too far from Melissa and her children, or Jeremy, Amanda & Baby Kam. I know I will have to find a job and figure out how to work it around my family. I know we will cross each bridge as we come to them because there is a time and place for everything under the sun. Right now my time and place is here and now and that’s all I can handle at the moment.
I had a career in Retail Mgmt., Restaurant Mgmt., was a district manager and then owned two businesses of my own (simultaneously while keeping first 3, and then 4, of my grandchildren full time at work with me). I am thinking of a career move toward caring for the elderly. There are not enough honest, dependable caregivers in the world. I enjoy the medical aspects of it all and I enjoy spending time with the elderly. I think I would be happiest if I could find a way to help protect them.
Who knows, maybe we will stay in this area. Maybe we won’t. I guess I’ll have to get back to you on it all sometime. I am living my entire life on the inside looking out while living on the outside looking in. For now, I just need to focus on the living. So that’s what I am doing.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sometimes It's All About Timing

Dad was supposed to have gone for “fasting” lab work yesterday. He made it to the kitchen and a bowl of cereal before I could stop him so we had to wait until this morning to go. As soon as I knew he was up, I ran to the kitchen. He had parked his walker outside the kitchen so I wouldn’t hear him. Already, he had bread in the toaster and cereal in the bowl. I explained that he couldn’t eat yet because we had to go to the hospital to get lab work done. He instantly turned around and announced he would go get ready.

You have to understand, when he has a doctor’s appointment, I have to start getting him ready about 3 hours ahead of time. We are almost always late because he isn’t ready on time. Going to the doctor is a chore. But going to the hospital is a joy. He has been going there regularly since the day they opened the doors. He knows people there. Doctors, nurses, technicians, security guards, volunteers, administrators, maintenance men, you name it, they all know him by name and stop to talk to him. He is appreciative and touched that they take a moment out of their hectic schedules to speak to him. Most of the time he can’t think of anyone’s name but the faces spark a memory and he recognizes them. On a really good day, with someone he has seen repeatedly over the years, he occasionally remembers something specific about them.

As we were driving to the hospital, Dad asked (for the 8th or 9th time) why we were going. So, for the 8th or 9th time I explained that his Cardiologist had ordered these labs back in Jan. That we have to do this every 3 months for this doctor, it’s a way of keeping tabs on his heart. He thanked me 8 or 9 times for bringing him to the hospital and for taking care of him.
On entering the hospital emergency room (it’s where you register), we were greeted by a security guard that knows us well. Dad just had to stop and speak to him for a bit. Meanwhile, Ms. Jeanetta, an old and dear friend of his and Mom’s from church, spies us and runs over to give me a hug. She is amazingly proficient at giving a hug and asking half a dozen questions about how everyone is doing all at the same time in a tone that keeps Dad from hearing her. Her genuine concern for Dad is one of the reasons I have always liked her so much. By then, Dad has left the security guard and joined us so we have to visit for several minutes until someone comes in needing assistance. The instant we start to move away, the woman working in the admissions dept calls out to us, “Mr. Felker come on in here and I’ll get everything set up.” She chitchats with us and we are done and in the waiting area in a matter of less than 5 minutes.

There is a baby in the waiting room. He was barely past the learning to walk stage and Dad kept himself busy watching him and trying to talk to him. He kept telling everyone how cute the “little guy” was. Everyone in the waiting room was watching them. After a fairly short wait, Dad was called to the back. He leaned over to pat the baby on the head, announcing loudly, “You sure are cute!”
A guy (who’d been in a car wreck and was battered, bruised & there for extensive x-rays) that had been watching them all this time piped up from across the room, “So are you, Sir!” As the door closed behind Dad, I looked over at the guy. Tears welled up in his eyes and his voice was choked, “The old guy kind of reminds me of my dad. I really miss him. He had Alzheimer’s, too.” And in that moment as our eyes met and held, as the tears welled up in my own eyes, I felt his pain and I felt my own. “That’s my Dad,” I said softly.
And for a brief instant of time, I was connected to another human being on a level that can’t be understood unless you’ve actually walked a mile in the shoes of someone who dearly loves someone with Alzheimer’s. And I have to admit it felt good. He nodded his head and slowly stood up. With a smile of naked recognition and understanding, he limped away and somehow my day got a bit brighter.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I'm On a Soapbox (Let Me Vent)

There is no logic to Dementia or Alzheimer's. There is no consistency and so far there is no solution. There is no cure. There is little hope. At best, there are a myriad of drugs that can slow its progression but most of them are extremely expensive and many are slow to get approval by the FDA. Worse yet, most of them aren’t capable of making a drastic difference, they simply slow things down a little. Alzheimer’s is insidious beyond belief.
Recent changes to Medicare Prescription Plans have made a great many of these types of medications ineligible for coverage. Others are so ridiculously priced to begin with that the portion you are left paying out-of-pocket (for a 30 day supply) costs more than what an average family spends on groceries for a week. Dad has a monthly injection I give him that is $1485 PER SHOT! With his old insurance, his co-pay was $50 a month. With the new Medicare Plan his co-pay is currently $791.

Introducing Medicare Part D otherwise referred to as Donut Hole Insurance. There are 4 stages to this nightmare insurance policy brought to you by the US Government (via a letter Dad received a few days ago)…
Stage 1- Yearly Deductible is around $300 (we had that met by the 2nd week of Jan.) Stage 2- Initial Coverage the plan covers part of the cost and you cover the rest (in our case they cover about 35%) until you reach app. $3,000 year-to-date “total drug costs” (we’re over ½ way there). Stage 3 Coverage Gap (which I estimate we will enter within the next 4 weeks)- You will receive a discount on brand name drugs and you pay ONLY 93% of the costs on generic drugs. You stay in this stage until the amount of year-to-date “out-of-pocket costs” reaches app $5,000. At this rate it shouldn’t take us very long to move to Stage 4- Catastrophic Coverage. During this payment stage, the plan pays most of the cost for your covered drugs. You generally stay in this stage for the rest of the plan year.
***Please note the ambiguous wording given by them. Phone calls are even more frustrating because everyone insists this is the best solution for someone who takes as many different medications as Dad does. Currently, he takes 29 different medications orally and 2 different types of injections at home.

How exactly does the government expect to prolong the lives of the elderly when they allow the pharmaceutical companies to pillage, rape and plunder the American people? How do they expect the elderly to pay their rent or mortgages, buy groceries, while paying outrageous costs for medical care and prescription medications? How can they hold their heads up knowing that there is no such thing as a decent government run nursing home in this country (and if there is, I stand corrected and am amazed)? How can they close their eyes to the injustices, neglect and abuse that the American elderly are subjected to without punishing the offenders to the highest letter the law will allow? I often wonder what these people do with the elderly in their own lives (parents, grandparents, etc.)

If I were an elected official, I would bend over backward for this dwindling segment of the population. I would bust my ass to keep them alive as long as possible. You see, unlike subsequent generations, the elderly still have faith in the government. They always pay their taxes, they don’t ever cheat the government, the elderly go out of their way to follow the very letter of the law. They have unwavering devotion to our country and yet most government offices seem to relegate them to the back burner in every case. You get better health care assistance if you are a crack addict with 5 kids living in the projects and selling sex for hire than you do if you are elderly.

It infuriates me to see the way so many Americans treat the elderly, when they aren’t ignoring them entirely. Our nursing homes are more often than not substandard and the funding is so sparse (no matter who it’s run by) that there is a shortage of both Registered Nurses and LPNs (the ones there are, are overworked and usually underpaid), a shortage of doctors who give a damn, a shortage of Caregivers that have more than the minimum qualifications. I can’t think of a single country in the WORLD that treats the elderly so poorly!

I am angry and I am going to keep making it my business to demand answers from the medical people we encounter regularly, our insurance companies, Medicare, Social Security, the Federal Government in general.
I am going to continue to fight a government that allows crimes against the elderly go unpunished. A system that will allow someone to neglect or abuse an elderly person and then let them open a business that provides elderly care is a system that needs to change. I am only one small voice but I will S-C-R-E-A-M to be heard!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Back With Things to Say

April 2, 2011

I am the first to admit it's been a while. I apologize to my readers and I apologize to myself. So much has happened since last August. I realized today that I haven't been able to write because I have been too bogged down in the day-to-day chaos of just living here. I am going to give a quick overview and tell you that Dad has been hospitalized 3 times since Aug. Once for Crohn's Disease, once for dehydration and once for his heart. Last Oct. his oldest living daughter (and one of my dearest friends EVER) died very unexpectedly and our lives again were shattered. Ironically, Dad's Alzheimer's provided him protection from the realities of it all.

Living with someone who suffers from Dementia/Alzheimer's is similar to living in a war ravaged third world country. Unpredictability and instability become the norm. At any given moment, (with no rhyme or reason) anyone can be seen as the enemy and suddenly clarity ceases to exist. It happens in the blink of an eye. Being the caregiver of someone who is completely irrational at times and requires 24/7 care is without a doubt the most frustrating, exasperating and exhausting role I have ever taken on. But the times when it is satisfying, fulfilling and rewarding makes it all worth it. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no way to find such a thing as balance when dealing with Dementia.

In essence, I am dealing with an 89 year old child most days. Frequently, he is aware that he is misbehaving but is unable to control the behavior. And if he misbehaves, his illness enables him to forget it the moment anything happens. I am firmly convinced that most of the negative behavior he exhibits is born of his overwhelming sense of frustration. The limitations that have been imposed on him by his many physical ailments, his age, and his mental instability are taking a friendly, out-going, active, humorous, hard working, life loving man and making him a shell of his former self. (Though, I have to admit, he still has an awesome sense of humor at times!) He is so seldom animated anymore that I have to be grudgingly grateful for even the bad behaviors.

Here, I'll give you an example. When we left our last doctor's appointment the other day, Dad insisted on collapsing his walker and putting it in the back seat of the car unaided. I stood by helplessly watching his struggle. After several minutes, I stepped forward to help. Out of nowhere, I received a forearm across my chest that sent me reeling backward. Dad turned to me shaking with rage and yelled, "I can f-ing do it myself!" His frustration mounted as he continued to fight with walker and I stood terrified he was going to give himself a heart attack with the strain. A couple of minutes later, he finally got it shoved in (in a position that put a wheel directly into the back of my head).
For so many reasons, I wanted to rest my head on the steering wheel and cry. My frustration at it all enabled me to see his frustration so much more clearly than I already do. Those are the moments when I can hear my heart crack a bit more in the surrounding silence. As I started the car, I glanced over at him. On his face I could clearly see his pride, his sense of accomplishment in having successfully accomplished a task he had set for himself. And I could feel the crack slowly beginning to heal.