Tuesday, September 29, 2009

All the Leaves are Brown, And the Sky is Grey ...

Wow, the last ten days have been so challenging I haven't been able to blog. We've had the final hot days of the California summer season, and I, watching things at my parents' home, realized I was approaching meltdown myself.

I took a few days off during this final heat wave and headed up to the Sierras where it was really beautiful: but even then I couldn't write about it. I visited all the little Gold Rush towns: Twain Hart and Angel's Camp, Copperopolis and Murphys, Sonora and Railroad Flat, winding my way through Calaveras County and crossing the Stanislaus Rivers. It was good to get away, but I knew there were big decisions looming about what to do regarding my father.

I could see he was losing his ability to walk, which happens with some kinds of dementia of the Alzheimer's type. He's losing his motor skills. He's having trouble feeding himself.

Even with 24-hour care at home, we can't manage him if he can't walk. We would need two people 24-hours a day, and that's not even practical.

So I came back from the mountains relaxed and feeling better about things, but still aware that I would have to do something: that is, aware that somehow I would have to get my father into nursing care.

Nursing care is something no one in the family wants for Dad, least of all Mom who, upon hearing that we're going to do it, will go ballistic (which is why I haven't told her yet). Dad himself will be confused and upset by the change, and thus it will at first seem worse for him. And I will actually have more responsibilities, because I'll have to spend more time driving to see him, so I know he'll be okay, and driving my mother to see him, and helping to manage his care at the nursing center because you have to stay on top of things to ensure the one you love gets the best of care.

Then, yesterday morning, Dad couldn't walk at all and wanted to go back to bed after breakfast. I knew something was wrong and we took him to the hospital. He had a low grade infection and they didn't admit him, but that simple thing has wiped him out.

Thus I've visited a new skilled nursing center to see if they have room for Dad and to see if it is something he might like. Or might not hate as much as I imagine.

My sister and I have done this drill already once this fall, as you may recall, and the day we planned to move him, the Big Fancy Nursing Home on the Hill didn't have a bed for him, and my sister and I didn't really like the BFNH's attitude. So we backed down and let it go another month and now, here I am. Looking for another place.

I never thought I would say this, but I would rather go out and cover a 7-11 shooting, live, for the six o'clock news.

The place I've found, if they will take him, is smaller than the BFNH and closer to my house and my mother's house and is adjacent to the local hospital. It is sunny and bright. How they might treat him there, I can only discover once he is there.

But I must do this this week, because if I leave Dad at home, unable to walk, he or my Mom or one of the caregivers, or even myself, will get hurt trying to transfer him from bed to chair to bath, and then we will have another candidate for nursing care on our hands.

Come to think of it, perhaps I should just check into the place with my Dad so I can get a complete rest.

These are awful decisions we have to make, but there we are. Life, as my parents have known it at their home in Los Altos for more than half a century, will change and it will change forever. My parents had the option to make decisions about these things much earlier in their lives, when they were living in healthy retirement, and they chose not to do that.

So now they must rely on their children to make these choices for them. Just as we once had to rely on them.

We are in the midst of our first touch of autumn in Northern California now and the state is as achingly beautiful as ever. But, we are having a break from what P.G. Wodehouse once called our "relentless sunshine." It is somehow appropriate to the tasks I have at hand.

Autumn in California, as the leaves change on the maple tree just down the street ...

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marge said...

hope the new place works out. visit at odd hours, unannounced.

Jack said...

As always, Robin, I watch your blogs for your experiences with your father. Your father's loss of his mobility briefly is a scary thing, and your trepidation at moving him to a care facility mirrors my aunt's experience in convincing her father to leave his house and do the same. You'd be happy not to be walking point for us, I know, but your sharing of your thoughts as well as your experiences is helping all of us.

Robin Chapman said...

I think in our society we are led to believe that nursing care is a good thing for our elderly. I really think it is a last resort, and as I wait and watch for the day Dad has to go, I know it will be the beginning of the end. That's always sad. I'll keep him at home as long as possible.

The House of Chapman said...

Robin, I know by this time you have found a great place for your dad, and hope you still have him. I went through the same problems and heart aches in the late 1990's. Dad had a hard time accepting his new home, but later as his mind began to slip away, he found he had no choice.
He passed away at age 96, and it was a blessing for him, and sadly for us also.
He join the old Army Air Corps, in 1928 and retired in 1959. Had some great stories to tell, and I treasure his old photo's.
Both parent's gone but not forgotten, and only wished I had asked more questions when they were alive, now its to late.

Robin Chapman said...

Thanks for the nice comment. If you surf around my blog you will learn that just a few months later we were able to find a good place for my father's short remaining months, whereupon my mother crawled into a ball and died on December 11, 2009. Dad died March 26, 2010, two years ago last week. And I can still hardly stand to live without him.