Last year, another blogger friend wrote about her experiences as a caregiver for an elderly loved one. I find myself in the same position, though I’m not nearly so eloquent as she. Today is a physical recap of this week’s events. Tomorrow, I’ll try to go into my head and my heart. I have no time to edit this right now, so please overlook any typos. I’m out the door in a few minutes.
A year and a half ago, “my other mother” (MOM) died after a year-long struggle with pancreatic cancer. I spent my days with her and my nights working at my new full-time job. I slept a few hours a night, and after two very intense months and a horrendously miserable weekend of her funeral, my entire body crashed on me, leaving me barely able to function. Now, my other dad, her husband, needs care as he tries to recover from what appears to be a mild stroke, and I have promised myself that I will not abuse my mind or my body this time around. His children live on the two coasts and there is no other family here, so I will do what I can to see that he gets the care he needs until they can get here to take over.
Tony has been having some short-term memory issues for a while now, and at 86, has been growing a bit frail. He recently fell four times while visiting family, three times hitting his head. Although no one realized it, after his return home two weeks ago, he was struggling just to maintain. When I took him to a doctor’s appointment last week, he had trouble getting in and out of the car, was walking very slowly and hesitantly, but he seemed to be alert and present. By Sunday evening, he was incoherent and in the ER and by early Monday morning, had been admitted to the hospital.
His wonderful neighbors took him to the ER when they realized that something was amiss. As a result of LASIK surgery years ago, I have very poor night vision and rarely attempt to drive at night, so I did not go to the hospital with him. On Monday morning, I hurriedly showered and dressed and went up to the hospital to see him. His precipitous slide into fragility and confusion alarmed me, left me feeling quite helpless and miserable. I stayed with him for several hours, growing more concerned as the minutes ticked by. His mental state was typical of a stroke victim, and physically, he was so weak as to be unable to raise himself from the bed.
His thought processes are slow and jumbled, his balance is poor and his body very weak. Each day, he spiraled deeper into confusion and hallucination. Yesterday, seems to have taken a turn for the better, perhaps because he knew he was leaving the hospital, which he likened to a prison, for the rehab center. He has been pretty independent since Mom died last year, and he hates that he is not permitted even to stand up without someone attending to him. He resents having someone lead him to the bathroom, help him up, and “follow him around.”
It is my hope that two weeks in rehab will help him to regain enough strength to get around, even if that requires a walker; that it will put some weight on his tiny frame; and that it will help with the aphasia and other cognitive issues resulting from the stroke. He will not be able to live independently after this, but how he fares in rehab will determine where he must live when he completes this stint. By then, both of his kids should be here, and they will make those decisions. In the meantime, I’m off to the rehab center to visit him this morning and to make sure he is settled in. The days have been very long this week, but at rehab, he will be busy most of the day, which means I will get a little break.
It’s a good thing I’m unemployed right now…