I’ve discovered the most hopeless and helpless feeling is watching a parent age, especially when you can do absolutely nothing to ease their pain.
My dad has COPD and it’s getting the better of him now that he 80. Some days are good and some days are bad, and there is a trend the last few months with the bad.
A few months ago he went to the hospital with pneumonia. Then again with COPD exasperation. Then another after a fall out of bed.
The most recent scare was him calling me at 5 a.m. when I was out of the state on military duty. He whispered, “I cannot breath.” Just imagine the panic, fear and helplessness of getting that call when you are asleep. Let me tell you, it wakes you up fast. Fortunately, he managed to hang in there while I figured out how to call 911 from one state for help in another state. While I told the paramedics how to get into my house. While I called my neighbor, who I’ve only waved to from a distance and spoke to on the phone, to get the dog into the back yard so the paramedics would not be hesitant to enter. While I tried to not freak out.
After getting home from that hospital trip, there was another time where my sister found him on the floor. He had slid out of bed and could not get up, so he just laid there on the floor…for a couple hours.
So now, we’ve had to adapt, or are figuring out how to adapt. From the previous hospital visits, Medicare started some at-home care visits. This most recent hospital stay triggered a move to at-home hospice care. If you are not familiar with the difference, we were told this. At-Home care is to help you get better. At-Home Hospice is to make you comfortable. It’s gentle wording for a harsh truth that no one wants to know, hear or experience.
So now we have hospital stuff all over: oxygen machines/hoses/masks, walkers/bed pads/medications…and more medications. My sister and I have had to gut my dad’s room to support the situation. In more blunt terms, we had to take out his hoarding stash of things and fill up my ‘guest room’ with it all so we could accommodate they medical supplies he needs now.
Now, my house is insane. Various nurses, social workers, physical therapists, chaplains, and hygiene aids come in and out. And they almost never come on any predictability. And sometimes, they all seem to come at once. One day, about a half an hour after a physical therapist left, the chaplain came. While I was speaking to him at the front door, the hospital bed delivery gentleman came. Then while he was coming in, the social worker came. So in one hour, four people were there, and three were there all at once. Then, an hour later, a hygiene aid came. These people are wonderful and all provided by Medicare, which gives me some comfort.
With all these changes, my sisters, my boyfriend and I still have to work. He works a lot. I have two jobs that both require some travel. My younger sister lives an hour away and just started a new job. And my older sister lives several hours away. So making sure someone is with dad at all times now is very complicated, and stressful.
We’ve also lost all modesty in the house. Accidents happen and clothes have to be changed. Bedsheets have to be changed and washed out. Floor have to be clean. None of us are medically inclined people, nor want to be. So, it a struggle. A very real struggle. And, add in the fact that it makes you feel even more helpless and sad.
Yeah, it’s a lot. On top of that, while I was out of town last week, the barn owner called to say that my horse went blind. I will have to put her down. She’s in her early 30s, so it’s expected. However, it’s the same situation with dad, you know the situation, the facts, the eventual result, but it doesn’t make the reality easier. So again, it is just a hopeless and helpless feeling.
While I know this is the natural circle of life, I would prefer to remain ignorant to it. I would like to hide under the covers. I would like for it to all be different. Yet, I cannot. Things need to be done. Messes need to be cleaned up. And work still needs to be done while juggling all of these things I want nothing to do with.
Such is life I guess. Off to help with another breathing treatment.