Overwhelmed and want my Dad back!

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My father (73 y/o) had scheduled back surgery 5 weeks ago, and is currently in a rehab center. However, he is not making any physical progress, mostly (I think) because his mental condition has declined severely. For weeks, numerous doctors, psychiatrists, specialists have said that it is "Hospital Delirium" and should clear. But it has gotten worse. Lab tests are good, MRI of brain was clear, he has been treated for UTI with antibiotics, and is NOT on any narcotics or mind-altering medications. He's been through a lot over the last couple of years ... my mom (his wife of 48 years) died of breast cancer 9 months ago, so doctors/we felt that in addition to being depressed over mom dying, the unfamiliarity of hospital room, then rehab, then back to hospital (had to have a second emergency surgery about 3 weeks ago to relieve a hematoma at surgical site), and general stress of what he has been through has contributed to his "delirium." Before the surgery, his mind was sharp as a tack, and now, 5 weeks later, he doesn't know where he is, he tries to get out of bed (he can't walk) and demanding he needs to drive himself home. He has been back and forth to the ER (which is on same campus as rehab) several times for blood pressure issues, a fall out of his bed (no serious injuries, thank God), and the hematoma. Every once in a while, he will carry on a somewhat lucid conversation with me or other friends/family, but every day gets foggier and foggier. I am so frustrated, angry, anxious, worried and sad. It just wasn't supposed to be this way.

I live 2 hours away from him, am married with a 10 year-old daughter. I have a part-time job, which isn't necessarily for financial reasons. I am riddled with guilt, and feel so overwhelmed. I feel like I should be there with him ... but then feel like I should be here with my husband and daughter. The anxiety is excruciating to me. I feel like I'm being pulled in several directions.

I have a sister who lives 7 hours away from Dad. She comes when she can, but she has 4 children, and obviously it's not as easy for her to just scoot over for a quick visit. My aunt and uncle (mom's sister and bro-in-law) live in the same city as Dad, so they check on him ... but I just feel so guilty for not being there. I know he wants me there, even though I'm not sure how much he actually processes when I am there.

I feel so hopeless, and see no end in sight for any of this ..... anyone know how I feel?

4 Comments

Anesthesia is so difficult on elderly people and the hospital delirium is a very real thing but it should have subsided by now. How your dad is may be his new normal, his new baseline.

What happens when the PT's at the rehab decide that he will not improve? His Medicare will discontinue and he'll have to be discharged. Does anyone live with him? He can't safely live alone anymore.

I cared for my dad and he was in rehab and failed to improve and they suggested he be placed in the adjacent nursing home. He had been living with me previously. It was very stressful and like you, there was no end in sight. It was just a constant wave of stress washing over me over and over and over. I about lost my mind.

I was local so things were easier for me than they are for you. But you might want to put it in the back of your mind that you might have to go to your dad to tend to his issues. You might have to do that several times. If he has no family or support who can make decisions on his behalf it will fall to you. Do you have POA over your dad? You might want to get this ASAP. It can be done long distance via the social worker at the rehab facility. However, in your dad's state of mind he may not be eligible to assign POA. But I would ask if I were you. Being his POA will help you in the days, weeks, and months to come.
Yes, I do have POA -- medical and financial. We set all of that up long ago, and I'm so glad we did!
I hope it makes you feel slightly better to know that if you were three miles from him, you'd still be very upset. I'm betting on hospital delirium. I'd agree it's been a long time for that, but he's so out of his element, it's not that surprising. He's been through a lot. Back and forth from rehab to hospital isn't easy. I'm betting he'll pull out of it.

In the meantime, know that he's in a safe place; visit when you can; and let the professionals do their thing.
Fifi834, I have read that for every hour one is under during a surgery, it will take one month for each hour for the person to shake the fog in their brain. Thus, a 3 hour surgery, 3 months for the mind to recoup. Then add grieving to the mix. And in the mean time being in a hospital/rehab can be unnerving, different environment, different food, different people every 8 hours, etc. My Dad thought he was in a hotel during his last hospital visit.

Sometimes when it comes to physical therapy the person just feels like it not going to make any difference so why bother. My Mom was great for PT, she did everything the therapist told her to do, and 10 years later Mom is still doing the same exercises and she is 96.... my Dad, on the other hand, did the exercises only when the therapist was there :P

Your Dad is still young... my boss is 79 and can run circles around me, don't know where he gets all that energy.

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