Saturday, June 6, 2020

And the child becomes the parent

Concho Pearl RV Park January 1 to May 1, 2020

This point in time comes for a lot of folks, I guess. Your parent or parents, go from being a person or persons upon whom you can depend on for being a steadying force in your life to needing to rely on you instead. It’s a sobering thought, at once a feeling of pride for being in a position to provide that support along with guilt for maybe not being able to do even more.

When we cut our trip to Big Bend National Park short to come back to San Angelo, TX because Dad was in the hospital, little did we know that a big change in our lives was happening. As it has turned out so far, December 16, 2019 would be the last day Dad would be living on his own, in his own home.


When Dad first started feeling out of sorts, his friends in Rio Concho Manor tried to take care of him, giving him various pills and telling him he needed to drink more water. He was admitted to the hospital with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) with edema. I won’t go into all the details but over the next few months he would be in and out of rehab/nursing home facilities and the hospital. Each time with different ailments.

This is our second experience with nursing homes, EJ’s Mom being the first. So this time around wasn’t our first rodeo. As such we had a pretty good idea that the level of help we thought Dad needed and the help he would actually receive would be different. We weren’t wrong. Again, I won’t regal you with the deficiencies between what actually do and what we think they should do. Nursing home management always talk a good game while they are trying to sign you up, but the actual performance always falls way short of their promises. We went into this skeptical and we weren’t surprised.

You always want things to happen instantly because that’s how it happens at  home. You have to go to bathroom, you get and go to the bathroom. In a nursing home when you can’t walk under your own power, you have to ring a bell and hope someone shows up before you pee in your pants. You learn quickly to ring the bell the instant you get the urge. You don’t wait until it’s urgent. Some of this was alleviated by either myself or EJ (or both) being with him 6 to 8 hours every day. This way we could smooth over some of the minor inconveniences of Dad no longer being able to care for himself.

But enough of that. Suffice it to say, a nursing home will never do as good a job as you can do yourself, but they are there 24 x 7 and you are only you.

OK, I lied. I am going to get into some details. When Dad first went into San Angelo Nursing and Rehab (SANR) he really tried to get better. He did his exercises and therapy and was able to move around his room under his own power. But somehow his Lasix dosages got doubled and he became severely dehydrated which meant another trip to the hospital. He was released back to SANR after his hospital stay. He then became weaker and weaker and could no longer do his exercises and therapy. He began to experience severe abdominal pain which became so bad he had to go back to the hospital again.

The abdominal pain turned out to be an unstable vertebrate fracture. Any time he attempted to move he would experience debilitating pain. An operation was suggested then discarded as being too risky and his vertebrate being too fragile. When he was released this time it was to go to New Haven Assisted Living where he would be under Hospice care. He is given Fentanyl every three days to manage the pain and he is now bedridden.

As each day goes by he becomes a little weaker and he spends a lot of time living in the past. We are hearing stories we have never heard before and it fun trying to piece together events to put the story into some perspective. 

One thing we have learned to not do is to correct him as this frustrates him and interrupts the flow of story telling or general conversation. A wrong day or location or person makes no difference in the overall scheme of things. Just letting him talk and tell stories is what is important.

And now with Covid-19 interrupting everyone’s lives it has also limited our ability to visit Dad. An assisted living facility is considered a nursing home which means no visitors are allowed in. We have not been allowed in Dad’s room since March 16, 2020. We can still talk to him by phone and occasionally they will open his window and let us visit with him that way. But lately they have even tried cracking down on that.

And so we begin the painful process of going through Dad’s things and starting to let go. The Manor, the apartment building where he has been living the last 13 years, has an annual “yard” sale that we took advantage of.

The big sale

I have finally accepted that he will never be coming back to his apartment and it’s time to prepare for letting it go. He has collected a lot of stuff over the years. Slowly we’re selling it, trashing it or donating it. We have a ways to go yet. It’s not easy.

Obligatory cat picture follows.