Changing The Guard: Caretaking Your Parents

“Maybe Now You Will Call Me Fritz”

Visiting Nurses Association, the early years

Visiting Nurses Association, the early years

Tara, Dad’s nurse,  was sent to Dad by his Doctor’s Making House Calls doc.

She was a God send.  Dad, didn’t think it was necessary 21 months ago, but went along.  He was sick then so at first she came daily, then three times, then two and one a week.  She takes his vitals, fills his pills boxes and then calls in meds and reports to the doctor.

That’s on the surface.  She has become a friend and a highlight of Dad’s week.  She has said that she loves him almost as much as her own grandpa.  The tears she shed on her last day here shows that that is true.

Dad has always encouraged her to call him Fritz, but she has explained why she can’t call him anything but Mr Arrowsmith.  It actually has more to do with her having been raised in Alabama.

The third to last time, Queen, the certified aid we hired to come three times a day, five days a week, had just given him a plate of homemade food, and watching him eat with such zest made Tara cry.  Then Dad and I got teary. Queen got teary.  Dad broke the tear fest by saying, “Maybe now you will call me Fritz”.  We all laughed, even though Dad was serious.  She should call him Fritz.

We had it down.  Tara would leave me messages about what meds to pick up, I would get them.  I would tell her about concerns, although I didn’t have to do that much, because she was really on top of it.  In fact, Dad would tell her things about his condition that he didn’t tell me.

I was, of course, ambivalent about that.  In the first place he wouldn’t have told me even if she wasn’t in the picture.  But it was nice to have someone else dealing with this.  I also felt left out, a little jealous of her relationship with them.  Human beings are nothing if not complex.

When the medical team decided that he needed to be in assisted living, no, to be fair, thought Dad wanted that, suddenly Tara seemed threatening to me.  She wasn’t, she was advocating for him.  He didn’t want to be a burden to me AND he couldn’t think of other possibilities.   I felt threatened, there was some sibling rivalry to make it even more complex.   It was getting messy.

But Tara managed to shake me out of the daze that I had been in when I didn’t want to see that he was getting more frail and more open to help.  It took a few weeks, some hard feelings probably all on my part.  But my complacency was shaken and my mind got to working.  I thought of all the ways he could stay home, Tara got that moving and here we are with a great nurse who comes in 3 times a day and some new equipment.  BTW, it turns out that Dad asked for the hospital bed before he decided he didn’t like it.  We are still working on that one.

But I was right about one thing.  He would be miserable in Assisted Living and only wanted to be there because he thought it would be better for me.  Dad doesn’t like old people.

Oh, and Tara, please call him Fritz now.

Times Have Changed

Times Have Changed

July 25, 2009 Posted by | Blessings, The Cast of Characters | Leave a comment

Cutting Dad’s Meat

Its been a really long time since I cut anyone’s meat.  cutting meatI couldn’t have imagined doing it for my Dad, ever.  I would have thought that it was demeaning.  But he doesn’t seem too proud about it.  His hands aren’t steady enough to hold a knife and fork and he needs it cut, its just that simple.

And its a very tender thing to do, pun not intended.  It doesn’t take much time, I don’t know how well I do it, but its something simple that I can do for him.  Just nice moments.

July 18, 2009 Posted by | Joys and Frustrations | Leave a comment

The Bed Is Gone, Dad 1 Health Establishment 0

Well, Dad didn’t ask for the bed, it just arrived, but I wasn’t going to get into it.

He wasn’t comfortable.  I actually thought that sleeping on his back with his knees raised would help his back.  But Dad is a side sleeper.  It comes, I guess from all those years spooning with Mom.

Anyway, I taught him how to lay there, but when he woke up in the night to go to the bathroom, he coudn’t manuver the bed to flat so he could get out.

I didn’t have a problem with the bed, but I am especially proud that he handled it himself.  He also canceled the chair, but may go check one out that is closer.

I thought the bed could have done him some good, but I didn’t like the idea of it in the house.  AND I am very proud that he took charge and handled it himself.  The brat in me kind of likes thumming at the nurse, although she is really good and cares about him.  I am feeling vindicated that I do know him better than she does.

July 17, 2009 Posted by | Needed Services, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

The Equipment Arrives

imagesThursday night and suddenly Dad has a hospital bed in his room.  Tara, his nurse was here and Dad smiled when he described how she took down his old bed.  She has been talking for a while about how he needed one.  Medicare paid for a lot of it, but a couple of hundred came from him.  His insurance won’t pay.

My sudden job is to help him learn to live with it.  And to deal with my feelings.  I want Dad to make his own decisions, I get upset with people who talk to me in front of him, as if it weren’t about him.  Yet, I am bothered that this happened without my knowledge.  I am not going to say anything, just help him.

Now, Dad sleeps on his back, not really possible in a hospital bed.  However, I know that sleeping with bent knees will help his back AND he easily sleeps in a chair.  So I try to convince him to crank up the back and the legs and pretend that he is in a chair.

The first night was ok, he had a good night sleep.  But this morning he is ‘sick’.  He can’t explain why.  I think it has to do with the fact that he didn’t sleep last night.  On top of that, he couldn’t get out of bed when he had to go to the bathroom.  He just wants to call them to get rid of the bed and if they won’t take it he will cancel the lift chair.

That is how he is handling the changes.  Get rid of them.

I am trying to help him talk about it.  30 years as a therapist, I am pretty good at it, and I use all my skills.

I have mixed feelings.  I am not sure why this happened so suddenly, although I am sure Tara doesn’t think it is sudden.  I asked Dad to make sure that he knew the bed was coming.  The answer isn’t really clear.  I know she wants what is she thinks is best for him, but she has an agenda.

I am going to have to step in and deal with Tara and why things are happening so fast.  Why is she dealing with an equipment company in Knightdale when there is one a mile from here where he could go in and try these things out before they are delivered?

I want to bury my head and not deal with any of it.  I don’t want to be responsible for these things.  But I am.

July 11, 2009 Posted by | Needed Services | , , | Leave a comment

Annie Gottlieb and Jacques: When Its Your Hubby

annie gottliebAnnie Gottlieb moved from her home in Manhattan, New York to care for her husband, Jacque, in Chapel Hill, Northaniie gotlieb 2Carolina.  Jacques is a bear of a man who once escaped a Soviet gulag.  Annie has written or collaborated on many books, and Jacque has co- written one about his amazing story, DONBAS: A True Story of an Escape Across Russia on Amazon.  See excerpts

I first saw Annie’s name when I bought a self help book, decades ago, that she had co-authored.  For some reason she became one of my heros. Then I had put an ad in Craigslist to find someone to help me with a project and couldn’t believe when her name came up.  She was living in Chapel Hill, NC now and willing to work on my project.  I couldn’t believe it.

It turned out that she was and is there because her husband was in advanced stages of a degenerative neurological disease.  He was a boxer and had a ready made support group in North Carolina.  Fortunately Annie, a freelance writer, could work any where.

Annie is a tiny woman, and Jacque is a big man, still even with the illness.  She is responsible for all his bodily functions as well as getting him up out of bed whenever she can.  Despite the community she is left with the vast majority of the work.

I was fortunate one day when I was there that he was at his most lucid.  We had a conversation while sitting at the table.  I knew he was a shadow of his former self, as he had trouble forming words, certainly sentences, but his eyes twinkled and he flattered me by saying I was interesting.  I could certainly understand why Annie loved him so much to spend these, her early golden years, with such a constant burden.

I think of Annie when I get down in the dumps.  She doesn’t have the nurses or home visiting doctors, she moved to a community without family or friends.  She is an amazing woman caretaking an amazing man.  Keep her in your prayers and buy some of their books.

BTW, Annie had a blog,  which she hasn’t been able to keep up Ambivablog.  It has some great reading.  She moderates a group blog, Ambiance Check here for some of Annie’s books on Amazon


July 8, 2009 Posted by | Heroines and Inspirations | , , , , | Leave a comment

Well, Should I Be In Charge?

The cast of characters is changing.  For a long time Dad has had a weekly nurse who comes to the house weekly, his and my friend Rose, who takes him out at least weekly, and me, with an occasional therapist or doctor.  Really easy to keep track of.

Then Tara his nurse decided that he needed to be with someone all day, or go to assited living.  My brother and I looked into assisted living a few years back when Mom was alive and Dad might have been too sick to care for her.   They didn’t need it, but I found out enough about it to know the dark side,  (Assited Living, An Option) and I know Dad wouldn’t like it for many reasons.   It was the first time Tara and I came to ‘blows’.  I found Barbara, who was nice, worked hard (great at kitchen cleaning!) but was inexperienced and didn’t want to give him a bath.  Besides Dad wasn’t comfortable having someone here all day and when I had time at home, I didn’t really like it either.

Queen had recently been sent over two days a week to bath him, because being in the shower wasn’t safe.  Dad really liked her, so we arranged to have her come three times a day to check in on him, and cook meals.  Well, that works well, except that she isn’t a very good cook and doesn’t clean much.

I got home today with a note fom Tara.  She is having someone come to interview with Dad on Friday.  It seems that she and the therapist were both here in the am, Dad was alone and they though he was shaking on his feet.  If Dad is interviewing why did she write me.  Well, I know why.  But did she mean to make me out to be a bad daughter like I feel I am when I get such notes.

When I got the first woman so quickly I marveled at my good luck.  Then when Queen came on I was still very happy.  However, I guess it just isn’t going to be all that easy.

July 8, 2009 Posted by | The Cast of Characters | , , , | Leave a comment

Pilattes and Me

You have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on the kids.  You have take care of yourself to pilattestake care of an elderly parent.  I have an additional reason.

Dad has always been a hard working guy, never content to sit for too long without finding some work to do*.  But he’s a man of his generation and ‘working out’ is silly.   He never did it.   I can’t say for sure that it would have made a difference, but his two big problems today are his balance and that he can’t lift his feet high enough to walk safely.  I hate seeing him this way.  He is frustrated, he could fall and it is why he can’t be left alone for long.  My heart breaks for him.

And it terrifies me because I know I will live a long time and I don’t want it to be like that. So I have started back on my Pilattes.  This is a system that focuses on the core (abdominal) area, but is also great for Michelle Obama arms and other areas.  I find that I can build up a relatively decent heart rate. You can go to a gym 3 times a week and pay a lot of money.  You can get tapes and do it without a machine (waaaay too hard for me) or you can buy a relatively inexspensive home machine, like I did, two years ago.  I was doing it daily, until I stopped.  The rub, huh?

The first time I found that about a week and a half into it my shoulders naturally pulled back into a straighter posture as I walked.  I gave it no effort, it just happened.  Now, I have a good posture, one of the many gifts from my Dad.  Dad insisted that I walk straight and tall from an early age.  The involuntary straightening reminded me of Dad’s touching my shoulders showing me how to walk.

So I start again, with Dad and his current problems as a motive.

I find that one piece of wisdom from the fitness gurus isn’t true.  I have always heard them say that once you stop exercising you quickly lose all the gains.  Well, I have found its not true.  It took me weeks to do the ‘elephant’ advanced, but now I am ok.  Not as good as when I stopped, but much better than when I started the first time.  After a year and a half, I am still carrying benefits.  This is not a reason to quit, but a reason to do it, knowing that whatever you do, if you get good enough, will have long lasting effects.  Its just so much better when you continue.

BTW, there is lots we can do to stay healthier longer and even younger.  Is 60 the New 40?

*  When Dad was 85 he had quintupal bipass surgery.  They sent him home after 5 days with strick instructions, one of which was to not lift anything heavier than a milk carton.  A week after he got home, I walk through the guest house to find him turning my mother’s mattress over.  Hmmm…. “Dad, is that heavier than a milk carton”?   …   “Well, I can’t sit around being lazy forever!”  Dad was a hard worker, but not the kind that helped make him stronger in his old age.

July 2, 2009 Posted by | Blessings, Take Care of Yourself | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Difficulty of Letting Others Do

Long story short.  I came home early, Dad’s day companion, Queen, wasn’t there.  She was out doing other work, but was supposed to bring back milk.  She forgot the milk.  I felt like I should go get it.  I felt bad when she said she would.  I made myself stay home, but made some excuse about it being too hot to go out again.  (Boy was that lame, it was just as hot for her).  She didn’t seem to think anything of it.

But its weird being home and sitting while someone else is making Dad’s dinner, getting his milk.  I was fine when he did it, but this is hard.

So while I can complain about being overwhelmed with too much to do, I also have a difficulty watching someone work in my home. Hmmmm…..

But I did it.  Now all I have to do is get up the nerve to tell her that Dad needs her meatloaf to be more solid!

July 2, 2009 Posted by | Learning and Growing | Leave a comment

Dad Through the Years.

I am a very lucky person as my Dad is really very easy to get along with.  Its a pleasure to do for him.  He does as much as he can but sometimes that is a problem.  “Dad its easier for me to do your laundry than worry about you failing”.  People love him, although if there are too many people he doesn’t talk.

Heck, I just wanted to show you a couple of pictures.

Some people thought Dad looked like Errol Flynn

Some people thought Dad looked like Errol Flynn

At age 89 he became a great grand father

At age 89 he became a great grand father to Nico

July 1, 2009 Posted by | The Cast of Characters | , | Leave a comment