This is my dad.
And this is my first post. I had big plans for starting a blog, travel blogging (although I am not traveling), blogging to earn income (I have no idea about what), and then I let it sit for awhile.. I did not know what to write about. All the research I have done has said, blog about what you know, blog about something that someone else will be interested in. I was stumped.
I let it sit for awhile longer, and now, well now I have something to write about. It is personal, and I am not totally comfortable sharing this. I may just be writing this for myself, unsure if I will share it.
My father is 97 years old. He has lived at home with my mother up until this past Monday (*October of 2017), when we had to take him into the hospital for a urinary tract infection (UTI). Outside of this UTI, he is healthy. He has smoked a pack a day since he was 12 ( he grew up on a farm in Georgia where they grew their own tobacco). Growing up we would hear stories of how his grandmother used to sit on the porch and smoke a pipe of their home-grown tobacco. He is arthritic. It is getting harder for him to walk around, he uses a cane. When he was 83 years old we worked on a roofing job together. He has always been my strong father. Capable of anything.
My mother is significantly younger than my father, 73 years old, and has survived 2 strokes. She is not functioning at 100% nowadays, she moves at a much slower and less steady pace. My father and my mother are an enigma. If you ever asked me, I would have said they should not have stayed together. My mother meditates, she loves classical music, she sang in the Bach choir, she eats lentils and almond butter. My father is Baptist, he smokes, he drinks mountain dew and eats fried chicken, he does not like music. I do not know how they came together. I do not know how they stayed together. Now they are too old.
The problem is that my father has dementia. There is a broad spectrum of symptoms that term covers. He is confused, agitated, has significant memory loss, he’s combative. My father has been confused for some time now, living in the past. He always had told us stories of his childhood, however in the past few years he has told these stories as if he were living them. More recently he has stopped even telling us these stories. It is work to get him to talk, he has withdrawn.
His days consisted of waking, refusing to bathe, sitting on the porch and smoking. A year ago we had a house fire, he had fallen asleep with a lit cigarette. Luckily I was there and smelled smoke, my parents did not lose their home. every few weeks he will leave a tap on, and we will have to clean up a puddle in the kitchen. The wood flooring is warped and ruined now. He tries to cook on the stove, and will put a plastic bowl on top of a burner. It is dangerous, and it is hard work.
These are all things I realize that many people with aging parents deal with. My mother and I kept thinking of ways to “get by”. There is an aide that comes to the house to help 6 days a week. we are getting by. Or we thought we were. His increased confusion, led us to take him to the Emergency Department. He had a raging UTI, and was admitted for IV antibiotic treatment. His confusion is worse in the hospital. When I stay the night with him, he does not recognize me, he gets up every half hour at night and wants to go on the porch. the other night, they had to give him Haldol. An antipsychotic, to medically restrain him. He was agitated, he did not understand, he wanted to leave, and was swinging at nurses and aides that were trying to stop him.
This is a terrible thing to see your father going through. I am a nurse, this is something that I have done before to someone else’s loved one. I understand that this is for the patients safety. It is a terrible thing.
My mother cannot control him or keep him safe. Now we are having conversations about nursing homes. We went to look at nursing homes yesterday. It is moving so quickly. From a professional viewpoint, the homes we have looked at are good, they offer activities, their patients aren’t bedridden, there is stimulation, it is safe. From a daughters viewpoint it is sad, and scary, and not ok. These visits have me wishing we lived in Norway, where I’ve read the elder care system is terrific and compassionate.
The guilt. I have guilt. I should be taking my father in to live with me, I should take care of him like he took care of us when we were babies. In other countries it is common to have multi-generational households. Where everyone lives together and cares for each other. I am struggling with this guilt, and feeling selfish. I keep coming back to , “But can I keep him safe?” That is the only point I feel certain about, I cannot keep him safe.
So. This is where we are at right now. I have no real purpose for this post. A release maybe, a ‘getting it out and down’. I know that I am not alone, that so many are going through this, or have gone through this.
It is not an easy thing. Placing your loved one in a home.