"Hey, why're ya takin' my picture over there?"
My sister and I were gritting our teeth and girding our loins and sharpening our spears and all the other metaphorical things one does before the Final Battle on the Last Day of the World. We had the attacking hordes in our field glasses and we were even considering the Nuclear Option (meaning using any powerful weapon in our arsenal, regardless of its power) when ...
I better explain. My sister and I have been told by our father's physician that it is time for him to go into nursing care. He isn't safe at home anymore, even though we have full-time care for him there.
Our mother doesn't agree our father needs nursing care and we are aware that this is her prerogative. That is why we acquired the proper legal papers so that we might make the decision to do this ourselves. But since our mother can get a very scary Mary-Todd-Lincoln-in-the-asylum look about her under conditions when her will is challenged, my sister and I have been preparing for a very bad time. We had decided any bad time we might endure would be worth it, if we could get Dad into the best care available in California.
We were even practicing counting to ten before responding to our mother's bon mots.
Anyway, according to reputation, the best place anywhere for Dad would be a place not far from here where the wealthy people in this region go to spend their final years. My father has never lived like a wealthy man, but he has invested wisely and my sister and I decided it was time we use his carefully husbanded savings to allow him to have the best possible care for whatever time he has left.
My father still looks so good, even though he is increasingly fragile.
I spoke with the admission director of said place, took a tour, asked for the appropriate forms, filled out the forms, got a physical for Dad, wheeled his wheelchair to a radiologist so he could get a chest x-ray to prove he doesn't have tuberculosis, got a prescription for "respite care" from his doctor, released financial information to the care center and spoke with the key executive late last week twice on the telephone so that we could finalize the details, including how to transfer his prescriptions, how much and what kind of clothing to bring, what kind of rehabilitation sessions he might expect, where to send his mail and so forth. After a thirty-minute conversation we agreed that my sister would fly out from Colorado and we would meet with the admissions director to complete any paperwork. We agreed on Thursday, September 3, 2009 as D-Day.
Tuesday, my sister flew into town and we drove to this beautiful location where the place with the nursing care would be. The views were spectacular and the grounds stunningly well-manicured. The place is just four miles from town, a drive that took just a few minutes.
We entered the lobby and asked for the admission director. The receptionist asked us if we wanted a tour. No, we said, we had had a tour, we now had an appointment. She gave us a form to fill out and we gave it back to her. Please let Ms. A know we are here for our appointment.
Ms. A came out about ten minutes later to tell us she was really swamped and trying to clean up her office. She didn't approach us but told us this in passing as she walked from one door and through another one. We saw her several more times, coming and going in the twenty minutes we waited in the lobby of the place, well beyond our appointment time.
Not a good start. When we finally were ushered into her office she reviewed the paperwork we brought and said: "I'm not sure if I have a bed on Thursday for your father. How would Friday do?" Not well, since we have 24-hour care for him at home and I had already cancelled it as of Thursday, the day she and we had agreed upon.
She looked down at the papers. "How do you think he will make the transition to nursing care? Will he be agitated?"
I was starting to feel uneasy. I turned the question around:
"How do you think he'll do? He has dementia. You're the experts here." She didn't answer and moved on to other, even more patronizing questions.
When we left my sister and I didn't say anything to each other for a few minutes. "Well," I said.
"That's just what I was thinking," my sister said.
We knew from that minute that we would be postponing Armageddon Day, D-Day or whatever you want to call it. Any looming family battle over nursing care wasn't worth it to bring Dad here. We weren't willing to fight for a place that might treat him the way we had just been treated.
So we went home and unarranged everything again and put Dad's home care schedule back in place.
We don't know what we will do next, nor when we will do it. But our goal is to get Dad into safe care before he falls and hurts himself at home. And our prayer is that we won't have to wait until he falls, to make his next transition.
Dad cared for us with love when we were children. Now, we were ready and willing to fight any battle necessary to protect and care for him. As it turns out, this was not the time for it. Like so much one worries about in life, the thing we worried most about vanished into the mist. Life made its own plans and chose not to share them with us.