Finding Usefulness and Humor in the Difficult Situation of Living with an Elderly Parent.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Dr. Welby Never Had It Like This
Dadzilla in a China Shop
Dadzilla has a
new type of appointment. A few times per week he now goes to
hydrotherapy in an attempt to help his breathing. One Tuesday he
goes to the hospital where they offer the hydrotherapy. I thought
the appointment was for the morning, but I guess I could be wrong.
He doesn't show up in the early afternoon. I think I hear him enter
his room, clunking around. I see no sign of him the rest of the day,
not even his van.
It comes to be
early evening, and the sun is now setting. Something is not right.
Dadzilla never drives at night since he can barely see during the
day, nevermind dim light. I find a couple tenants at the picnic
table. They tell me that he is at the hospital, that they thought
the apartment manager told me. I begin to wonder who was tromping
around in the apartment if it wasn't Dadzilla. I come to the
realization that the upstairs neighbors must have been so loud that I
thought the thumping was coming from inside our apartment!
I head over to
the hospital where Dadzilla is supposed to be, the one where his
hydrotherapy appointment was. I find out the information about his
room number and find him there watching TV. He tells me that he had
trouble breathing immediately after his therapy, so they admitted him
to the hospital. They haven't found anything yet, and they hold him
for observation. Nothing much new for either of us besides the
obvious, so I head home, pick up some his toiletries, and drop them
off to him. We chit-chat for a little while, then off I go. He
thinks he'll be home tomorrow afternoon.
I feel guilty
for feeling relieved that I finally have peace for more than an hour
or two. I haven't gotten a break from his nonsense in over 5 years
when he went to visit my brother for a couple weeks around his
birthday. It's nice. I remember the advantages of living alone, or
even a roommate or two that isn't him. I don't have to acquiesce to
anyone's need to feel in control and superior.
The next day
he doesn't come home in the afternoon. I call him, and he tells me
they're keeping him for more tests. He sits around watching TV,
bored. Sometimes he gets up to walk around a bit to stretch his
legs. Funny, that sounds like what he does at home, just with less
freedom. He's going stir crazy, goddamnit. At least he thinks he'll
at last be home tomorrow. I enjoy an entire day of quiet and freedom
to walk around without a shadow, nor an inquisition!
the next day, 'ding-dong'. Doorbell. The apartment manager is at
the door. He wakes me up to tell me that something is horribly
wrong. The hospital called and left messages at the office number.
They couldn't get a hold of me.
I rush to the
phone. We've had wiring trouble with the handset. Cheap garbage. I
wiggle some wires on the body of the phone. Somehow, the ringer must
also be affected, though I'm at a loss for how. Three messages, all
hospital related about Dadzilla.
I call the
floor nurse back. Dadzilla wanted to leave last night. He told me
he'd see me tomorrow, so I thought all was well. Silly me. An
impatient Dadzilla started getting angry and loud. The staff tried
to soothe the savage beast. An inconsolable Dadzilla made threats.
The staff probably tried to reassure him, but in doing so, put their
hands on an enraged Dadzilla. Dadzilla misinterpreted the touch and
started waylaying staff with a makeshift weapon in the form of his
cane! The staff subdued Dadzilla and put restraints on him, which
also tethered him to his bed. Dadzilla wore himself out and is now
wants to figure out if he might be exhibiting signs of dementia. I
relay to her what he has told me, that he's had very little sleep in
the past several weeks. I know that can cause cognitive issues. She
tells me that all the tests they've done show no new anomalies and
nothing to cause new breathing difficulties. He's free to be
discharged, but she would like me to wait a couple hours, because a
sleeping Dadzilla is a healing Dadzilla that isn't causing mayhem on
a hospital ward.
I talk to
friends online. I get the feeling they may have thought I was
exaggerating the stories about Dadzilla. I tell them the news about
bedlam at St. Joseph's. They say they've believed me all along.
They're familiar with stubborn, old coots that refuse to listen to
any form of reason and act out. I wonder why their elderly relatives
don't act this way, why I'm the one with the misfortune.
I actually go
to the hospital twice. The first time, no matter what I do, I can't
wake him up in a soothing way. I'm not going to stir the pot at the
hospital after what they've been through with him, so I went home.
Turns out, he woke up very shortly after I left. They released one
of his two restraints, and the hospital bed is now on the floor.
They tell me they do that if there's a danger of someone falling out
of bed. I've never seen such a thing, but it makes sense.
is actually an interconnected wonder. Just about everything is
computerized and/or made electronic. It's a far cry from old shows
that portrayed hospitals as a sanitized world of nurses with white
caps, gurneys of cold steel, and beds of stiff metal with rigid,
This time I
bring a neighbor with me. Someone has to drive Dadzilla's van home.
The best part is he can say things to him that I can't, lest I cause
a temper tantrum for being disrespectful, goddamnit. “Get your ass
out of bed, you mean old bastard! Get dressed, or we're leaving your
ass in the hospital!” It was said in jest, but if I'd even done
that, he'd have flown off the deep end.
nurse has to get discharge papers ready. Meanwhile, Dadzilla tries
to get out of bed. An alarm goes off. One of the other nurses
rushes in. He's still hooked up to an alarm from his behavior the
night before. She makes sure that at least one of us will be there
at all times, then disconnects him, and removes the last restraint.
Her bedside manner is great. She doesn't show irritation in the
least. Much better than what I'd be like. Another break from the
old days, when they'd just about put people in straight jackets and
keep that grudge for the rest of their stay.
unsteady, so an orderly has to wheel him out. While we wait for the
elevator, he makes comments loud enough for the entire staff at the
desk to hear, just in case they haven't registered his disdain. I
think they feel sorry for me. They should. They only had to deal
with him for a couple days. I've been in hell for years.
drives home with him in the passenger seat. I drive for my last few
minutes of freedom. When we get home, he settles in, and looks over
the mail and his medical papers. I see that we have beer and take
one outside with me. Not three minutes go by and I have a shadow in
the form of Dadzilla. It begins anew.