"Hello, Ladies. I'm Checking In"

Denise

"Hello, Ladies. I'm Checking In"

Denise
luggage-520781_640And, that's how my dad announced his arrival as we talked past the nurse's station to my mom's room in the nursing home. On Wednesday, my dad began his seven-day respite stay with my mom as his roommate.

The road to his respite stay almost seem predetermined. As my dad and I toured the nursing home prior to my mom's hospital discharge, I liked the facility for three reasons:

  1. A large therapy room. My mom believes a large therapy room will help her get better.

  2. Lots of activity and plenty of areas to use for visiting, including a beautiful courtyard. My mom, saddled to her hospital bed for five weeks, needs activity and a choice about where and how she spends her day.

  3. Assisted living. My dad could potentially stay at the facility for a respite stay.


After our tour, I emailed my siblings that I liked the facility and that we should keep in mind a respite stay for my dad when my work load increases. I called the facility prior to my mom's admission to inquire about the possibility of a short-term respite stay for my dad. The minimum stay is one week.

My mom arrived at the facility on August 20. My dad visited as often as he could, able to manage the 10-minute drive to see her.

On August 27, my dad had outpatient surgery to remove the cancer on his head and neck. He did well during the procedure and we arrived home at about 1 p.m. I scheduled our visiting nurse for the afternoon. She arrived at 2 p.m. and assured us that my dad was doing okay.

The next day, as I swam at the community pool, my dad drank a gin martini with his cheese and crackers at 4 p.m. Soon after, he threw up. He went to bed early, after finally filling me in about his upset stomach. He woke up Saturday morning feeling worse so I ran to the store for ginger ale. We nursed his upset stomach with ginger ale and crackers. By Sunday, he felt better.

On Sunday afternoon, B, the mom of my two babysitting charges, sent me an email with my schedule for Monday and Tuesday. Unfortunately, I was unaware I was babysitting. I checked and checked my email messages and couldn't locate a message from her booking me for those two days. It didn't matter, though. She was going out on town on Monday morning. I simply replied to her message that I would see her the next morning.

I asked my three siblings to help manage my dad's care while I babysat on Monday and Tuesday. I updated my dad and let him know my sister would be with him Monday while my brother and sister-in-law visited with my mom and my other brother would take off work to help him on Tuesday.

And, then Sunday night hit. My dad moaned and groaned and regularly got up to go the bathroom. I got up, too, because I am scared to death of another fall. Each time I got up to check on him, he told me he was okay.

On Monday morning, he explained he was constipated and in pain. I called the palliative care doctor, who suggested a suppository. I made a quick run to the store, got my dad situated and then called my sister to ask her to come earlier and with supplies (incontinence briefs and more chux pads). I left at 7:50 a.m.

Monday night was a repeat of Sunday, only worse. He was "leaking" and was up and in the bathroom every few minutes. I implored and begged him to stay in bed. When he gets up at night, he carries a bucket which holds his "overnight" bag attached to his smaller ostomy bag. He can trip on the bucket or the bag's tube. I laid in bed, heart beating frantically, listening for him to get up so I could get up so he wouldn't fall. Finally, at 2:45 a.m., I told him he had to stay in bed until I got up at 5:30 a.m.

My brother helped out on Tuesday--bringing more supplies and my dad to the doctor in the afternoon. Before the doctor's appointment, my brothers and I texted about a respite stay for my dad. The timing seemed right. As they sat in the waiting room, my brother broached the subject with my dad. The discussion continued with the doctor, who agreed a respite stay would help. The nursing home staff could help my dad with his constipation.

So, while my charges played in the park after school, I called the nursing home to organize my dad's admission the next day. When my brother and my dad arrived home from the doctor, my dad immediately began packing his bag. He was ready to go.

When I arrived home Tuesday evening, my dad was readying for bed. I could tell we were going to be in for another long night. I implored him to stay in bed. I cleaned him up, explained my concern about the "poo" because poo was landing everywhere. "You've got wounds on your head and your neck," I explained. "You've got an ostomy bag. You have to be so careful. You have to keep your wounds and your bag very clean. This is such a dangerous situation. You also could fall. If we can't manage this during the night, we'll have to go the emergency room."

After he went to bed, his doctor called to check in. I explained my concerns--the potential of a fall, the worry about cleanliness. The doctor agreed that if the situation escalated, we could go to the ER. I asked if my dad could simply remain in bed with his incontinence brief on. The doctor said that was fine.

When my dad got up at 10:45, I shared the details about the doctor's phone call. "You have to stay in bed," I said. "The doctor said that is fine."

And, so he did.

On Wednesday morning, I helped him clean up and ready for our follow-up appointment with the surgeon to have his staples removed. I ran to the nursing home to drop off the admission paperwork and checks. We arrived early at the surgeon's office; the nurse immediately attended to my dad, meticulously removing his staples for the next 25 minutes or so. Before she began, my dad calmly said, "I've been having difficulties with my stomach. If you smell an odor during this procedure, I do apologize."

On our way from the surgeon's office to the nursing home, I asked my dad how he was feeling. "Relieved," he said. "Relieved for me and relieved for you."

I now realize that being at home and alone for long periods of time while I worked or took care of my mom was simply too much for my dad. He was stressed and worried. He needed a break. He needed respite.