"Dad, it's time to get up... Come on Dad, it's time for bed."
"I wanna go to bed."
"Alright then, let's get up so you can go to bed."
"I will in about 30 minutes."
"Dad, mom's tired, and she wants you to join her in bed."
"She can go... I'll be there in a minute!"
I moved in with my parents in November of 2011 to help care for my father who has both Alzheimer's and emphysema. As of July 8, he is officially 86 years old, going on 2 or 3. In September of 2011 he went into the hospital for what we thought was pneumonia. It was a false alarm, but they kept him in the hospital for a week "just to make sure." During that time, his memory became much worse, and they kept him in bed the entire time, causing him to lose all of his strength. The doctors then informed us he needed to go to rehab before they could release him to go home.
Rehab was about as close to a nursing home as my mother and I ever want to get. His room was right next door to the nurses' station, yet it took them 45 minutes or more to make it to our room whenever we called for them. He stayed in Dante's 7th Level of Hell for three weeks before I volunteered to move into my parent's home to help care for dad. Mom is much too weak, and would have no way of picking him up if he were to fall, or helping him walk from room to room. My offer to help in this regard is probably the only reason he is still not in rehab today... or worse.
After going back and forth for about 10 minutes or so, Dad finally begins to get up. I then grab him by the back of his pants to help get him up the rest of the way...
"Damn it Hell! You don't care about me... You don't care about me at all!"
"I know, Dad... Here, take my hand."
With one hand holding on to the back of his pants, I use the other to hold onto his hand and to help steady him as we move towards his walker.
"Here, Dad, hold onto both sides."
As he grabs his walker, I then start gathering his oxygen tubing with my free hand, attempting to keep it out of his way so he won't trip as he walks. The oxygen machine sits in the middle of our living room, with 50 feet of pencil-thin tubing that allows him to walk from one end of the house to the other.
"Alright, Dad, it's time to go across the hall."
"No, Dad, right over there, where your bedroom is."
The length of time it takes to read this article is about how long it takes my father to walk across the hall. He used to wake up every morning at 5:30 a.m. and go on a 4-mile walk before work. The May before his 71st birthday, he entered his very first mini-marathon, walking the entire way. Those days are long gone. Now, he has trouble making it 3 or 4 feet without stopping to catching his breath, or asking when he can sit back down.
"OK Dad, we're almost there... You need to turn right now."
"I wanna go left."
"We will. But first you need to go inside of the bathroom, so we can change clothes and get ready for bed."
For about the first month after Dad returned home, there was a chair that sat between his bedroom and master bathroom door. If we weren't careful, he would sit down in that chair and refuse to get up on our way to the restroom. For a man who claims to be extremely patient and kind, he's a stubborn pain in the ass when he wants to beÉ and usually the time he wants to be the biggest pain is right before bed.
"Fuck you! I don't want to go to the restroom."
"Dad, don't talk like that."
"Fuck you, you fat fatty!"
"Thanks, Dad, I love you too... Now come on, we need to change clothes so you can go to bed."
"Damn it to hell! You don't care about me at all!"
LOL! There gets to be a point where you can't help but laugh. Or stop to think that perhaps this is some sort of Karmic retribution for all of the terrible things I did to my father while I was growing up. Like the time he chased me through the house, and I slammed the door behind me, only he couldn't stop himself in time, and plowed right through the door. Or the day that I came out to him. A day he has long since forgotten.
"Dad, I need you to lower your pants and your underwear."
"Get away from me!"
"Dad, I'm trying to help you! Now come on, you need to lower your pants and your underwear so we can get ready for bed."
"Get away from me! Joan Dee! Get him away from me!"
"He's trying to help you!"
"No he's not. Look at him, he's just standing there."
I learned a long time ago to let Dad do things for himself. At least as much as he possibly can. I make him do things like unbuckle his pants, and unbutton his shirt, partly because I want him to remember HOW to do those things; but also because of what I learned at camp.
Back in '85, I was a camp counselor at Camp Koch for the Disabled (or "differently abled" as they are called now) in Southern Indiana. A large number of the campers were confined to wheelchairs; and yet, the camp itself was located on top of one of the steepest hills in all of IndianaÉ Go figure. The first 2 weeks of camp, we worked with "older" campers who lived in group homes during the year, and used this as their vacation time. It was also a time to teach the rookie counselors, like myself, a lesson or two on how to do our jobs.
Out of the four guys who were assigned to me, I had one camper, in particular, who was my "problem child" and took up all of my time. He was confined to a wheelchair, and I could hardly understand a word he said. I did everything for him: I helped get him dressed in the morning, I fed him... You name it, I did it.
After the fourth day of being his personal slave, I overslept, and one of the other campers needed help shaving. All he had was a straight razor, and he had cerebral palsy, so his face twitched and spasmed the entire time I was trying to shave him. It was one of the most nerve wracking 20 minutes of my entire life! One wrong move, and I would have been reenacting a scene out of "Sweeney Todd".
After finishing, I rushed back to my "problem child" camper only to find him writhing on the floor, dressing himself. He looked up at me like a deer caught in headlights and said, "I'm sorry!" Turns out, I was the camp joke. I was the arrogant ass that everyone was just waiting to teach a lesson to. He knew how to dress himself the entire time, but he let me do it for him because it was like a vacation for him to have someone wait on him hand and foot. Lesson learned.
Dressing Dad has become somewhat of a ritual. He may cuss me out the entire time, but it's still one that I enjoy. First comes two pairs of Depends with extra guards in each, so he'll stay dry even if he doesn't quite make it through the night. Then his pajama bottoms, followed by slipping on his slippers. Once his slippers are both on, I stand back up and remove the oxygen tube from his nose before asking him to remove his shirt.
"OK, Dad, now put on your night shirt."
Some nights he forgets how, and I talk him through it; but for the most part, he still remembers how to put on his own shirt.
"Alright Dad, it's time to stand back up."
He's like a little kid, always asking "Why? Why???"
"You need to get up so we can go to bed."
"I wanna go to bed."
"Alright then, you need to get up!"
And round and round we go! Till he finally does get up and holds onto his walker, so mom can wash off his behind before I have him raise up his underwear and pants. And on a really good night, he'll do everything I ask to do without cussing me out and telling me how worthless I am... but those nights are far and few between. Still, by the time I get him into bed, and put his oxygen back on, he never lets me leave the room without saying the same thing to me on a nightly basis:
"I love you... Thanks so much for helping me!"
"I love you, too, Dad... Good night!"