Thursday, May 24, 2012

In a Holding Pattern

After a few days of walks in the nice sunshine and my father in a relatively good mood, yesterday, a cooler, cloudy and rainy day was not so good.  Dad wasn't happy that I had to take him downstairs for a haircut or with the fact that my husband and I could not stay for the beginning of the five o'clock ballgame because we had to babysit for our grandchildren.  The caregiver's report from the prior day indicated that Dad went for a walk and sat outside in the pavillion for a while, but judging from the fact that Dad did not answer my phone calls, I knew he wasn't happy with me despite what I considered to be a good report.

This has been a bad week for me in Dad’s assisted living unit. First, there were no more trousers left in his closet with four days to go before the laundry was done. Part of this problem was that Dad kept needing new trousers. The other part was that at least two pairs were missing. My answer was to wash the trousers in the laundry room though I pay for assisted living to do it and then go on a search for the missing trousers. The search produced no results and means that I must add purchasing new trousers to my never ending to do list.

Then I went to charge Dad’s cell phone. I keep the charger in the kitchen portion of Dad’s tiny apartment. It is officially missing. Noone knows where it is. Guess what I do today? Go to the Verizon store and buy another charger.”

Today I have scheduled a volunteer from the Jewish Family Service to pay Dad a call.  The idea is to introduce him to a person who could fill in as companion.

Dad doesn't like anyone else but my husband me around, but to be honest, when we get a break, we feel so much better.  So whether Dad likes it or not, he's stuck with those we hire to fill in for us.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Not so good

Dad's best friend of 50 years was here last weekend.  With his daughter and son-in-law, they visited together with Dad for the four days that his friend was in Denver.  I know Dad enjoyed this thoroughly and I think now he's experiencing a bit of a setback as life returns to normal.  In the past two days, he's called me up in a very anxious state and insisted that I come immediately to see him.  I am beside myself and yesterday asked the Hospice nurse what she thought about transferring him to a nursing home.  After my husband calmed me down, we decided it's better to keep him where he is since the nursing homes are much further away and we'd wind up having to travel greater distances every time he expressed his anxiety which we know would continue to occur.  I think now that his friend has left, there is nothing in the immediate future for him to look forward to.  The biggest problems we have with him other than this new anxious state is that he no longer eats and his liquid diet doesn't provide enough nourishment.  That makes him weak due to the continuous loss of weight and healthy muscle and tissue.  I have been to Whole Foods numerous times to try and provide the right supplements.  One icky greenish can was fifty bucks which I more than happily purchased and realized afterwards was not a good deal.  Every caregiver has a different theory on how to encourage him to drink the right stuff, i.e. only Diet Coke because the real stuff has too much sugar, put whipped cream on his bottled smoothie, no more strawberry milk shakes because they have too much sugar, put Ensure into a tiny cup so he'll not find it overwhelming to finish.  In between I find diet supplements to put in water with only a modicum of success.  We have been forced to watch his intake because he has edema (swelling) of his right hand.  Since we started watching his diet and have elevated his hand, the swelling has gone down.  We are very fortunate that Dad does not have pain.  Other than constantly trying to figure out how to go on and not being able to move, he seems comfortable.  At this point it is hard to think of ways to keep him occupied.  He is still alert enough to know what's going on, but he'll shut you off if he doesn't like the subject matter.  With my husband, who has the most influence, we watch baseball and golf and occasionally the news.  When it's nice out, we take a late afternoon walk.  A caregiver comes late in the afternoon two days a week, and a volunteer from Jewish Family Service is expected to start visiting next week.  The Hospice team checks in on him weekly.  What else can we do?  Not being one to give up, I am planning to go to the library to find some DVD's that have short biographies about people Dad used to admire.  We'll see.  We tried the Game Show Channel and he nixed that.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Anniversary of Sorts

One year and four days ago, I moved my parents from Chicago to Denver.  Mom didn't even make it a year out here, and Dad isn't going to be around much longer.  Was it the right thing to do?  It's difficult and not a good idea to go backward, but as Dad is losing more weight everyday and less and less able to move (it now takes two people to help him), I can't help but think about the choice.  On the one hand, it was a good move.  Until January of this year, both functioned in their new home.  Dad, though not socially oriented, did like his walks with the caregivers and enjoyed eating in the dining room with Keith and me.  And Mom, who was very social, enjoyed her little dementia unit community.  We all did.  We enjoyed visiting her and the caregivers and other residents' children.  They also had the advantage of seeing their great-grandchildren, something that would not have been possible in Chicago.  The other reason to be positive about the move is that I was able to be here for both of them when they needed more.  If they had remained in Chicago, I would have either had to supervise by long distance or travel there for each crisis or hire a geriatric care manager in addition to their caregiver.  If you consider the cost of the move to Denver versus the less expensive charges incurred once they arrived, the expense was about the same and maybe, if they both had remained alive, quite a bit less costly.  I guess the only downside was more my brother's than mine.  He became the one that had to travel here amidst selling his house and getting ready to retire and move to Albuquerque.  I myself have had no regrets about the extra amount of time I've had to put in to care for them personally as well the task of paying attention to their clothes, their finances, their friends and their other emotional needs.  It has been my honor.   There are many happy memories from these last days of my parents' 90 plus lives:  a great holiday-birthday brunch at our house, traveling the grocery aisles with my dad as he maneuvered his electric cart, going to Fathers' Day brunch and watching the dads and the great-grandfather and grandfather adorn their Mad Men hats, attending Mother's Christmas bell concert when they took away her bell.  I've had a chance to see how resilient they both were until the end began, and I've had a chance to be reminded of how rich their lives were, filled with myriads of friends, marvelous cultural and travel experiences, art, music and family.  As I say to people when they extend their condolences, "It's been a good run."