This week, my father-in-law was hospitalized. My husband called me half an hour before I was leaving for work to let me know he was going to the hospital this time. I say “this time” because a month ago his mom was hospitalized and I went to the hospital to be with them. In the subsequent days, I picked up Dad to take him to the hospital, to take care of any issues that arose, to be their advocate, and to eventually take Mom home. We've been down the road of caring for elderly parents before and know the importance of pacing yourself. We are a good team.
The physicians had no diagnosis. Dad had awakened, incoherent, that morning, unable to speak or respond to any questions Mom asked him. An ambulance was called, he was admitted to a local hospital, and the tests began. It wasn't his heart, it wasn't a stroke; these and more were ruled out. While we have no definitive answers, my husband and I suspect it was dehydration.
Since moving the folks to our city, we can see that Dad is in the early stages of some sort of dementia. The messages in his brain get confused and he forgets that he's thirsty and doesn't get enough to drink. It's not uncommon to ask if he'd like something to drink or have something to eat and he'll say, “No.” However, if you sit down moments later with a drink or snack, he'll ask if he could have something as well. We will now have to be intentional about just putting a glass of water or juice in front of him whenever we visit. If it appears before him, he'll drink it. It's that simple.
If only all issues of caregiving were so simple.
Dad was released the same day, and last night we all went out to dinner to celebrate my birthday. He was fine and fully engaged. We had a lovely time together. Mike is going to take him to a baseball game this weekend to celebrate his birthday and Dad is looking forward to it. For now, things are normal. In the span of a week we've gone from hospitalization to birthdays and baseball games.
Life gives me whiplash.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.