By nature, I’m an inquisitive soul. I’ve always had questions like:
Am I a good mother?
Have I lived a noble life?
How many times a week should I poop?
I also have questions regarding the intent of man.
My father is in hospice right now. He is on his fifth bout of pneumonia in 51 weeks. We made the decision to take him off of the antibiotics and let him leave with as much comfort and dignity as possible. Presently he ate a whopping breakfast and promptly fell asleep. His temperature is 101 and climbing and he is under 165 pounds. Yesterday he barely ate. He has seen his father who has been dead since 1947 and keeps reaching for something or someone.
I was confronted in the hallway at 7:30 last night by a woman who clearly had an agenda. My guess is that whether it was the nursing home or the mailman or the cable repair guy or your mother or my father; she’s just that person. She called into question the level of care received by not only my father but the rest of the patients here as well. Two other patients have passed this week. Next could be my father.
“Isn’t that weeeeiiiird???”, she kept asking as I glared at her.
No. And let me explain why.
This is a dementia unit.
This disease is attacking endlessly and if it won’t get them one way, it will find another.
Here’s what I do know.
These nurses and CNA’s and doctors and attendants and all of the other staff have dried my tears. They have helped me walk out when I could barely stand. They have fed my father. They have cleaned him when he’s soiled himself. They have changed him multiple times a day. They have loved him when he has been entirely unlovable. They’ve washed and tended bedsores and brought in foam mattresses for his comfort
They do what you and I cannot. Most of us find it eternally difficult if not downright impossible to reverse the roles of parent and child. It’s just not how we were built. Letting go of the control of caring for our loved ones is one of the hardest things we can do. My mother and I fought over this. I mean – knuckles on the table and teeth bared- fought. She insisted that she was taking him out of the nursing home to bring him back home and I fought her tooth and nail and I wasn’t fair about it either. I am not ashamed to admit that. This was last year when he was first placed in a nursing home and she had been his caregiver for four years. It’s not easy to switch gears.
This woman who confronted me essentially questioned how often I’m here. She questioned the care given at this facility and in particular – to my father. I stared at her as she hypothesized the myriad of allegations as if she were something I should I scrape off my shoe. My father is dying and this is the moment chosen to cast doubt on the only lifeline I’ve got right now? I’m angry and question if she was raised by a pack of hyenas. But I have to be fair – this dementia life is a struggle and we don’t always process in the most appropriate ways. So instead of casting more anger and more hate and more misunderstandings and more fear I’ll take another avenue.
I would like to take a moment to shed some light on the life of the staff of this particular nursing home. These nurses and CNA’s and attendants and cleaning staff and virtually every employee there lose a patient and go home and cry only to come back and do it again. We lose our loved ones once. They do this over and over. Schedules must be maintained. It may not be ideal to the family because we are not managing 20 patients. They are. It will be different from the care given at home. Deal with it. Advocate for your family, of course, but also advocate for those that care for your family as well. Champion the whole notion of it takes a village because these poor souls have indeed reverted to a child like state and it’s up to us to see them through. I was raised that when someone helps you, you say thank you.
I’ve learned that we are all doing what we can as best we can.
Twenty four hours goes by like twenty four minutes and I’m watching his life ebb away. And I’m helpless to stop the march of time. The end of this vigil means his passing from this life to the next. I’ve sat here remembering years of love. This is his legacy – love and laughter and loyalty.
My father passed yesterday. I was with him and watched him breathe his last.
I say this now to the staff of Morris View – you became a part of our family. We no longer had the strength to care for him after a year of exploring the face of hell. In less than a year we went through three nursing homes, a psychiatric facility, two hospitals, a million tears, a dozen fights, five bouts of pneumonia, one lawyer, depleting my parents life savings by more than half and the end of our considerable abilities and then we found you. You saw his dignity and his gentleness and you lifted him up to spare us the suffering. I can never repay you. I watched you love him through to the end, past the end. I walked out of his room to tell you he was gone and you ran to him to make sure he left this life safe and clean. I watched you bathe him, cleaning off the scent of death. You gently spoke to him the whole time letting him know how loved he was.
I’ve been doing a whole lotta therefore the grace of God go I lately.
I will heal somewhat, someday. I wouldn’t change the past week for anything. My father is finally at peace. His year of unspeakable suffering is finally over. I miss him so much it hurts to breathe. I took his shirt home with me to keep him close. I hugged it close to me and breathed in his scent, the scent of pure love and goodness. In that moment I realized that I haven’t been able to hug my father for months. He didn’t know who I was and unwelcome physical contact frightened him , so instead I would blow him a kiss or bring in sweets or hug my dog as a slobbery sorry ass substitute.
The one bit of unsolicited advice I will give anyone reading this….hold nothing back. If you love someone, say it. Show it. Live it.