My dad lived with me for 5 years. He had to go into a nursing home 6 months ago. No one told me that I would still be a caregiver after he went into the NH. My dad and I formed a bond while he lived with me. He's a good, kind, sweet, and intelligent man. He was a wonderful father and a loyal husband for 40 years. We've had scares with him before and it was always uppermost in my mind that with all of his chronic illnesses he could go at anytime but now he's actually going through the dying process. It's reflected in his blood tests, his BP is 80/60, his O2 sat is below 90 and now he's difficult to arouse. Today he started refusing to eat. We signed papers with hospice last night and in the 24 hours we've had them they've been so wonderful and I'm so glad they're there with us during this.
Since going into the NH I have become my dad's touchstone. Everything is alright as long as I'm there. The responsibility and, yes, burden of this was enormous. While my dad had lovely visits with my brother, I got Depressed Dad. Morose Dad. Please Kill Me Now Dad. I left feeling drained and depressed so I took my own advice and began redirecting him and not letting him get that way when I was there. Dementia settled in a few months ago and with it came obsessing and hallucinations. Again, I'd redirect my dad. And this has gone on for months. My hat is off to those of you who deal with dementia and Alzheimer's for years. Your saints, each and every one of you.
My dad and I were always close and since he moved in with me after my mom died we grew closer. We've always been able to talk about anything and though my dad has always been a charming and lovable man, it doesn't mean that being his caregiver was wonderful. Being his daughter was and is wonderful. Being his caregiver practically broke me because we had had such a close relationship. For our roles to change, for me to become the parent was a horrible transition for us both.
Now here we are, 6 months later. I may not care for him everyday but I am every bit his caregiver and advocate, legally and ethically. And he's dying. There have been nights when I have prayed that he would pass away in his sleep because he was so miserable. Or sick. Or because the stress and anxiety was affecting my health. I'm not proud of that but it's the truth. Usually my prayers consisted of this: "Please make it stop, please make it stop."
And I feel ashamed because some of you are dealing with such horrible situations and in comparison, I had it easy. But it wasn't easy for me. Or my family. The stress I felt came from trying to get my dad on Medicaid and getting phone calls from him late at night because he couldn't find his pants and him begging me to come and visit him when I visit him all the time, he just doesn't remember. But to him, in his world, he hadn't seen me in weeks and that broke my heart that he thought that. That was his truth.
Now he's in the 'Dying Process'. He's barely awake anymore. He's not eating or drinking much. He's picking at his skin and making himself bleed. He's not voiding much. His vitals are bad. I work in healthcare and I can almost see into his body based on his last blood test (2 days ago) and see what's going on. It's shutting down. His diabetic kidneys. His cirrhotic liver. His CHF heart. It's just all dying and now all I want to do is yell at him, "Wake up, daddy! Come back!!" He's always claimed to be agnostic but secretly I think he's an atheist who was surrounded by spiritual-minded people and he didn't want to offend anyone. But being a praying person I wonder if my mom is waiting for my dad? Is she hovering someone in the ether watching us all go through this? Strange things like that keep crossing my mind.
I can't imagine life without my dad. My mom and I were close but I had such a different relationship with my dad and I've had him longer than I had my mom. While my dad was living with me I used to wonder if my mom would be proud of me, caring for my dad the way I was. But strange things cross my mind. What's it going to feel like to have no parents anymore? My dad has been the center of my universe for 5 1/2 years now. What happens when he's gone? What will I do with that void?
And the pain. I've never really processed my mom's death. I feel guilty for that but I still can't feel it, 6 years after she died. Will my dad's death tear me apart? And exactly how long does he have? I want an answer! A week? 10 days? Two weeks? Logically I know no one can answer that but I still want to know. If I know when to expect it then maybe I can prepare although I've read that no one is ever really prepared. But I want a date and time. Right now there's this fog, this sense of surrealism. My dad is dying. I know that. It's the unknown that scares me. The pain, the sense of loss, the guilt, the memories. How bad is it going to hurt?