My daddy was larger than life back in the day. Husband, Doctor, provider, philanthropist. When I was little he was the only Doctor in town that made house calls. I still remember tagging along one late summer afternoon when he went to the nursing home after a long work day to go check on his elderly patients. My dad chose to serve the people of a small textile town in the Bible Belt in the 60’s over the lure of big city potential for great prosperity and the salt life promise of Florida. Dad truly cared about people. He was my Hero with a capital H and a servant of the common man. While Dad loved his practice and his patients, he also loved his down time. Dad’s happy place was anywhere water met land, with a fishing rod, a straw hat and an ice cold cerveza. He taught me to shoot and fish, two things he loved when he was a young man. He and I were fearless foodies, eating mysterious savory meats prepared by street vendors in foreign countries with great gusto, while my mom and older brother would turn white and then green. He loved to travel, eat and experience new things. After having fled Cuba and starting over in the US with nothing, I’d venture to say that the idea of change didn’t scare him the slightest bit.
But change does come. Living 92 years has taken a hard toll on his body, and the curse of dementia has robbed him of much of his memory. It’s heartbreaking. He has adapted well to skilled nursing though, content to travel about the facility and visit with staff and other residents in the hallways. He has a reputation for being sweet, courteous, friendly and generally easy-going. They still call him Doctor out of respect and kindness . He’s always happy to have visits from family (he remembers who we are for now, although the details of past and present are a puzzle with giant missing pieces). But the progression of his disease has affected the short term memory, and 5 minutes after one of us leaves he forgets we were ever there. His favorite things now are books and chocolates do we load him up on both. Thankfully he’s not aware of his true condition, or where he is. That is a gift from God.
Now the roles have changed, and the child has become her parents’ advocate and protector. It’s a role I take seriously, but it is tough seeing this larger than life hero reduced to a shadow of who he once was. Why are things the way they are, why does he linger and suffer? Why must we watch him fade away like this? I can see no purpose in it, but my faith says there is something God is up to even if I can’t see it. I do trust God’s purpose and timing, His ways are not my ways, but it is SO HARD. More than anything, my mom, brothers and I desire the best possible care for him, with dignity and compassion. So far we couldn’t be more pleased with this facility.
So, I now own all the details of his life outside the nursing home. His social security, bills, Medicare and Medicaid, supplemental insurance, taxes. In an emergency, the usual 1-1/2 hour drive time to Gaston Memorial can be trimmed to well under an hour. As his daughter, representative payee and power of attorney, I am included in scheduled care reviews. That’s a meeting with staff and family, at which his overall condition is re-evaluated and changes are made to his treatment plan. I can’t tell you how important it is to be well informed and involved in this process.
And here’s a small assurance, how I know my God is present in this situation ….. had I not been present and aware at the last meeting in late February, I would not have known about all the medicine he was taking, or the new one they added. The one with the ugly, rare side effects not disclosed on TV. Side effects like aggression, sexually inappropriate behavior, depression, confusion and an altered mental state. Rare, but unfortunately my dad fell into that small category.
The side effects from the new medicine kept building and finally escalated to the point of physical altercation between dad and another patient about 10 days ago, but at that point we really had no idea what had caused this change in dad’s behavior. When it did happen, the social worker said they had no choice but to make an immediate judgement discharge. They were looking for a faculty with Alzheimer’s unit that would take him. Immediately. Daddy had become a danger to himself and others and they were not equipped to handle it. He had to go. Dad wasn’t dad. My heart was breaking. This new place could be anywhere inside a 90 mile radius and we would have no say.
Thank God for the relationships he has blessed me with. Reeling from the news about Dad, I flew over to a friends house for coffee and encouragement. During our conversation I remembered the change in medication and Googled info about the drug. BAM! Within minutes I was back on the phone with his social worker, begging them to hold the med until his doctor could be reached to officially discontinue. I knew in my heart that this was the root of the problem and started pleading daddy’s case.
All you can do a a time like this, really, is hit your knees. I was not in control. Pray and request prayer. Beg God’s mercy and trust His sovereignty. Pray for favor with the people responsible for dad’s care.
I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Psalm 116:1
Not only did his social worker put an immediate hold on this medicine at my request, she also followed up with the drug rep and dad’s PCP. Both agreed that this medicine could be the cause for Dad’s change in personality and behavior. Favor with the social worker. Check.
The next prayer for mercy was answered yesterday, when I got the call that daddy had bounced back to his old self AND the administrator had decided to let him stay! I am praising God from the depths of my soul.
Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live. Psalm 116:2