Sunday, March 4, 2012

Learning to be a CALM caregiver

Psalm 46:1-3 God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in seastorm and earthquake, Before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains. Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God-of-Angel-Armies protects us.

Last week Dad went into the hospital again. This time it appeared that he wasn't getting rid of enough fluid, he had swelling in his face, feet and abdomen, and we both became concerned. We called home health, and they suggested calling our doctor, who immediately said "Bring him to the ER." Dad was thrilled (not). They gave him lasix (water pill) in his IV and kept him for 48 hour observation. He lost six pounds in two days. We probably could have handled this at home, but we weren't sure.

Unfortunately we were in the ER for six hours. My back can't take six hours of sitting without much of a break. The back flare-up that started a few weeks ago has returned with a vengeance. Physical therapy, and a CT scan to see if the fusion I had in 2009 actually fused are on next week's calendar.

Now that he's home again, we weigh him every day. If he has more than a few pounds of weight gain, I will give him an extra furosemide (lasix). If he still retains fluid, that will be another call to the doctor. Weighing him every morning before breakfast is still hard to remember, even though it's essential.

We will begin the search again tomorrow for an electric wheelchair that is covered by Medicare. In the meantime, in spite of the doctor telling me over and over that he should be non-weight bearing on his right leg, he often is. It seems to be the only way to transfer him into the wheelchair. He often gets up to get around his bedroom, and uses his walker.

I know he is in great danger of breaking that hip, and I know what that will mean to his health. The break would be inoperable. I know we lost my mom ten years ago in a little over two weeks that way. I also know that keeping him either in a wheelchair or bedridden would be forcing him to live as though the hip was already broken.

I have been told several times that his care would be easier if we had hospice. Dad would certainly qualify: aseptic necrosis in the hip, chronic congestive heart failure, issues with his blood thickness or thinness caused by coumadin, abdominal aneurysm--well, the list is pretty long. He's 96. We're not designed to live forever in these bodies.

I feel like I have no control over any of this. That's because I don't :-) My father is of sound mind. He knows how bad his hip is. If he gets up and puts weight on it, he knows what he's risking. If he wants home health care instead of hospice, it's his call.

He can't be home by himself, at least for more than 15 minutes to half an hour. For Bruce and I to go out together, we need an "elder" sitter. If one of us leaves, the other needs to stay home. I have some family available who can help, but it's often difficult for them. My sister is in England until March 20, but my brother-in-law is here, and has helped out already. But the day-to-day care inevitably falls to us.

That's okay--we expected it. But there is no doubt that it creates stress in me, and in my husband. When I am working, or when my back is out, almost everything lands on Bruce. He has trouble handling stress, so it's definitely a challenge for both of us, since his stress rubs off on me.

Ultimately I must regularly remind myself that the One who created my dad knows the number of his days, and will be ready to welcome him home. Dad is ready to go. I need to take a deep breath and remind myself of that.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Another journey

Two weeks ago my father, who lives with us, went into the hospital. His kidneys had begun to fail, and his blood was so thin we were in danger of a bleedout. Our doctor wanted us to put him in a nursing home. Everyone said "no!" including Dad. By the time he got out of the hospital he was much better, and we brought him home. But the hip he has broken twice is very deteriorated and could easily break again. He's not allowed to use his walker any more; so he has a wheelchair. Home health and physical therapy are coming to our house.

So life has changed, again. We give Dad his pills--he doesn't do them himself any more. My husband Bruce is helping him with his bills, and is home with him most of the time since I accompany Fort Zumwalt South's choirs and I'm pretty busy up there right now. With my bad back, Bruce is the one who transfers Dad from the wheelchair to his bed or a chair. We sleep with a baby monitor so we can hear if Dad needs help.

Dad is afraid he's a burden. He's not, of course. He's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, and easy to live with. Bruce has grown to love him like a father. He spent a lot of years taking care of me--it's my turn to help him.

But yes, there's an added stress to life now. I have never had children, so being a caregiver is a new thing for me--the responsibility, the planning ahead so someone is available to come over if you're going out, a thousand little things. But I know now that while I may not have foreseen this, God was preparing me for it for a long time. I didn't realize that until this morning during church. But that's another story.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


After almost eight years of fighting the idea in my head that my back injuries are truly disabling, I've finally accepted it. I won't be able to work full-time again. I have to develop strategies for everything from doing the laundry to doing what I love--teaching and playing the piano. I have to learn how to manage the pain, hopefully without Neurontin. If I stay on that drug, I'm not sure I can ever lose the weight I need to drop in order to make it to age 70!

So, this will be a place where I chronicle my successes and failures in all these areas. Right now, in the middle of a major back flare-up, with the success of my 2009 surgery in question, acceptance is oddly calming to me. I know what the enemy is now. I just have to learn strategies to fight it. Since I can't find any program of fitness/exercise and diet that matches my needs, I'll have to create it myself.

This is a journey, not a dead-end. There are many reasons for me to want to live my life, and live it as well as possible, as long the Lord wants me here. Let's see what happens!