Next week we begin the heart-wrenching steps to place my father in a skilled-nursing facility in New Hampshire.
Parkinson’s disease has taken its toll on him and on my mother, his caregiver. I am thankful this day was so long in coming— over 20 years from the date of his diagnosis—but still too soon for all of us.
Over the past month my father has lost his ability to assist with his care, especially transfer r ing f rom bed to chair to commode and back. On a good day, or moment, my sister and mother can help him make the short trip. On a bad day, like a few weeks ago, my sister and my mother struggled for an hour to get my father—upon returning from getting his flu shot—out of the car and back into the house, even with the help of a third person.
In the best sense of the word, my mother is a martyr, having sacrificed her own pleasure and well-being for years to ensure my father lives with the greatest level of dignity and enjoyment.
They just celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary.
As a family we have deliberated mightily over all viable options to care for my dad.
Full-time, paid in-home care seemed like an option a few months ago, but now that my father needs a three-person assist just to get from his bed to the bathroom, it seems unrealistic that my sister will be available as the third helper every time my father needs to be moved from point A to point B.
I try to imagine how everyone feels.
My father, deeply depressed because he is such a burden to his wife, has retreated into silence. My mother has said she is exhausted, and I can sense her feeling completely inadequate because she can no longer patiently cajole the love of her life into moving his feet.
As my mother faces placing him in a facility, I wonder if she feels she is breaking her marriage vows. We all know the words: “In sickness and health, till death do us part.”
I think about my sister, whom my parents moved closer to for help. She has been a godsend, but since she has a compromised immune system, will she be willing or able to visit my father in a skilled-nursing facility?
I once cared for an elderly gentleman who spent time in skilled nursing, and I think back to that time.
No matter how attentive the staff was, there were many times the call button was not answered in enough time to prevent an accident. I think of my father and how he will feel in those circumstances. I ask the question many seniors may be asking themselves in this type of situation. Is this what it comes to after 85 years of being a good son, brother, veteran, husband, breadwinner, friend, neighbor, father and grandfather?
I pray for silver linings for both my parents.
I am hopeful that my mother can now begin to transition back to being a wife rather than a caregiver. And I am hopeful that my father will enjoy participating in activities with other men, something that’s been lost to him as a homebound senior.
A move to a nursing home doesn’t happen just to the resident— it is a process that the whole family is involved in.
So we travel this journey together.