In August of 2009, we received a call that my 89-year-old father had been transported from the nursing home he lived in to a nearby hospital. The rotating nursing home doctor on duty prescribed a medicine that conflicted with some of the other medications he was already taking. He was rushed to the hospital in a drug induced coma, non-responsive and dehydrated.
The hospital doctor was worried my father wouldn’t regain consciousness for at least ten days – that’s how bad off he was. But Grandpa came around the next day (we all say he has nine lives, and it’s true, he does). It was then my younger brother and I began to explore options with the geriatric social worker for moving him to a facility nearer to our homes.
For the last four years, Grandpa had been living in a nursing home an hour away from my house. He was driven there by my sister at his request. After he complained to a hospital social worker that she wasn’t feeding him, she became fearful the nursing staff would report her for elder abuse. But, it wasn’t true. Grandpa had a habit of complaining to anyone who would lend a sympathetic ear. No matter that he was getting one on one care, he loved to focus on the negatives and complain to anyone who would listen about the few things that were frustrating him. Sometimes he embellished the story for affect. Just where he thought he was going to be treated any better, I don’t know, but it was this incident that landed him in the nursing home in the first place.
I never wanted him to have to go there. In fact, I did all I could do to keep him out of the nursing home, but the house we rented on a farm was too small, even for my family. I couldn’t fault my sister either. She tried so hard to please Dad, but his complaining and criticism were hurtful, and he had begun to pick on her children, too. It was not a good situation.
As he will admit, Grandpa hadn’t served “his prison sentence in the nursing home yet.” No, he hadn’t been through the valley of testing. He had no point of reference to remind him of how blessed he was to be taken care of by family. Well, he does now, and he truly is a changed man.
I have to admit, I didn’t think about the long term ramifications of bringing Grandpa home permanently. The opportunity suddenly presented itself last fall when my brother’s renters came to him and asked him to lower the rent. He said, “You know what, guys? I need the house back, I’m bringing my dad home.” My brother started the process, and my family picked up the pieces.
Because of the age of my children, everything just fell into place. It was the miracle my Dad had been praying for. All he wanted was a room where he could have some privacy, be cared for, and write. The Lord not only gave him a room, he gave him his old house back, too.
As my family quickly learned, it was one thing to bring Grandpa home, and quite another to care for him on a daily basis. Grandpa’s care fell to my family because we’re home and operate a home business. We were working hard and had a lot of great plans for this year, when suddenly we got a call that Grandpa was in the hospital.
As in years past, my heart went out to him, and I wanted, no needed to find a way to make sure he would be taken care of. I couldn’t bare the thought of anyone neglecting him, anymore. And while he is taken care of and at peace, our family is being stretched like it never has been before.
Ah, the dichotomy of being a full-time caregiver who doesn’t live in the same house.* Many, I know, have walked this path before me. That alone brings me great comfort.
*We have since moved with Grandpa and take care of him full time.
Being a hands on family caregiver is one of the hardest jobs in the world. My father moved to Denver from Florida where he had lived for many years just over two years ago. We hoped to make a difference in his life and I think we did–just not in the way we had imagined.
My dad died last month at the age of 91. We are so grateful that he lived nearby in a lovely assisted living facility where he could get the professional care he needed and still feel that he was living his life independently. He entertained us in his apartment and was entertained by us at our home. We were there at the end.
We blog about our experience as caregivers at Inside Aging Parent Care.