Friday, November 07, 2008

Never a Dull Moment

Yesterday, Dad finally came home from the nursing home. Hurrah! Of course, the discharge procedure involved endless bouts of sitting around: waiting for the doctor, waiting for nurses, waiting for paperwork, waiting for an oxygen cannister for Dad to take home. With all of that, we didn't exactly get discharge instructions; a nurse shoved a shopping bag full of meds and a ream of paperwork at me and said, more or less, "Here you go! Bye, now!"

When we got to the apartment, we had to wait some more, for the home oxygen guy to show up. In the meantime, we tried to make sense of the shopping bag of meds: Dad ultimately decided to keep taking his old stuff from the Philly VA until he can get into the Reno VA. Then the oxygen guy came and showed me how to switch to a new tank, a complicated procedure involving tricky bits of machinery which I'm afraid I didn't retain very well. I like the concentrator much better: all you have to worry about is an on/off switch, not levers and washers and guages and the fear that if you bump the thing funny, it will take off like a rocket across your living room.

After the washers and guages, we moved on to yet another ream of paperwork. I just signed whatever was in front of me. (At this point, I'd sign a Ritz cracker if you put it in front of me.) During this process, Dad lay down to take a nap, whereupon the oxygen guy -- no fool he -- started giving me a stern little pep talk. "He needs his rest, and you need your rest. I see this all the time: families get completely overwhelmed. I've taken care of my own parents, so I know what it's like. You need to take care of yourself, okay?"

I knew that. I really did. But I was almost absurdly grateful that one of Dad's caregivers was taking time to pay attention to what I needed, instead of just asking me to sign reams of paperwork (which I was doing even during the peptalk), sort out a pharmacy's worth of prescriptions, and somehow "make" Dad follow instructions. (Yeah, good luck with that. You herd cats much? And how's that working out for you?)

After the oxygen guy left, I took Fran to the bank and then grocery shopping, and carried stuff upstairs for her and helped her put it away. Then I went home, exhausted -- I'd hoped to swim yesterday, but no such luck -- and tried without success to take a nap. Then Gary and I went out to dinner, where I inhaled gallons of liquid and acres of food (when I got home from Dad's apartment, I realized that I'd had nothing to drink since my morning coffee, and that I hadn't exactly had a large lunch, either).

Before we left for dinner, the home healthcare nurse called to say she'd be visiting Dad this morning, and could I be there? I said I would. She asked me to hide any meds he wasn't actually taking so she wouldn't have to list them on her sheet, and I said plaintively, "That means I'd have to go back over there tonight."

"Never mind," she said. "We'll do it tomorrow."

This morning I woke up bright and early and got a swim in before going over to meet the home nurse. Hurrah! And a good thing, too. When I got there, the home nurse wasn't there yet, but Dad and Fran were both upset. She'd had strange dizzy spells, one in the evening and one in the morning, and Dad -- whose mother died of a stroke, and died in his arms -- was terrified that they were TIAs.

Me: "If you thought she was having a stroke, why didn't you call 911?"

Dad: "I didn't want to scare her."

Me: "She has to go to the hospital."

Fran: "I'm fine now. I don't want to go to the hospital."

Dad: "You have to go to the hospital. I need you to be around for a while."

Fran: "I feel fine now."

Me: "You could feel fine now and then stroke out. Little strokes can precede big ones. You have to go to the hospital." (Yeah, I know, I shouldn't have scared her like that, but it's the truth.)

Fran: "I don't want to. Can we wait until the nurse comes?"

Me: "No. You have to go now." (thinking, You should have gone last night.) "I'll drive you over there and then I'll come back here to meet the nurse, okay?"

And yeah, I know: I should have called 911 myself. But Dad was afraid of another bill, and she really did seem fine, and I wasn't thinking clearly. In the event, we got to the hospital without any trouble, and they took her right away and ran a bunch of tests, all of which were normal, and she was discharged a mere three hours later. People spend longer than that in the waiting room! She's supposed to follow up with a neurologist, with whom I'll make an appointment next week (I called today, but the office closes early on Friday).

So that was a huge relief. In the meantime, I'd zipped back to the apartment and met the home nurse, a kind soul who thanked me for having already hidden one shopping bag of meds in the closet, and who patiently cataloged the other shopping bag of meds, and who's going to dispatch an army of visiting healthcare professionals for Dad. His dance card includes an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, a home health aide to help him shower, and a social worker who'll help him (and Fran) get set up with local services. I'm just glad that all these people are making sure he's okay. While he's getting home healthcare, though, he's under a weird form of house arrest: he can go to any doctor's appointment, can leave the house once a week to grocery shop, and can attend special events like birthday parties, but otherwise has to stay home.

Very strange. He had home health both in Mississippi and in Pennsylvania, and I don't remember anything like this before. But Dad didn't protest.

I'm very glad that Medicare will be covering this. Each nurse's visit costs $158; therapy visits are $200. We weren't given a price for the social worker, but I'm sure that's steep, too. Yowsa!

Anyway, he and Fran were in good spirits when I left them; the morning's scare had become something we could all laugh about. Let's hope it stays that way!

Tomorrow's the Grand Moving Adventure, in which we remove extra furniture from the apartment and move in the stuff that Fran wants from the storage unit. After that, unpacking can begin in earnest.

Stay tuned for more exciting adventures! And forgive the length and incoherence of this blog entry. My brain's not working very well right now.


  1. My gosh, Susan, this is a nightmare. I hope that some of this is from the stress of moving, and I mean stress for Fran and your Dad. I pray that it gets better soon.

    I liked the way that your Dad was caring about both Fran's health and her feelings. Very tender.


  2. Thanks, Lee! Yes, we've all been under a lot of stress from the move; Fran's also been under stress for several years from a very difficult family situation. I've made an appointment with a primary-care doc for her for next week, so we can start getting her non-emergency care.

  3. Berni3:41 PM

    Hang in there! We've been going through something very similar with my mom lately, but there are four of us in the Bay Area and my sister in San Diego drove up for a few days, so the work gets spread around. It's overwhelming even spread around. I can't imagine how much worse it must be when you're the only one.


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