The past seven weeks have been so difficult. I am not sure I can write a coherent article about Charlie’s condition and the ensuing solution to our problems. His hospital admission that was outlined in my previous blog continued its downward spiral until it became apparent that I could no longer care for him at home.
Recognizing my Limitations as a Caregiver
By the fourth week of hospitalization, I realized that the limited help available through the VA was not going to be sufficient for a 79-year-old woman (me), to care for him around the clock. With that option ruled out, the question became, do I send him to a nursing home fully paid for by the VA? Or should I give in to his 48-year-old daughter’s request that Charlie be moved to her home five hours away, where she and her family would care for him?
She and I visited nursing homes in our immediate area; she cried her way through the tours and insisted, “I can do this.” One home was just a ten-minute drive from my home and, at first, seemed like the best option.
A great deal of thought, agony and tears went into the final decision. Laurie had spent the last four weeks of Charlie’s hospitalization camped out on a bench in his room around the clock, caring for his every need, cleaning up every mess, feeding and bathing him and changing his bed in the middle of the night. The nurses loved her; she made their job much easier. I finally reached the conclusion that she had earned the right to take her father home and care for him.
Making Difficult Care Decisions
I think everyone was shocked when I finally announced in a discharge meeting with hospital staff that I had decided to let my husband of 11 years move out of state to join his daughter’s family.
Laurie had made several strong points about the problems that would undoubtedly occur in a nursing home setting. At this point, Charlie was not even able to remember how to call a nurse if he needed pain medication or help with something. At times his hands were so swollen and painful from the rheumatoid arthritis that he was unable to feed himself or change his position in bed.
His condition had reached a point where it seemed cruel to subject him to a nursing home situation when someone was willing to care for him who loved him dearly and would do her best to see him through his last days (or years). I have no doubt that Laurie is in for much more than she bargained for. She has a husband and two children living at home, four dogs, a cat and a home that is not an ideal situation for someone who requires handicapped accessibility.
I insisted that she apply to the VA facility in her area to get as much help as possible in her endeavors. Charlie will be transferred to their Home Based Care Plan and will have assistance from the Visiting Nurses Association in upstate New York. His granddaughter is an RN and will assist her mother with his care.
Doing the Best I Can Do
Charlie left for New York five days ago, and I already miss him like crazy. I call him every day, although he is not able to share much of his life with me. I plan to keep up with his condition through the VA doctors and remain involved with health care decisions as much as possible. I don’t know if I can handle it if Charlie begins to beg me to take him home. I only pray that I made the right decision. That’s all any caregiver can do.