George & Sandy Bowen | CaringBridge

George & Sandy Bowen

First post: Jan 5, 2018 Latest post: May 3, 2018
I've started this site to keep interested and concerned friends and family as up to date as I can about what's going on as we deal with the health issues that my parents have had these past 7 months. Here is a little about our story.

In May 2017 my parents came to visit us and celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. A few days after we celebrated their anniversary Sandy started exhibiting signs that she was suffering from psychosis and we realized that given this, coupled with George's advanced age and difficulty hearing, it would not be safe to let them return home to Chicago on their own. We were able to get Sandy in to our family doctor who was able to begin what ended up being an intense process of testing that helped us determine the probable cause of her psychosis. However, while we were in the process of doing tests and awaiting results, Sandy had a major psychotic episode, or rather she was unable to endure her psychotic state without intervention, and she required hospitalization. We were able to get Sandy into a geriatric program that helped stabilize her symptoms while she was in a safe place to complete testing and get a diagnosis. The results were pretty devastating -- probable mid-stage Alzheimer's Disease along with a probable long term, previously undiagnosed, psychotic disorder, which she was able to mask before the Alzheimer's progressed. (It should be noted that Sandy doesn't comprehend all of this. Between the delusions she experiences and loss of memory, her perception is skewed. This is very challenging for my dad, who recognizes that something is wrong, but due to his memory issues, forgets how to deal with her delusions.)

While we were going through the testing and diagnosis process for Sandy, and all living in close quarters under the same roof, it became apparent that what had appeared to be simply poor hearing for George could be masking cognitive issues. Our suspicions were confirmed through testing with our family physician. All agreed that George and Sandy need a living situation that provides regular medical support, so we started the process of officially moving them to St. Paul, with the goal being to find them assisted living close to family. 

We closed on the sale of George and Sandy's condo the day before Thanksgiving, and were in the process of finding them a place near us in St. Paul when on November 30, we experienced a set-back in our plans. An hour after Sandy got her MN state ID, George tripped on a step in front of our house and bashed up his face and suffered a broken shoulder. George is currently in rehab at St. Anthony Park Homes. We are hopeful that with the physical and occupational therapy that George is receiving, the two of them  will be able to move in to assisted living together very soon.

None of us could have imagined that we would be where we are today when my parents visited us for Christmas in 2016. Though aging, to us and all of my parents' friends they seemed to be handling independent life well. Even since receiving their diagnoses, we regularly have people tell us how sharp they seem.

As some of you reading this know, my family has a complicated history. One aspect of that history is that I didn't live with either of my parents for significant periods of my childhood, and I was living independently by the time I was 17 years old. Ironically, it was this part of our family history that gave the first clues that something was going terribly wrong for my mom, as the delusions she was having were related to that experience. I thought that she was having a trauma-related event. This presented me with a choice, either continue to keep something private -- which in this case would have made it a secret -- or, in what at the time was hope that my mom could heal, show this secret the light of day. This meant telling many strangers (doctors, nurses, social workers, etc.) a lot of details about my family's history that even people very close to me don't know. I was hoping that my mom could get help healing from the trauma. Unfortunately, after thorough and extensive testing, I've come to understand and accept that our family's history and the situation that we're in now (besides the normal aging process) is more strongly linked to undiagnosed, and therefore untreated, mental illnesses. When we first became aware of my mom's delusions I was told by some medical friends that this could end up being the outcome. Now that this possible outcome has become a reality, I've decided to share this aspect of this part of our family's journey along with the straight-forward medical and life updates. In the end it was a pretty simple decision because it is just a part of the story, and I couldn't figure out a way to extricate this part of the story even if I wanted to. Also, over these past months I've  learned at a deeply personal level the importance of eliminating the stigma surrounding mental illness that contributed to members of my family not receiving the care they needed sooner.

A very bright spot in this whole process has been watching the enduring love and devotion that my parents show each other daily. I am truly grateful that they found each other.

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