Anniversary and Update

November 3, 2009

Well, sort of.  It’s not my wedding anniversary, it’s my blogging anniversary. I’ve been blogging regularly for four years now.  Hard to believe.

Not so regularly of late, though, so I thought I would try to catch you up on what has been happening (assuming I have any readers left).

Last Thursday (10/22) my dad called to tell me that his sister/my aunt was in the hospital.  Between my uncle’s tendency to exaggerate things for the worse and my dad’s inability to hear well, he wasn’t really sure what was wrong with her or if it was an emergency.  I told him I would call the hospital to see what I could find out.

Well, hospitals don’t give out much information over the phone, but the nurse who was caring for my aunt in the critical care unit said that she was “very sick.”  I decided to ride over there (approx 40 miles) and see what I could find out in person.   Dinner was already in the oven, so as soon as Dan got home, I left.

When I got to my aunt’s room, she looked and sounded awful.  In fact, she looked and sounded just like my grandmother/her mom did before she died. She couldn’t speak but seemed to know who I was and did try to communicate with me.  A doctor came in to look at the IV and push some buttons.  I asked what was wrong with my aunt and he said that he would talk to me after he finished what he was doing.

(Side note:  he left without talking to me.)  The nurse came in later and told me — although apparently she wasn’t supposed to — that they believed my aunt had a blood infection.  Since blood travels to every organ in the body, that is decidedly Not Good.  When I Googled in later that evening, I learned that it can result in sepsis which, incidentally, is what killed my grandmother.

I left the hospital soon after that and started the drive home.  I called my dad and told him what little I had been able to learn.  I also told him that I thought he should go to see his sister the next day because it looked and sounded to me as if she did not have much time left.  He said that he was going to be pretty busy the next day and that he didn’t know if he would be able to get over there or not.

(Side note:  This is not a response that my dad would normally have.  His physical and mental health have been rapidly deteriorating over the last month or two.)  I asked to speak with his housemate and explained to her what was going on.  I encouraged her to take him to Cambridge the next day because I know that if my aunt had died before he saw her, it would bother him a great deal.

Friday (10/23) I left for a weekend scrapbooking crop (paid for in advance; if I had known all this was going to happen I would have waited until some other time to do it).  When I arrived at the crop site, I unloaded the car and went straight to the room I was staying in.  Put in some earplugs, turned off the cell phone ringer, grabbed a soft blanket, and went to sleep for about an hour and a half.  I was exhausted.

When I awoke, there was a voice mail message from my dad.  He was at the hospital and he was calling me to let me know that my aunt had passed away. He was upset, and I felt bad for missing his call.  I called my brother and let him know.

When I returned from the scrapbooking crop on Sunday (10/25), it was time to do some pumpkin carving with the kids (I’d promised before I left that it would be our Sunday afternoon activity).  I was there for maybe an hour when I got a call from my dad’s housemate, who had called the home health agency for advice regarding some problem my dad was having (I can’t remember now what it was).  The agency advised her to take him to the hospital, but I told her to wait; I would be right over.  Left the pumpkin carvers at home and drove to my dad’s house (approx 30 miles away).

Arrived there and even though I’ve been witnessing first hand his gradual decline, it hit me that he really is getting helpless.  He cannot even do the simplest things like getting a shower without supervision and assistance.  I paid his bills (thankfully he had put me on his checking account years ago) and told him that if he didn’t get up and brush his teeth, we would be taking him to the hospital.  That made him mad, but he did do it.

On Monday (10/26), I worked.  Thankfully, it was a relatively uneventful day.

Tuesday (10/27) was the day of my aunt’s funeral, scheduled for 11:30.  Dan and I drove to my dad’s house to pick him up.  Not long after we arrived at 10:00, he threw up.  When he was feeling better, he went to take a shower.  After the shower he threw up again.  Finally around 11:20, he told me to go ahead and attend the funeral without him … he just wasn’t feeling up to it.

Dan and I headed toward the funeral, which took us longer than expected because of a road detour.  As we were exiting one little town with a reputation for speed traps, my phone rang.  It was my brother; the funeral had just concluded and he was heading to my dad’s house to check in on him. The majority of the funeral guests were going to my aunt & uncle’s house for food.

I decided to meet the relatives at my uncle’s house.  Once everyone was there, I talked to my dad’s cousin about his health and my idea to put him in an assisted living home so he could get help with the tasks he could no longer manage by himself.  The cousin was very supportive and encouraging.  Then I turned to my dad’s best friend, a brash New Yorker with more than his fair share of arrogance.  He was combative and hostile with me, criticizing me for not doing a better job of taking care of my dad.  I left the house in tears and by the time I was in the car, I was so upset I was hyperventilating.

Dan drove me back to my dad’s house where my brother and I spent several hours talking to my dad about his health and his needs.  He doesn’t want to leave his home because he doesn’t want any restrictions placed on him about when and where he can smoke.  (!)  He did, however, agree to have a sitter come and stay with him so that he is not home alone when his housemate is at work.

On Wednesday (10/28), I made some phone calls to find agencies that have sitters who stay with homebound elderly.  Then I had a doctor’s appointment of my own to follow up on my high blood pressure.  (I waited two hours for the doctor before she finally came in to see me.)  After that, I took a mental health day and watched “My Life in Ruins.”  I needed to escape, even if it was just for a few hours.

On Thursday (10/29), Dan and I headed out to attend a small conference two hours away where Mike Huckabee was the keynote speaker.  We were about halfway there when my phone rang.  It was the home health agency, letting me know that the aide was at my dad’s house but could not get in because my dad had fallen and wasn’t able to get up again to open the door.  She advised that if the aide couldn’t get in, she would have to call 911, who would break down the door.

I explained that I was over an hour away and could not get there with my spare key, but told her a way that I thought she would be able to get in the house.

(Side note:  the aide got in, my dad was fine, and no doors were broken down.)

On Friday (10/30), I received a call from the home health aide who said that they were going to refer my dad to hospice for services due to his lack of ability to care for himself and his worsening condition.  That afternoon, my dad had an appointment to see the doctor who had overseen his radiation treatment for the brain tumor.  He arrived at the appointment late because someone from Adult Protective Services had shown up at his house to investigate after it was reported to them that he was left alone at home.


The doctor compared the pre-radiation MRI of my dad’s brain and a second MRI done just a few weeks ago and showed us that the tumor has, in fact, shrunk.  The doctor could not offer any explanation as to why his health was deteriorating so rapidly, but suggested that an EEG might help us figure it out.

Referred to another doctor, getting another test.  *sigh*

Saturday and Sunday I stayed at my dad’s house all day while his housemate was at work.

Yesterday I had a phone call interview from Adult Protective Services. Among other things, they wanted to know if I had my dad’s Power of Attorney and if I could provide documentation to that end.  So last night Dan and I spent an hour going through assorted paperwork and files looking for the Durable Power of Attorney document my dad gave me nine years ago. Fortunately, we found it.

Tomorrow I am going to my dad’s house, meeting with a hospice worker there and signing the paperwork so he can start receiving services.  Then I am taking him on a two hour (one way) drive to pick up his new eyeglasses, which will hopefully enable him to see a little better.

So, it’s been quite a week or two.  In this time, I have:

  • Realized how important a funeral can be to the living.  I feel no closure from the loss of my aunt and I think it’s because I didn’t get to attend her funeral.
  • Gained the admiration (I think) of my brother, who keeps saying things like, ” I don’t know where you get the strength.”  (Hint:  Phil 4:13)
  • Realized that the less I like dealing with something, the more I like napping.  And eating chocolate.
  • Run the gamut of emotions — guilt, anger, compassion, grief
  • Realized that the single worse thing about getting older is saying goodbye to the folks you love.

I will probably continue to be sporadic in my blogging for a while.  Bear with me and, if you’re the praying type, please remember my dad in your prayers.  Thanks.


One comment

  1. […] to rest my aunt and my father, both after a prolonged series of health […]

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