Life After Living With Dad ...

You have adapted and thrived in different countries, communities, and circumstances. You have the ability to forge relationships and understanding. You’re determined, creative, resilient and resourceful. You don’t need to tell your whole story in a letter. Tell enough to intrigue them, you hemisphere-jumping, continent-crossing traveler.

Veronica McCabe Deschambault, writer, artist, editor.

Dad and I.jpg

We are now entering the days after the months of caring for Dad.

The days where I begin again. I’m searching for work, for a home …

I have been moving out into the rest of the house, for the weeks that I can continue to live here … previously I had restricted myself to my bedroom but then Dad was admitted to a local rest-home, quite unexpectedly.

You see, he was scratched by Mark, his tabby cat, and the wound became infected. We were working on it, with the doctor and antibiotics, with the District Nurse coming in twice per week, with the care-workers who helped with his pressure stockings watching for heat or spreading redness.

One night, I heard Dad moving around and, by then, his mind was slipping more often. Nights were restless for him. I went out to see why he was in the lounge. It was almost midnight. He was freezing, he said, as he turned on the heater.

I got him back to bed. For some reason, I missed the big clue and filled him a hot-water bottle, made him a hot cup of tea, and got him back to his bed.

His breath became laboured. And, very quickly, I thought I was losing him … one frosty misty night in the middle of winter.

I called the ambulance and they came, eventually. I called them back, just to check because Dad was struggling to breathe, and time has a tendency to slow down when you’re waiting for someone to come save your Dad.

They diagnosed his high temperature, almost immediately (how did I miss that), and listened to his chest. It was fluid-filled. He was in congestive heart failure.

They were great, filled him with all kinds of drugs, put him on oxygen, and rolled him out to the ambulance. I went with him.

13 hours later, a bed was found in the hospital, and Dad was in for a few days and I went home. It was a little like having jetlag, after 30+ hours awake. But it was good, it felt like he was safe and secure, and I was off-duty.

The fever passed, they stopped the antibiotics in ER but he stayed in hospital more than a week, as they pumped him full of a drug that drained the fluid from all over his body.

He came home but he was never the same … for all kinds of reasons.

He had loved the 24./7 presence of people, there in the hospital. Dad has always been a very social man, and it very quickly reached the point where he would call me, if I left the house for more than an hour. My world was already small. It had became simpler not to go out in the evenings, simpler not to go out for too long but this was more of a strait-jacket existence. I was exhausted.

He was more confused, as the Dementia - probably made worse by anxiety, when alone and those phone calls were about where I could find him when I came back for him.

He was always at home but he was forgetting. He would forget where his bedroom was. His dinner routine. Everything, just sometimes.

He wanted to go home … but he meant a return to childhood. It became more and more stressful but we were coping. Adjusting.

We were fortunate. The powers that be came in to assess his needs, after his time in hospital. He was worse than we realised. The assessor made a phone call and 5 days later, Dad had a place in a local rest home - 2 weeks of respite care.

To my relief, he accepted that we both needed a break but then the rest home situation became like a runaway horse. I hadn’t imagined admitting him, and he was still adamant he wouldn’t go … then he was in.

These days, 3 or 4 weeks since admission … it is taking longer than I had expected, for me, to accept it. I struggled with guilt, had I tricked him? How would he cope? Could I have done more, held on a bit longer?

Meanwhile, there is Dad, generally thriving.

He has a gang of armchair friends. The staff are still telling me he’s lovely to deal with, ‘a great sense of humour’. And this man, who had built his life around routines and regimes that couldn’t be messed with, is slipping into his new life with ease.

And am still visiting him, on or two times per day. It’s a lovely place. Small, just 33 residents. Routines that delight Dad … especially when they involve food. He feels safe, and warm, and secure. He’s not lonely any more. He is taken care of by others and his anxiety is quickly dealt with.

Slowly I’m learning how to let go. That our time of sharing his house is over and I’m just his daughter again.. His Dementia continues to advance however he still knows me still. I introduce myself, whenever possible, as his granddaughter. He’s in there, immediately, saying ‘No, you’re my bloody daughter!’ Seemingly outraged that I would even try that :-)

The words I began this post with … Veronica reminding me of life before Dad. Reminding me I can start over again … how many times have I done it already.

And so here I am, waiting for the next wave, as I organise his ‘stuff’ for a downsize, and the sale of his home to pay for the rest home.

I’m learning. Always learning.

Writing a new Resume, deciding on Cover Letters, dancing the dance of starting over again.

Here’s to the next part of the adventure.