Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Decision to place, moving in, and beyond

The decision to place my dad in care was beyond difficult for me. I knew that we could no longer care for him on our own, but I felt that no one could do a better job than us. It felt like a no-win situation.  We had been at the hospital for the second time and I had an experience with my dad that I had never had before. He had been in quite a rage, telling me that my mom had another man. I reassured him that this was not true, but it was the Alzheimer's Disease making him believe this.  He and I had a very trusting relationship. I kept assuring him that I would not take her side if this was true, and I would tell him the truth. He just kept stewing.

The doctors had asked my mom to stay in the waiting room. After more time had passed, we asked if he would talk with my mom and he agreed. She reassured him that she had loved him, and only him, for nearly 50 years.  He drifted off to sleep shortly after she entered the room.

He was only asleep for about 10 minutes when he opened his eyes and his whole demeanor changed.  He truly looked different in the eyes.  He seemed dazed and confused, asking where he was and what had happened because he did not feel well.  We told him that he had been very upset, outside too long in the heat while working in the yard, and would not come inside to rest and take his medication.  We shared that we were worried about his health and brought him to the hospital to try to work on his medications.  He asked my mom if she was going to stay with him at the hospital.  Suddenly, he was not mad at her at all, and there was no talk of an affair, or another man. He looked at my mom and tenderly said, "Will you stay here with me?" She kissed him on the forehead and said that she would. Then, he said something that broke my heart and sent chills through my bones. He said, "Okay, I'll be a good boy."  He drifted off to sleep and my mom and I sat and cried.

I knew the disease had such a grip on him.  This was all completely beyond his control. Everything felt out of control. There was no magic pill to make him better.  We were starting to lose him for chunks of time...chunks that I knew were only going to grow.

During this hospital stay, we decided that Sunrise of Lenexa was the best option for him, and for the safety of my mom.  It was very much a homelike setting, and it was beautiful.  I was still hopeful that eventually this rage part of the disease would end so we could get him back home with some home healthcare. Unfortunately, this never became an option.  I was thankful that my sister, Kerry, had already visited several facilities while she was in town a few weeks earlier. I was such an emotional wreck that I really could not bring myself to visit these facilities.  I was also holding onto hope that we could just bring him home, and I did not want my kids to know just yet that we were heading down this road.  They were used to seeing grandpa nearly every day, and this would be a difficult change for them, as well.  

I remember asking a friend from church if we could use his truck so we could get the room at Sunrise all set up before dad arrived.  We chose items that were special to Dad to decorate his room...mostly items from his Navy days, as well as family pictures.  I wanted the room to look as good as possible before he arrived.  I don't remember his arrival at Sunrise, but I do remember telling him that this was where the doctor recommended that he stay until we could get his medication regulated better.

For many, many weeks or maybe even months, I cried every time I left him.  I felt guilty for leaving him there and so sad because every time I visited I could see more of a decline in his health and cognitive function. We were happy with this location, and he stayed until he needed a much higher level of care.  We had built great relationships with the workers at Sunrise, but we knew that we had to move him.  We all cried on moving day...including several workers. We found another location that was similar, but we knew that ultimately we wanted him in a particular facility where they have a men's-only unit, and they are specially trained in working with men with behavioral challenges as a result of Alzheimer's Disease.  

Dad was in the interim facility for about three weeks when we received a call that there was an opening where we really wanted him to be placed.  We quickly moved him.  This place was no-frills, but we were confident that the care would be excellent, his needs would be met, and there were nurses and a doctor on site at all times. We were nervous about transporting him ourselves, but in the end it was successful.  I opened my van door and helped him out.  He grabbed my arm and I led him into his new home.  He was so helpless at this point.  It was another extremely difficult and sad day for me.  I was hoping and praying that we were doing the right thing for him.  We visit regularly.  My mom is there nearly every day and has been since his first placement.  I've been able to visit sometimes weekly, but sometimes bi-weekly. For a brief time when he was declining severely, I had some stretches that I only visited about once every three weeks. I felt that I could not emotionally handle more than that at the time.  I have had many people express their lament and sadness of not being able to handle seeing dad anymore, and I can easily assure them that I completely understand.  It is so hard to see him this way.

We have only seen my dad receiving the best of care and being treated with respect. I am incredibly thankful for the many workers that God has placed in our lives!


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