When I wondered at the end of a recent post what October would hold, I had no idea that we’d be spending much of it back in Vancouver!
We’ve lived for a long time with the knowledge that we might have to make a quick trip to the coast at any time if something happened to either of my elderly parents. That moment came when my father’s alarmingly large prostate caused a complete urinary blockage about three weeks ago. He also had a urinary infection. My sister, the doctor in the family, flew out first to provide immediate care but she wasn’t able to stay long term. We drove out arriving just a few hours before she had to leave for the airport to return to her family. Having the vehicle here has made it possible for us to ferry Dad to numerous medical appointments and procedures, some related to the prostate problem and some not.
It was with some trepidation that I took over from my sister knowing that in addition to cooking, grocery shopping, laundry and becoming primary caregiver for Mom, who’s in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, I’d also be responsible for caring for Dad’s medical needs. Before leaving home, we asked our church family and friends to pray and I have absolutely no doubt that they’ve been doing so. I’m absolutely certain that without those prayers, I would be completely unable to do all that I’ve had to do with any degree of patience or grace. Nothing in life really prepares you for having to clean your father’s catheter twice a day or help your mother change her soiled pants!
By Day 9 of Operation Parent Care, when Mom appeared to have developed a touch of diarrhea, I thought I might have reached the end of my rope. I didn’t know if I could handle another thing. That’s when something in the back of the toilet broke and we had a sudden flood! Water poured from the top of the tank like a mini Niagara. In minutes the bathroom was full of water and it was flowing out the door! Richard waded in, Dad ran (hobbled) off to find a pipe wrench and I called the apartment emergency number. Within minutes a maintenance man arrived at the door like a rescuing angel and in no time at all a powerful shop vac had sucked up most of the water and the toilet’s inner workings had been completely replaced. What could I do but laugh? The tension of the day had definitely been broken and on we went, tiptoeing over dampened carpet for the next 24 hours or so.
Today is Day 12. At this point, we have no idea how long we’ll be here. We do know that Dad requires surgery and that he’ll be catheterized until that takes place. It wasn’t at all comforting to have the specialist assure us that surgery could probably be booked for sometime before Christmas!
Fortunately, Dad’s infection has cleared and he has regained much of his strength. I’m teaching him to care for his own catheter and he’s beginning help with Mom’s care again. Sadly, her condition has deteriorated significantly since we were here just three months ago. My siblings and I are of the opinion that she needs a level of care that can’t really be provided at home, especially by a frail 89-year-old, but I’m not sure how much success we’ll have trying to convince him of that. I hate the idea of leaving them on their own again but what choice do we have. We’ll definitely ensure that someone is here to help when he undergoes surgery but I can’t stay here forever.