Institutional confusion is common they say, spending long periods of time in a hospital or rehab facility can really effect the brain. The constant noise, the lack of social interaction, shift changes, can all be confusing. And that’s great that it’s common because it explains some of what’s happening but for me it’s not. My dad has been in a skilled nursing facility, aka rehab, for 4 days now and last night he called someone the n-word! I’m in the Deep South and this man is 65 years old but it’s not common for him to call people that. I’m not going to pretend that when I was a kid in the 80’s I didn’t hear him tell Racist jokes or be insensitive but that was 30 years ago, since then I’ve seen him change, stand up to people who did use that kind of language, talk about injustices he saw on the news and in real life and then last night BOOM he calls someone a racial slur, I wasn’t ready for that behavior. I was embarrassed and sad and angry and not really sure what to do.
When my dad was in the hospital when he finally started feeling better at night he would have extreme mood changes. He was fine all day, would smile and laugh and then at night would be completely different to the point of ripping out I.V’s, yelling, refusing treatments, thinking he had been kidnapped, and then in the morning insist he wouldn’t do that and the nurse had to be making it up. It was an awful time. Then the Dr said the term Sundowners. He said it’s common, the sun starts to go down and people in intitutions get confused, it explained it away and I had a term to put with it and I was ok with it. Until last night. He hadn’t had an episode that I know of since leaving the hospital and I called my brother and I mentioned it and said oh maybe it’s the sundowners and my brothers response was sundowners would be tough let’s hope not which I thought was odd because that means when he’s not in a rehab place anymore it would be gone. So of course what do I do today, I google it; “Sundowning is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia”. Wait….what!? Is this common in Alzheimer’s patients and dementia patients only? Do they think he has this or is getting this? I don’t know. I have so many questions now for the doctor. I know googling medical conditions is a bad idea but doctors and nurses throw terms around that you don’t understand and sometimes Google is my friend. So today I am going to his rehab place and maybe find some answers to my questions but I doubt it, I’ve learned that rehab is nothing like a hospital, if I ask a medical question it’s usually answered with “I’ll try to find out for you”. I don’t know who I’m suppose to ask or what happens with dr visits or when they are. I’ve got a lot to learn and I’m hoping I can keep my dad from being racist while we go through this crazy experience.