“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NIV
Patterns of life are emerging that I’ve never seen before. It’s uncharted territory, this season where the adult child assists aging parents. My life experience so far hasn’t included how to care for the elderly, or equipped me with how to respond to certain situations when they arise.
Like parenting skills gained in my 20’s and 30’s, much of what I’m learning now is on the job. These days there are all kinds of great resources for expectant moms, full of tips and tricks during pregnancy, labor and delivery, the infant stages and beyond. There are probably lots of resources out there on elder care too. I just didn’t know I needed them until I did.
While I’m acting as support, POA, representative payee and caregiver from afar, this time is not about me. It’s about them. Their health, safety, comfort and dignity. Those of us blessed to live in the US have access to great healthcare, and seniors seemingly have an abundance of options available …. everything from in-home health care with sitters and CNA’s, independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and memory care.
Our family had a setback recently. Daddy is in transition, having been discharged from his long term care facility on the 18th for what they call “behaviors”. A little over a month ago his altered mental state was attributed to nasty side effects of a new medicine. This time a UTI was the culprit for his combative behavior and the administration at daddy’s facility discharged him, stating that they could no longer provide the level of care my dad now requires.
The UTI has been treated and he is now medically ready for discharge from the hospital, but finding the right, next new place for my dad has been challenging. The healthcare professionals have it in writing that he needs long term care, with skilled nursing, in a memory care unit. Suitable facilities that meet this criteria are few, and the waiting lists for those are staggering. The case managers and social workers at the hospital have been great. While they search, I search …. doubling their efforts hour after hour, day after day, calling one place after another with the same result.
A time for everything. Even agonizingly lengthy and discouraging transitions it seems.
For now though, we take turns visiting him in the hospital. We humor Dad, reassuring him over and over that it’s ok if he doesn’t remember something. Tomorrow I’ll take some of his favorite chocolates to help sweeten his mood and family pictures to help stir his memory. The ravages of dementia have robbed him of so much. His current reality is in flux, bending, swirling and disappearing like wisps of smoke. In an instant he is a young man in Cuba re-living a fishing trip, then in a blink he’s back in residency at Polk County Hospital. Daddy knows how old he is one moment, then doesn’t remember his office in Belmont the next. Sometimes he knows where he is, other times he asks where and why. Every time I see him though, he’s consistent in asking me how Mark is doing and amazingly he still remembers us all.
It is heartbreaking to see the progression of the disease. I hate the indignity of dementia, this slow fading away of Dad who isn’t Dad happening right before my eyes. I know my mom and brothers are having an equally hard time. Considering my faith, I confess there are times I wonder where God is, why He hasn’t answered my prayers and the prayers of my friends. I have to look hard but He is in it. This time we’ve been given is a gift, a treasure in a different sort of wrapper. As hard as it is we each need this time to offer comfort and build up, to heal, to laugh and embrace and mend and love. For ourselves as well as for him.