Thursday, August 20, 2009

"We will stay in this house until we die ..."

"Don't get around much anymore."

We are having a huge debate in our family, about what is the best thing to do for Dad. This is happening all over America now and has in the past and will in the future. With his ability to walk failing, with his ability to read our notes slipping away (it is the only way we can communicate with him because he is deaf), with his interest in food beginning to fade, and with eight or ten medicines a day to deliver to him at the proper times--should he be in skilled nursing care?

His doctor gave my mother a firm lecture last week that he does. "Mrs. Chapman," he said, "I know your heart says no. But you must make this decision with your head. Your husband may fall, and if he falls now--its over. Please, please think this over carefully. Mr. Chapman needs to be in nursing care."

I'm with the doctor on this. Or am most of the time. I know Dad isn't safe at home, regardless of the 24-hour care, for which we pay a fortune. The job is too complex and the house has no ramp, no hospital bed, no lift chair, no comfortable couch from which it is easy for him to rise. Ive asked Mom if she would make these changes and remove the dangerous rug in the kitchen and she told me, after our visit to the doctor last week: "No! I'm still in charge of this house. That is a stupid doctor. Your father and I will stay in this house until we die."

Your first instinct is to say; "Okay, let's get to it. Shall I strangle you now and bury you in the backyard?" But you take a deep breath and realize that in her place you might want to do the same thing. Who wants to leave home? Have a spouse leave home and be left alone?

But what is best for him? He is confused these days, but he knows he's at home and he knows my mother is there with him. Sometimes, it is true, he thinks she is running a boarding house there, but it doesn't seem to bother him. He thinks she's amazing to be able to manage it all. Once, he asked me to show him the annual report of the boarding house so he could see how it was working out.

In nursing care his medicine would be dispensed more carefully and on a more regular basis. He would have nurses on hand and appropriate equipment to ensure he did not fall. He would have a visit from a doctor on a regular basis that would not require the now-painful work of getting Dad to the car, into the car, out of the car, into a wheel chair and up to the doctor's waiting room, each move creating a risk we might injure him.

Mom is adamant right now so it doesn't matter what I think. But my sister and I have decided that we will have to step in and incur the wrath of one and the sorrow of the other if we feel either of them is in imminent danger.

Ashley and Faye at McDonalds just a few months ago. We don't take him there anymore because it is just too hard for him to get around. I bring his favorite hotcake order home to him, in the famous Mcdonalds take-out bag.

This is a very difficult line to walk. You want the best for a loved one and there is a solution out there that you should take/make use of. But having him miserable for the last weeks or months or years of his life: is that a good solution? Or would he adjust, and live a decent life there and gain some weight because he would have more food available to him than he does at home. Mom has an eating disorder and still at the age of 88 and the weight of 98 pounds, counts their calories. Dad's weight has dropped 9 pounds in the last few months.

Meanwhile I'm the one that needs Valium and a rest home. I wonder if I'll live to care for them, or get an ulcer, have a heart attack, lose what is left of my mind, and die of the stress.

What to do, what to do? My sister and I wait and hope the answer will come to us, like an epiphany, and like an epiphany we hope for a little Divine help while we're at it.

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