Dear Mrs. Bluth,
Recently, my aging father developed a tick (spasm) in his left eye, as well as a facial tremor on the left side of his face that has become markedly pronounced. He lives with my sister and her family and I live out of state, so I see the progression in a more dramatic way than she does as she sees him everyday. When I pointed it out to her, she said it was old age and saw no reason to seek a medical opinion. On my last visit with him, I slept in his room over Shabbos and was startled awake by his thrashing and howling. It took time to calm him down; this happened at least three times during the night and it left me completely unnerved.
When I told my sister, she once again pooh-poohed the whole thing saying he was just having a nightmare, which, it seems, he gets on a regular basis. I left on Sunday to return home with a heavy heart. I enlisted the help of my two brothers who live in Israel, but would not listen to them either. She accused us all of being seldom visitors, observing our father for only short periods of time, while the brunt of his care was on her shoulders. She has eight children and was not prepared to go running to the doctor when our father was just showing signs of regular aging. However, if any of us so desired, we were welcome to come and take over his care.
Needless to say, the three of us are plagued with guilt at not being able to do our fair share in caring for our father, however, I think we make up in monetary assistance what we cannot offer in physical presence. I know it must be hard on my sister to care for him 24/7, but that does not warrant overlooking a condition that may require more doctor visits then the three times a year he currently goes.
I know my sister reads The Jewish Press, so please showcase this letter in your column and render your opinion.
A Troubled Son
There are many symptoms that can be attributed to normal aging – Rheumatoid Arthritis, memory loss, depression, hygiene neglect and changes in mood, appetite and sleeping patterns. However, tremors, ticks and spasms are rarely on this list and, generally speaking, night tremors could be a sign that there is something wrong. My uneducated guess would be that your dad is in the early onsets of Parkinson’s Disease. It definitely warrants taking him to be seen by a neurologist and having him evaluated for Early Onset Parkinson’s. In addition, there is medication and treatments to help him control his facial ticks and tremors.
I truly feel for your sister who does her best to care for your father in her very full and active home. It certainly can’t be easy being the only offspring to physically bear this privilege and responsibility. Still, these pressures should not blind her to the fact that overlooking real and visible symptoms my cause harm to your father if they are not attended to properly and in a timely fashion. Though we have witnessed the Geriatric Medical Miracle of living longer, the ability for the aging body to regenerate and heal itself as it once could in youth has not evolved to compliment the process. That is why it is so imperative that we seek immediate medical attention to alleviate any medical adversity in our pursuit of a healthy and productive old age.
You do not need to feel guilty that you and your brothers are not readily able to lend a hand in the physical care of your father. In lieu of this you all contribute generously to his care as well as helping out your sister and her family. If at all possible, it would be a great help to her, not to mention a wonderful comfort to your father if each of the sons living in Israel could come in once a year for some time and be with him. As you seem to live closer maybe you can try to come more often.
Love and physical nearness does as much, if not more, than any medication in treating the elderly. Feeling the nearness of devoted children and the comfort of their attention works in tandem with the meds to heal, strengthen and lengthen the life of our beloved elders.