Thursday, August 5, 2010

Dr. Bill

Dr. Bill is a homecare client that I had way back when. He had been a client of CareCo for a very long time even then, so I assume he still is - I just don't have him on my roster right now. Dr. Bill was a retired doctor who lives in a swanky gated retirement community. He also has Parkinson's. But unlike Bitsy, his Parkinson's seemed to have skipped through the more common symptoms (stiffness, tremors) and gone right into dementia. Don't get me wrong, he had some slight mobility effects, and was very stooped over, so much so that child-sized furnishings would have been no challenge for him. But all of that paled in comparision to the big, bright banner of paranoia that Dr. Bill carries with him at all times.

To begin with, you should know that Dr. Bill believes himself to be an employee, not a client, of CareCo. When caregivers come to his home, he often believes us to be conducting trainings, meetings, or on a break. Dr. Bill drafts endless letters to the CareCo staff, quitting over and over again, and blaming his Parkinson's on the workload he shoulders at CareCo.

Sometimes he writes these out longhand, in his tiny, cramped, Parkinson's "microscript". Sometimes, apparently I am his secretary, and he dictates them to me on his home computer. Sometimes he settles for leaving voicemails at the CareCo office line. But Dr. Bill is always certain he doesn't want to work there anymore, and that they keep trying to stop him from quitting.

Apart from these obsessive resignation letters, Dr. Bill's other main hobby is reading and rereading his bills, and trying to call and argue with any bank, credit card, or utility company foolish enough to send him one. I really don't know why his family doesn't have them sent to a PO Box instead so they don't occupy his mind so much, but perhaps they like him to stay busy in his own way.

Sometimes these two processes mix in Dr. Bill's mind, and sometimes his other preoccupation, the fear that someone is stealing his pills, creeps in there as well. That's when the letters get really exciting. Scrawled on envelopes, legal pads, catalogues, are things like "Last count: 62. Must make a list of HI suspects. Big Boss Betty. Office Assistant Annie. Caregiver Cathy. Bill for VISA $33.86. What is this for? Cost of replacing missing pills? Call police."

Adding to all this is the fact that Dr. Bill has one of those printer/scanners that can function as a copy machine. So if Dr. Bill has, say, two envelopes full of his rantings that he decides should belong on one sheet of paper together, he photocopies them onto one. Over and over. And then rolls up the paper into a long tube, puts a single rubber band around it, and stores it in his closet for further rumination later on. He had a large supply of these crazy collages.

As you can imagine, Dr. Bill goes through a lot of office supplies this way. So one day, he asked me to drive him to the office supply store for more rubber bands and printer paper. We successfully got his supplies and were on our way back to his home for me to prepare him some lunch, when a two-story dental office caught his eye as we drove by.

"Pollyanna! Stop the car! Turn around! That's where I need to go!"

Gamely, I swung the car around, and drove by again, more slowly.

"There! That's the place. I gotta call them and tell them I need to see them. The real office is on the second story, but YOU'RE not supposed to know that."

Always wanting to be polite and humor him, I just replied "All right Dr. Bill, we can look up their phone number when we get home."

I turned the car again, taking a side street to get reoriented in the correct direction.

"Wait, Pollyanna, there was something else there too. Where did it GO? Dammit all anyway."

Luckily, Dr. Bill has a sweet tooth and can always be redirected with promises of pastries. Especially at lunchtime. So we made it back to his place, supplies in hand, for lunch and then more photocopying. Just like always.

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