Category Archives: Seniors Caring for Seniors

TENDER TUESDAYS

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THE BINGO QUEEN

                        –“BORN TO BINGO”

We have a 92 year old BINGO QUEEN in the family. She has a Sunday/ Monday routine that includes prep for BINGO Mondays. Sunday evenings, she makes her lunch, has her bath, and her BINGO day outfit is laid out in preparation. Her daughter calls this their “Girls Day” outing together. This is great, except the odd hiccup may occur with this scheduled date. Her brother is never going to set foot in the BINGO HALL (that’s understood…), so guess who is the next best thing… that’s right- her daughter-in-law- ME!

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DO IT RIGHT!  SERIOUS BUSINESS…this BINGO!!

I never realized what a serious business playing BINGO is, until my sister-in-law handed me a written plan, well in advance, detailing how to assist her mom throughout the “Girls Day”. She actually included a sample of the individual cards that must be glued in a certain way so that the card identity number still shows… SERIOUSLY! I wasn’t sure, as an educated woman with a Masters Degree, whether to be insulted or amused… (It turns out, her little cheat sheet was invaluable! Who knew?)

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TENDER TUESDAYS

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SENIORS CARING for SENIORS (Part 4)

COMING HOME

Thanks for returning to Tender Tuesdays! This week’s installment captures our dad’s “great escape” from the 5th Floor of our local hospital. This is Part 4 of senior kids managing the care and affairs of their parents living long and healthy lives, with many surpassing the not so unusual 100th Birthday milestone! In fact a friend of mine, only yesterday, excitedly relayed her plans to celebrate her own mother’s upcoming 100th birthday party. See what I mean?

Our father’s stay on the 5th Floor was short-lived. As soon as we met with the hospital’s Social Worker and understood our options, we unanimously agreed that he’d be moved as quickly as possible. Fortunately, my husband’s parents had saved for this stage of their lives, in the event that extended care would be required. Private Complex Care back at the same complex as their independent-living apartment, was the only decision to be made. Unfortunately, other senior kids in our position, may not be able to make the same choice for their parents. If we hadn’t, he would have had to stay in the hospital until a subsidized extended care facility (somewhere in the city or surrounding towns) had a free bed. What a relief it was NOT to have to be put on that waitlist.

Everyone was prepped and a private ambulance was booked for the move, upon his discharge. It was amazing the difference in support we experienced on 5th Floor, once they knew our dad was leaving. The staff suddenly wanted to get involved and help with making arrangements. Let’s just say, Dad (and family) didn’t shed a tearful farewell with the staff! (I think my husband’s sister actually did a HAPPY DANCE all the way through the halls with Dad in his gurney.)

What a difference between hospital care and private complex care! His room had been refreshed and repainted, with everything organized and ready for him. There was a welcoming committee at the door and he literally felt like he was home. In fact, once he was snuggled into his bed, his first conversation with his wife had to do with problem-solving how they could fit her bed into his room. Hmmm…. maybe he didn’t quite get it that he’d be living solo in his new digs, and his wife would be making daily visits…

The first morning in Private Care, my husband and I arrived early to see how his night went. A content man met us! He was thrilled to be in a quiet room where no one was receiving calls in the middle of the night on their cell phones. They had just cleaned him up and he felt pretty good. (They had even parted and combed over his hair, the way he liked it… just a little Donald Trump thing happening with his hair!) My husband asked his Dad if he wanted to change his sitting position. He made an indignant face and asked, “Why would I want you to call a politician?” Obviously, the restful night in Complex Care hadn’t solved his hearing problems!

The Care Facility ensured we had adequate visitor chairs and hot coffee, muffins, and fruit were brought in for us to enjoy during our visit…. We were in a state of shock! Every nurse that came in and out of his room, were friendly, concerned for his comfort, and committed to making a personal connection with him. It was such a relief to leave him in their professional and kind care!

His wife, daughter, and son-in-law were able to come and go with their visits. Wheeling Mom over to the Complex Care building was much simpler than having to get her up to the 5th Floor of the hospital. She was so much happier having him close by and many of their friends were able to drop in for short visits, as well.

Of course, even though his comfort was their upmost priority, our Dad was slipping away on his own time. He loved waking up and finding a note and/or flowers left by his snooker and dinner buddies, friends, and neighbors. This provided us opportunities to discuss how important he was to so many people and how deeply they cared about him.

It also opened the door to discuss his wife of 69 years… I know, right? … He had taken his vows seriously. His wife had developed mobility issues and chronic nerve pain due to a broken hip and diabetes. He was committed to care for and keep her safe. His devotion to his wife made him her caregiver for several years. We realized that he was struggling with leaving her behind, and when we were able to convince him that she was coping on her own and that we would take good care of his Ilse, that’s when he finally felt at peace to let himself go. (We didn’t let him know of the calls his wife made to his daughter, disoriented at bedtime because her blood sugar was too low. He didn’t need to know that his excellent care-giving, senior daughter rushed right over to feed her mom an egg and cheese, waiting up with her for an hour to retest her blood sugar, before tucking her into bed.) No, he needed reassurance that it was okay to leave her in our capable hands…. well, at least in his daughter’s capable hands!!

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69 Years of Marriage!

The morning Dad passed away, my husband was away on a business trip and I was scheduled to take my mother-in-law over to see her husband. Wouldn’t you believe it? A LOW OIL icon on the dash of my new Mini showed up, and a long distance call to my husband proved that what I read in the manual was true. I had to get my neighbor to drive 25 minutes into the BMW dealership to get me the proper oil. Of course, in the interim, Complex Care called and said that we should come quickly, as our dad was fading. My mother-in-law was waiting for me to push her over to his bedside, I couldn’t get hold of my brother-in-law, my sister-in-law was at her hairdressers (but not the one I thought she went to…) without her cell phone. My husband (from afar) suggested I get hold of the lovely woman working at the entrance desk of Independent Living and ask her to rush up immediately and wheel his mom over to Complex Care.

I arrived ten minutes after my father-in-law passed away. His wife made it to his bedside for his final breaths, and his daughter and son-in-law were there just seconds later. This lovely man left us without any pain and took his leave with the confidence and belief that it was finally time to let go. The staff members were respectful of our sadness and gave us the support and privacy that we needed. One of the nurses (her husband is the chef for the Independent Living dinners) made a point of talking with us about how she knew all about our dad before he moved in because her husband always spoke so highly of him. The personnel from their apartment were equally lovely. They went out of their way to look out for our mom and support her through her grief.

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We miss him. It has taken us quite some time to come to terms with the finality of our loss. I know you can relate to these tender moments our family experienced with our dad, in our role as his senior kids and care-givers. He lived 93 years, without a complaint, and was a fine man worthy of the love and friendships that he enjoyed throughout his life. His life with his family was important to us (even the in-law kids, but of course, I was his favourite daughter-in-law… I know, I know- I was his only daughter-in-law)!

 

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Dad’s FAVORITE Son-in-Law

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Dad’s Favorite Daughter-in-Law (REALLY!)

Please share your tender moments with us. (Just click on Comments below. and leave us your story.) As fatigued and sad as we were with his passing, we all agreed that his Memorial Service ended up being a true celebration of his life with friends, family, neighbours, and German Club members. What a memorable gentleman he was!

 

 

 

 

 

TENDER TUESDAYS

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SENIORS CARING for SENIORS (Part 3)

What Happens on 5th Floor, Doesn’t Stay on 5th Floor

Welcome back to Tender Tuesdays! This week’s installment moves forward with our father’s brief stay on 5th Floor of our local hospital. As you’ll recall, we’re the senior kids caring for parents living long and healthy lives- many surpassing the more normal 100th Birthday milestone. This is the new norm!

Picking up from last week’s post, our dad was being moved out of Palliative Care and sent up to 5th Floor. We went up with him, the orderlies pushing his cot through the crowded hallways into a room with two beds. When we arrived, the nurse who accepted our father, was curt, ill-prepared, and had no intention of getting to know the man being moved to her ward. She settled him into his new bed and disappeared. We were left to fend for ourselves. Really!

Of course, the first issue we faced was how he was supposed to communicate his needs, when they had put a CALL NURSE push button under the sheet and expected him to be able to use it. His hands and arms resembled Popeye the Sailor Man’s, so that wasn’t going to work. And, after several requests to have the call button replaced with a remote; one was never found.

The second new reality that hit us was his emergency need to use a bedpan. The nurses in Palliative had come regularly and helped him privately, reserving his dignity. NOPE, not so on 5th Floor. My husband dispatched ME (of course he did…) to find a nurse and get some help pronto…. GOOD LUCK! There were all kinds of workers on the floor, but it was impossible to tell who was a cleaner, an aide, a nurse, or a doctor. All of them wore pyjama-like attire and they all had their eyes glued to computer screens (mobile computer stations along the hallways and at the nursing station). I was frantic, knowing how upset our dad would be, if I didn’t get a bedpan to him soon. No one wanted to look up and acknowledge my presence. When I finally did get noticed, I was told that they didn’t have the time to be running in and out with bedpans and that he would be wearing DEPENDS from now on. Okay, not exactly what we were hoping for, but not our battle to fight… At least I didn’t think so, until, that is, my sister-in-law came to visit that evening, and found her dad lying exposed to anyone passing the doorway. No one had thought of drawing the curtain while he was using the bedpan or covering him with a sheet. Shocking, isn’t it? (Let’s just say, they found out immediately, from that moment on, what our expectations were for our dignified father’s care!) Oh how we missed Palliative Care with their wonderful bedside manner!

No one wrote any instructions for his care on the communication board that first day. He was still not eating and drinking much, but he was more awake and certainly required attention. Let’s see…no water, no straws, and no Kleenex box (required to catch the mucus during coughing fits -whether it gave his guests the heaves or not)! No sponge swabs for his lips and mouth, and no lotion offered for his chapped legs and arms! We were on our own to scrounge the basic requirements for his comfort.

When the dinner tray was delivered, of course he’d finally drifted off, after his traumatic move. No one even inquired whether he was capable of feeding himself (which he absolutely was not). It was quite an introduction to hospital care for the elderly!

They weren’t interested in getting to know our dad as a person. It worked for them to have the family taking shifts to be with him, assisting during meal times, toileting, and caring for our dad. (They took out his false teeth one night and never bothered with them again.) And don’t even ask if his “bed hair” was combed by anyone besides his daughter!

He had rallied his way out of Palliative Care, and he was awake and cognizant of his surroundings. He was able to carry on lengthy conversations, and this non-complainer started to complain! He had no trouble voicing his annoyance with his roommate’s cell phone calls in the middle of the night! His appetite and thirst improved so much, that he actually requested a beer. A real GERMAN- right to the end! I know, right? His daughter snuck a beer onto the ward that night and he downed almost the entire can! He really was parched!

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AN OPA TOAST!

What the nurses did have time for was setting up appointments for the family with the Social Worker. When you come to the 5th Floor, they want to make sure that you realize that this will be his level of care until he passes, if you don’t secure a bed in a Complicated Care Facility (new name for Extended Care…). If you started the paperwork for a subsidized bed, the wait list is long and he’d have to stay on 5th Floor until there was an opening. The other option was to discharge him and move him into a private care facility. Let’s just say, we didn’t need much time to act. There was no way the family could have him stay in that environment for any length of time. We secured a room for him in the same complex that they had their independent living apartment. Dad was going home!

As we approached the Nurses’ Station to inform them that Dad would be moving to private care, my husband noticed a prominent sign posted above. It stated something like this:

FOUL LANGUAGE AND AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR TOWARD HEALTH CARE WORKERS WILL NOT BE TOLERATED IN THIS FACILITY.

We both looked at one another and I knew my husband (somewhat like his sister…) would have something to say about this sign. He commented, “I’ve never seen a sign like that posted in a public building before.” The nurse replied, “You’d be surprised at what we deal with in hospitals. Health care workers take more abuse by the public than any other professional body.” Our eyes met, as we replied, “REALLY!” in tandem. (Translation: “We have no doubt.”)

The questions we asked ourselves from this portion of our journey with Dad, included:

  • Are all 5th Floors of hospitals like this? (Meaning, 5th Floor designated the ward where people are terminally ill and never return home.)
  • What are they doing on the computers that consumes most of their on duty time? Is it time sheets? Are they making patient notes? Are they checking Dr.’s orders for their patients? Is it simply a devise to prove that they were on duty? Are they tracking inventory? … I don’t think so! Seriously, what is more important than paying attention to the patients in their care?
  • Should it be necessary for a sign to be posted, re: public abuse? What does it say about our community? Have health care workers addressed the reasons for why they felt they needed such a sign, in the first place?
  • Why is the public so emotionally distraught on 5th Floor, that such a sign IS required?

Our gentle, kind, polite Dad didn’t feel cared for on the 5th Floor and his dignity was compromised. He may have been seriously ill, but he wasn’t on medications and he had a sharp mind. He knew that they weren’t caring for him properly and he just wanted to go home.

We’re still confused by the contrast between Palliative Care and 5th Floor care in the same hospital facility. At least our Dad enjoyed his beer during his stay, and we had more time with him, before he fell asleep forever.

I know that many of my readers have had “hospital experiences” – some good, some bad, and some probably downright ugly! Please share your stories with us in the COMMENTS section below.

 

TENDER TUESDAYS

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Seniors Caring for Seniors (Part 2) – Navigating Paliative Care

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93rd Birthday Party

Thank you for following Tender Tuesdays, as one reflects upon the next stage of our father’s journey through the medical system and the effects upon his wife and his senior citizen care-giving kids. Thankfully, there were many tender moments along the way…

The kids had their hands full leading up to the decision to place Dad in Palliative Care. As the days progressed, Dad required more and more nursing care. He was sleeping the majority of his days away, and required assistance to get to the washroom throughout the day. The Government’s Home Care Program was arranged to arrive during the day to help with this, but at the best, on the odd day they’d actually show up, it would be the wrong time. (In other words, just after the private nurses had provided a bathroom visit and got him settled.) Of course, we quickly realized that Home Care wasn’t reliable and that we were on our own. This meant that every 3 hours, one of Dad’s kids had to be available to ensure his comfort.

All the comings and goings of different people, the worry, and upheaval took its toll on our Mom. Arriving in the early evening to spend time with the two of them, became almost hysterically funny (probably due to fatigue…) Dad, at this point was snoozing his days away, and his wife was staying put in the apartment to be there with him at all times. We’d arrive, planning to keep Dad awake for a couple of hours before bedtime, and Mom would have verbal diarrhea. As my husband would ask his Dad questions and start conversations, his mom would jump in and answer over top of Dad or take off on a tangent of her own. It was humorous to watch the dynamics. Dad would just close his eyes and wait for her to finish, Mom would continue on- not getting it, and my frustrated husband would discipline his Mom for answering for her husband. Comical? Oh yes!

As the days passed, Dad became completely immobile and Mom was showing signs of being worn out. Our extraordinary Dr. made house calls and informed us that when we felt ready for him to leave the apartment, it would be a one-way trip to the hospital. When the morning came, and the ambulance was called, it happened so quickly that my husband just arrived at the apartment as they were loading his dad onto the stretcher to transport him to the Palliative Care Unit.

The kids were scheduled first thing to meet with the head nurse of the Palliative Care Unit, and she informed us, in haste, that their initial view of Dad’s health was that he wasn’t exhibiting “end of life traits” and that the longest average stay in Palliative Care was 7.5 days. My husband responded aggressively, (Of course he did! And that’s why I ended up doing all the meetings with the social workers and nurses….) stating that we assumed our Dr. would be making that particular call. She replied that the TEAM made those decisions (which included our Dr.), as the rooms were reserved for those patients about to pass within a matter of hours.

They only had to keep Dad overnight to understand the stage he was in. We had made the right call and as our Dr. put it so nicely, “He showed the signs of being “restless during the night.” (We didn’t even want to know what that meant!). They assured us the next morning that he, indeed, was in the right place requiring conscientious nursing care… and that is what he received!

We all felt it was the right decision, but Dad’s move opened up a whole new set of concerns. Of course, Mom intended to be at her husband’s bedside as much as possible. Thus more scheduling had to be coordinated to get her to and from for lengthy time periods. However, it made it all worthwhile when we’d wheel her to his beside, and Dad would open his eyes and sigh with a contented smile, knowing his precious wife had arrived.

Mom’s a diabetic on insulin, and emotional upheaval can trigger reactions, as well, like low blood sugar. We were all nervous the first night she would sleep alone in the apartment. Mom had never stayed by herself before and she was fearful of this. Her caring daughter slept over with her the first couple of nights. The third night, just before snuggling into her own bed, she received a frantic call from her traumatized mother. Mom blurted out that there was a male spook in the apartment! What the heck? Her mom was instructed to get out of bed and inspect the apartment, pushing her walker while staying on the phone line. As she made her way out of the bedroom, she heard someone knocking on her locked door, asking if she was having a problem. Why had she heard a male voice, repeating, “Hello? Hello?” I’ll tell you why… We had insisted that she wear her medic-alert necklace around the apartment, in case of a fall. She took it to heart and mistakenly wore it to bed. Of course she rolled over on it in her sleep, and set it off! The SPOOK MYSTERY was solved.

Another evening, after spending the entire day in Palliative Care, Mom had a mission. Weeks before, Dad had apparently voiced a request to have one of his mother’s butter cakes. Of course, without him to help her make the cake, she hadn’t been able to get it done. Now that he was in Care, she was determined that we’d go back to her apartment and assist her. (Dad had not had more than a couple of bites or swallows a day for the last few weeks, but she was determined they’d be having cake and coffee in his room the next day!) Of course, by then it was early evening and the reluctant senior kids, went home with her and helped prepare the batter. By the time the kids made it home that night; they flopped into bed exhausted! You’re wondering if Dad enjoyed his butter cake, aren’t you? He did swallow a couple of morsels and washed it down with a little coffee. It didn’t matter. His wife had something she needed to do and her family enjoyed the cake with him.

For the next few days, Dad slept most of the time, conserving his energy, and we hung out with him in his room (watching him snooze). He had some unfinished business and he wasn’t going anywhere until he had everything in order (organized to the last moment). He had us call the Pastor, once again, to drop by the hospital, as he had some final requests to make. Mostly sleeping during our visits, but the minute the Pastor walked in, Dad’s eyes opened and he carried out his meeting regarding particular details for his service. The little control freak even made demands about what the Pastor was to wear. He wanted a black suit with a black tie… (This organization and control appears to have shown up as a family trait with his own senior kids… I’m just saying …)

Opa, as well, waited to have his final visits with his grandsons. When they arrived for the weekend, he was awake and ready to chat, intermittently. What we didn’t expect to happen, was that two days later after they’d ferried and flew home, he appeared to rally. And just as the head nurse said, on the 6th day, they moved him to a room with another patient, as they required his room for another family. On the 7th day, we were stunned to find out that we would be moving him up to the 5th floor of the hospital.

Now, that brief stay, my friends, will be the next post of Tender Tuesdays. Let me just say, you’ll understand why his stay was brief on this part of his journey!

I’m sure many readers have experienced similar situations, as a loved one is admitted to Palliative Care. The nursing staff was incredibly supportive and caring, and we are grateful. Please leave a comment below and share some of your stories with us. I’m sure you’ve had some TENDER MOMENTS of your own.

TENDER TUESDAYS

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I have decided to share tender stories on Tuesdays with my readers.  This doesn’t mean they won’t have humor and a bit of cheek, but most of all, hopefully they’ll  touch you personally.

TENDER TUESDAYS will be a series of posts that will start with sharing post installments of Seniors Caring for Seniors. Enough time has elapsed since the passing of my father-in-law, that one feels compelled to write about the humorous, tender moments experienced with this 93 year old that is so dearly missed.

With people living longer these days, there’s a new phenomenon occurring within society where life expectancy for healthy people to exceed expectations has become the norm. Celebrating one’s 100th birthday is now an everyday occurrence on the nightly news. I know, right? There’s a growing probability that if one makes it to 90, it’s assumed one will reach that incredible milestone of 100! What may not be obvious to everyone is that the caregivers of this aging population are the senior citizen children and spouses. Yes, the caregiving “KIDS” are actually in their 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s themselves! In fact, the caregivers are often less healthy and agile than their aged parents!

My father and mother-in-law had moved into an Independent Living apartment in their late 80’s. They had their supportive daughter and son-in-law, ever present in their lives throughout the years. Their relationship was very close and not just one of family ties, but deep friendship.

When my fully employed husband (in his late 60’s) and I (don’t even think of asking my age…) arrived home from an extended cruise holiday, my father-in-law pulled his son aside, for the first time in his life, at age 93, and said, “I’m going to have to lean on you over the next while, son. “We knew he had lung cancer with tumors being monitored for growth. He NEVER complained and was ALWAYS devoted to lovingly care for his wife of 68 years.

His condition deteriorated rapidly and within days, his limbs became swollen as the cancer had spread to his prostrate. He continued to drive himself to Dr. appointments, pick up baking ingredients for his wife’s delectable kuchens, and run errands to the German Bakery for their favorite breads. That is until his “kids” strongly suggested that since he had to pick his heavy legs up one at a time to get into his vehicle, it might be safer to have them do the errands and accompany them to their Dr. appointments and haircuts. To everyone’s surprise, he readily complied. That was our first sign that perhaps he was relieved to be liberated of his duties. (Thankfully, no harm had come to anyone while he was still on the road! ) We did hear, later, that he and a pal from their Independent Living Complex drove out to the countryside, a couple of weeks before he relinquished his car keys, to buy fresh honey. Unfortunately, they missed their exit and ended up in a town several kilometers past the honey farm, wondering how that happened?! By then, the pair were so discombobulated, they sheepishly returned home “honey-less”.

Giving up his car keys was the turning point. His medical condition became a reality for all of us. We had to adjust our lives to ensure that Mom and Dad both could cope with this new phase of suddenly becoming dependent. Not exactly the smoothest or easiest transition for all six of us, as we learned to navigate the health system. (Oh, and did I mention that we live about 25 minutes out of the city?) Dad had always been the one who drove, fetched, tidied, helped with the baking, and even made the coffee for their visitors. Mom has chronic shingles pain and is a conscientious diabetic on insulin. After a broken hip, her mobility and balance became limited, and Dad had the responsibility of keeping her safe from falling and ensuring she remembered to take her pills. Suddenly, all of that had changed overnight. In a blink of an eye, Dad became the one who was immobile and couldn’t get in and out of bed himself or walk to the bathroom without assistance. He required a strong presence to provide stability while navigating a walker and standing.

The kids scrambled to bring in care workers into their parents’ one bedroom, overly furnished apartment. (Yep, downsizing from their home meant that the oversized Grandfather Clock, all the living room furniture plus two recliners, and bedroom suite moved with them!) Visualize scheduling private nurses over the Christmas holidays, to provide the level of care that both parents now required. We all felt strongly that Dad should remain in their home as long as it was possible. This meant greeting a different nurse almost every shift (mornings and evenings). One of us had to be there to orient them to the care required and the duties to be performed. Imagine 3 walkers in a small apartment, with 3 other adults in it, and you can picture the chaos of the scene! Mom liked some of them, but she had no control over scheduling her favored pick. In fact, one morning a very young man (a new hire in his late teens) arrived at the apartment when my husband’s sister was there to supervise. They didn’t even let him in the door and sent him packing. Mom wasn’t going to have him accompany her for her shower!! The elders, the kids, the private nurses, the cleaners, … the CHAOS!!

Are you getting the picture? Elder care has both tender moments, as well as feelings of  being overwhelmed and out of one’s comfort level.  After all, not many of us are trained in health care and nursing doesn’t come naturally to all of us. (Some of us are predisposed with convenient inabilities to pick up dog poop or change baby diapers, let alone help another adult with toileting. Or some of us have heaving stomachs when the patient starts to cough up guck… And then of course, the caregiving senior kids have back and strength issues of their own…) In spite of the challenges, there are these pearls of tender moments that occur during this period that in retrospect, you would never want to have missed. These fond memories return, afterwards, to help you overcome the unsettling fatigue and helpless feelings you may have experienced.

During the home stay period, the kids would share the duties of putting Dad (and Mom) to bed and helping to get  him out of bed in the morning. One night, (perhaps it was the fatigue), we had both parents in their bed clothes, teeth brushed, false teeth soaking, and just as the grandfather clock struck 9:00, Mom came around the corner pushing her walker and Dad came around the other corner with his walker and my husband and I collapsed in hysteria. It was like watching a live cuckoo clock and I swear that vision will be imprinted in our memories forever!  Mom got the humor of the situation right away and joined in the laughter, Dad… not so much!

Another morning when we arrived early, to help get Dad out of bed, we were met my Mom (who always slept in later in the morning) at the door.  She told us that she had breakfast ready (which used to be her husband’s job), and that he was just sitting on the bedside looking out the window and wouldn’t come out of the bedroom.  I left my husband with his Mom and went in to sit beside my father-in -law on the bed.  We had a lovely little chat together, quietly looking outside, and I teased him about sitting so long by the window.  Eventually, he became lighter and ready to start his day.  That tender moment between the two of us will always stay with me.

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Just not ready to start the day… yet…

 

And then there were the “falling out of bed” incidents. Dad became more and more unable to manoeuvre  getting in and out of his chair and bed in the apartment.  When we arrived in the evenings, my husband would help him get ready for bed and then he would get him comfortable on his side of the bed, tucking the sheets, covers, and pillows exactly the way he liked them.  Then each of us would go in and give him a kiss goodnight and let him know he was loved.  We’d leave the door slightly open and we’d hear him praying away. (He believed strongly that he was going to heaven, when he was ready to go.) One such night, we left, and sometime later, we had a frantic call from Mom.  She said she went into the bedroom and found her husband on the floor.  The first question out of her mouth was, “What are you doing down there?  Are  you praying again?”  Of course, he wasn’t still praying! Somehow, he had fallen out of bed!  Emergency was called, and ambulance drivers arrived to pick him up and get him settled, once more, in his bed.  It was during the holidays and Mom was so excited to let us know that they didn’t charge them for the service. They simply wished them a Merry Christmas, instead.  Well, weren’t we lucky that he didn’t damage himself?  Unfortunately, this happened on the New Year’s Eve holiday weekend and the store that sells bed rails (which we had never considered installing) was not open. You guessed it, the ambulance drivers had a nightly call until we were able to buy the rails.  (I think by the 3rd call, they had to start charging… Holiday Season or not!)

My husband’s sister, during this home care period was incredible.  She handled the  not so pleasant chores and lovingly cared for her parents so that they could continue to be together until it became impossible. Her bedside manner with her dad was so reassuring and loving while she anticipated what his needs were and how best to meet them. No one could have managed his care better than his daughter. She awed me by her supportive tone and consideration  when dealing with his care. (Let’s just say, she wasn’t the family member/s who had the queasy stomach syndrome… ) She was a rock for her Mom, ensuring she was there 24/7 to help them cope with all the discomfort, anxiety, and fear that this close couple of 68 years together were going through. We really pulled together as a family unit and everyone took on the roles that we were most capable of handling.

Our family Dr.(meaning OUR as in Dr. to all 6 of us – I’m serious) was there for us and he made a point of making house calls to the apartment to check up on Mom and Dad and question how everyone was coping with the home care.  I’m certain this doesn’t happen to most families and that his great sense of humor and caring made the entire situation workable for all of us.  We knew we could count on him to help us make the right (and difficult) choices for Dad’s care.

Next Tuesday, I’ll share  the second phase of Dad’s journey, as he was moved to the Palliative Care Unit at the local hospital. I know that many of you out there have already experienced this or are navigating your way through it. Hopefully, these tender moments will help you in some way to see the lovely memories that will endure through all the uncertainty, frustration, and emotional upheaval that one experiences when letting a much-loved family member go.  If you have some experiences to share, we’d love to hear them. Please do add your comments below.