My dad has been diagnosed with Pick’s disease, or frontotemporal dementia, since May 2 of 2013. The doctors told my family then to be making long term plans.
On May 23 of 2014, almost exactly a year later, Dad had a mental break and has never come back completely. He went into an assisted living facility, and has been in one ever since.
We are now in another phase of this process that is my Dad’s illness; on Wednesday, my mom moved him into a nursing home.
This was something we knew was coming, but it seemed to sneak up on us. We would discuss among ourselves, yep, in another year or so, he might be ready for a nursing home. But the last 2-3 months, he has gotten worse, and I realize now that my dissatisfaction with the facility he lived in was not necessarily warranted. I was getting frustrated with them that they weren’t doing some things that I thought they should be, and he was getting more and more combative with medicines and baths. He was even sent to Geri-Psych again, but his behavior didn’t change much. It’s because he needs more.
He went back to the assisted living facility, and he just couldn’t do what they needed. He needed more than they are licensed to give, and that was tough for me to realize. He can still walk with a walker, and he can feed himself, but that is about it. He is sleeping more, and not talking as much, and when he does, it doesn’t make much sense, sometimes. So he really needed more than they could give.
So they gave my mom 30 days to find a new place.
Let me tell you how God works. My mom checked into several local nursing homes, and got the best response from the one that is closest to my grandparents (who, remember, have Alzheimer issues in a pretty big way). This place helped my mom in ways that I can’t even praise God enough for, just in being nice and helpful, and she had a good feeling about it. And did I mention that it’s on the way to my Grands’ house, less than 5 minutes away?
My dad has been there for 3 days now. I went the day after she checked him in, and at first, my eyes filled with tears. My dad is in a nursing home. My dad is in a nursing home. In a place with old people and non responsive people and incontinent people and DYING people.
But when I walked in, I was greeted by smiles everywhere I went, from caregivers and residents alike. I am a smiler, and they all returned my smiles, and said “Good morning” and asked if they could help me (the caregivers, not the residents). The place was bustling, almost as many caregivers as residents, and there were people mopping and cleaning and one caregiver was blowing dry a resident’s hair in her hallway while her room was being mopped, and it reminded me of Jesus washing His disciples feet.
Because I have a whole new respect for these people who take care of those people, like my dad. Not every one has a knack for it (trust me, I know) but I know it when I see it, these ladies who like their patients, and care about them. And if they don’t like them, or their job, they are putting on a good act, and that’s okay with me too.
Because my dad is still a person. He looked at me when I walked in, and smiled, and said, “There you are.” I smiled and hugged him and told him where he was, and he said, “I am?” Then he went back to sleep. Then he woke up and asked me if I was working today, which has not come up in a long time, so I told him no, I wasn’t working, I was seeing him. I asked him if he knew what I did for a living.
He said no. I told him I was a chiropractor, and did he know what that was? “No.”
And I smiled and said, “You were one, too, and you were one of the best ones I have ever known.” And he smiled and said, “Okay.”
I told him I was going to get to visit with him more often because he is closer to me, and he said okay, and then said something along the lines of “I haven’t been seeing you much.” He surprises me sometimes. He leaned over the last time I visited him at the assisted living facility and told the lady next to him, “That’s my daughter.”
Yes, I am. He made me a Boshell, and has been the biggest constant of my life, and I am so grateful to still have him to smile at me, even when that smile is uncertain, and wavery, and I am so grateful that there are people who care enough to treat him well, and with the dignity he deserves. If you know a nursing home caregiver, tell them thank you today; I am going to thank every one of them I see in my office, because they deserve it too.