I’m writing this not to get advice, sympathy or to be judged. This is my therapy and it’s long overdue.
In my last post on August 31, which wasn’t much of a post, I mentioned the summer had been rough due to my dad’s decline. It had become like a full-time job, spending hours with him every day. But we didn’t feel we could leave him alone because he was trying to do things he shouldn’t and then would fall. We even hired a company to provide a person who would stay with him overnight.
It seemed a little drastic to move him to what’s essentially a nursing home, but we didn’t have a choice. The staff at his assisted living facility said they simply weren’t equipped to handle him anymore. And there was no way we could continue what we were doing. My sister and I had no life, and it wasn’t cheap to have someone there at night.
So, we gave our notice and searched for another place. We found a few options, but most hesitated to take him as a fall risk. We ended up going with a sister facility which is conveniently close to me. There are other advantages too, as a few of the staff from the Ankeny location have moved to Waukee or will switch back and forth. It’s always nice to see a familiar face.
While no situation is perfect, I can report that he’s done much better since we moved him. Before, he was having almost constant UTIs. Not one since he moved. They also have found a drug that will help him at night, when he is getting so agitated. He’s not sleeping all day in his recliner. We can finally relax and know he’s safe.
Day to day
People always tell you to enjoy every minute with your elderly parent. I get that. But I don’t feel like he’s the dad I enjoyed spending time with. He gets cranky and rude and thinks everyone is stupid. Yes, there was some of that in him before, but it’s worse now.
His life has become so small. He can’t read anymore because his eyes bother him. He doesn’t watch the news or anything current on TV, except sports-related shows. We talk about who’s died. Occasionally something will spark a conversation about an experience he had as a kid. For instance, he recently talked about how a neighboring farmer would plant watermelons in the middle of his cornfield to keep the kids from taking them. Of course, that didn’t work at all!!
Either my sister or I spend every afternoon with him. Because he’s a fall risk, he has an alarm on his chair to alert the aides if he tries to get up. I know this makes his life very limited, but even before, he never left his recliner. Honestly, he hasn’t done much since my mom’s fall.
Ever since my mom’s fall in February 2020, he has given up on everything. He immediately handed over all of his financial stuff to me. This includes paying bills (which fortunately, have been set up as automatic payments), making deposits, working with his LTC company, handling his renter’s insurance, closing his safe deposit box, setting up his DirecTV and Mediacom accounts, balancing his checking and credit card accounts, and I’m sure other things I’m missing.
It seems there’s something every day that needs to be done for him. I even had to handle the transfer of his plots in the Alleman cemetery to my cousin since he won’t be using them. I make sure everyone gets their birthday and Christmas checks. I make sure his Medicare Advantage plan is still the right one every year. I work with his financial advisor if decisions or changes need to be made to his accounts.
My sister has her list of “activities” too, so I don’t want to minimize all the things she does. Since he’s moved, I now visit him four days a week and she goes three days. She had been doing all his laundry when he was in Ankeny; now we share that duty.
We take him to outside appointments, which means navigating a wheelchair. It’s a good thing we have helpful husbands!! Fortunately, his medical care is provided there and he can also get his hair cut.
He’s always had issues with his fingers and numbness, but it’s getting worse. He has trouble operating the TV remote and rarely uses his smartphone now. But the biggest issue is his inability to process things. He can’t remember when his favorite baseball or football games are on. We leave him notes everywhere, but he still forgets.
He calls things by the wrong name and then gets impatient with me if I don’t know what he’s talking about. He’ll pick up his phone and try to change the TV. On my last birthday, he even told someone I was 77 years old!! 67 is bad enough.
Those stupid Medicare commercials on TV all the time right now make him question if he has the right coverage. Not that he’ll do anything about it, but he expects me to!! You know – call that number!!
Glimmer of hope
Over the summer, we thought we were losing him. But it was only because hospice put him on a medication that caused hallucinations and lowered his blood pressure. Since he’s been off that med, he’s been fine. Vitals are always good. He always says he has many things wrong with him, but none of them will kill him!!
Every once in a while, he’ll try some physical therapy. But he doesn’t cooperate. He always thinks he knows more than the staff. So they release him, saying they can’t do much more.
There are still signs of my dad in there. Don’t get the impression he’s completely out of it. He’s not. He may be slow, but he still remembers the old days. He has slight dementia but nothing too serious. His concept of time is skewed. And he thinks people are coming into his room.
He loves See’s Candies chocolate lollipops. My youngest niece used to always get them for him at Christmas. We’ve started buying them all the time now. Every time I visit, at some point, I know he’ll hand me a sucker.
One day, I had to go home because I was feeling some minor vertigo. He made me promise I’d call him when I got home. I did, but he could see a car in the parking lot that he thought was mine and it wasn’t going anywhere so he was worried. And just the other day, I went to a veterans ceremony at his place and stayed a while. But it was in the morning and I’m usually there later in the day. He called to make sure I’d gotten home all right. I wasn’t sure if he was sad because I didn’t come back. These things always make me feel bad for complaining and remind me that he is still my dad.
I know I’m not the first person and won’t be the last to go through this. It could be a lot worse. Fortunately, he’s financially set and we don’t have to worry about that. The hardest part is watching someone once strong and independent turn into a person who can’t do much of anything anymore.
I guess that’s the cycle of life.