Saturday, February 25, 2012

Standardized Testing

Have you seen Slumdog Millionaire?
You know how that kid, the one on the game show, was able to answer all the questions because he knew the answers to the questions they asked? It's not like he was a genius and able to answer ANY question about ANYTHING... his life experiences just happened to prepare him so he knew the answers to the questions on the show.

Those questions are not an indication of anything. Just that he happened to know the answers.

My dad is being asked questions (the same ones every day) to assess his condition. He is not winning a million dollars like Jamal did. His life experiences have not prepared him to know the answers.

How do you test a person's alertness/brain activity/wellness when they have dementia? What if that person has never been able to read and write? What if your dad has lived a gigantic life and gotten through it because of a huge personality, a strong desire to be successful, and a supportive wife that looked after the details?

Jule was at the hospital this morning when that same nurse (the one that asked him all those questions when I was with him on Wednesday night) the same questions from the same form. It's her job to do this every day. Doctor's orders. She is to record his answers by checking off boxes and filling in the blanks.

"Mr. Klassen, do you know what day it is?"
"Do you want to guess?"
"Do you know what month it is?"

They could ask him what year he came over on the sister-ship to the Titanic. Or what year Billie was the May Queen for Vancouver. Or what year he got married. Or what year he sold the farm. Or what month we went on the Alaska cruise. Or what year he became self-employed. THOSE years he knows. THIS YEAR? Not so much.

Again, it is explained to the nurse that he has never known the days of the week or the order of the months of the year. If he started knowing now, it would be a miracle.

"Mr. Klassen, I'm going to ask you to spell a word for me, OK?"
"Can you spell 'world'"?
"Do you want to try?"
"Mr. Klassen, I'm going to give you a piece of paper. Can you read the sentence on the paper?"
(And then he starts to cry.)
"Mr. Klassen, I'm going to give you a pencil. Can you print out the sentence for me?"
(And the tears keep falling.)

They could ask him how many movies James Dean made. Or who was the pastor of Killarney Park Church in the 60's. Or the names we gave the first two cows we bought for the farm. Or who we bought them from. Or how much per hour he made when he worked at the Mill in the 50's. Or what cars he's owned. Or which countertop material is better: Arborite, Wilson Art or Formica. He would pass a test with those questions with flying colors.

"Mr. Klassen how do you feel about your self worth?"
"Worth? I'm worth a million bucks."
"No Mr. Klassen, I asked how you feel about your self worth. Not how much money you have. Do you feel like you are being a burden on your family?"
"Family? This is Jule. She's my youngest."
"Mr. Klassen, would it be best for your family if you went to live in a home?"
"Yes. I want to go home."

Julie interupts. "Dad? Do you want to live in an old folks home? Or go home to live with mom?"
"Please don't put me away. I want to go home with Billie and watch my movies. Ben Hur."
He is crying again.

So they are treating him for alcoholism.
Because, based on his answers, he is presenting as an alcoholic. EVEN THOUGH we've told them (and he's told anyone in hearing distance) that he only drinks on Friday night's with my mom at the Spaghetti Factory. (I'm not even sure that Baby Duck counts as alcohol.)

Nothing about my dad's life has been typical. Nothing about his health issues have been easy.
Eventually his bronchitis will clear up. Eventually the testing will reveal that he is not an alcoholic. Eventually they will conclude that he is a difficult case to assess because of his unique situation.

Eventually he'll go home. To be with his Billie. And to watch his shows.

In the meantime, I ache for him. And for my mom.


Three things I'm thankful for:
1. Jule. So thankful we are sharing this together.
2. After 5 days on meds, both dad and mom's coughs sound better.
3. YAY YAY YAY, my mom will be getting help, (4 hours a week to start) to give her a hand with dad's grooming (showering, shaving, etc) once he gets home.


1 comment:

Kim N. said...

I'm so glad to hear that both of your parents are getting better and that help is on the way for your Mom. I wonder how many times they are going to put your Dad through that test they catch on though! Praying for them and for you.