On providing comfort

Lutheran comfort dogs. Photo via Religion News Service.
Lutheran comfort dogs. Photo via Religion News Service.

I spent much of the day in my father’s room at the nursing home today. I got word that a doctor ordered a sonogram  last night so I wanted to be there since the evening staff last night had, not surprisingly, zero idea why the test was ordered. Thankfully, the results (checking for internal bleeding) were negative.

Last week, in a flurry of work and neighborhood social activities (conferences, commencement, and a blogger meet-up), I missed four consecutive days of seeing my dad. I felt terrible about it (and enlisted my brothers to go the extra mile and visit more) but I’m not going to lie, I felt as if I could get a little bit more done in this thing we call regular life. I did a huge grocery shop, for instance. I washed my own clothes as opposed to sending it to the wash and dry. I concentrated a little more than usual on work. You know, the way I used to be. But at the back of my mind, I wondered if my dad noticed I wasn’t there, and hoped my mother was OK keeping up with it all, especially since, in recent weeks, she returned to her part-time job.

So I’ve gone three times since Sunday of this week and noticed my dad is uncomfortable. Again, the Parkinson’s, the fall and hip fracture, and surgeries, have eroded his ability to form words. Everything sounds like a light moan. So light, that I never worry about the nursing home staff getting annoyed with him; they can barely hear him!

But on Monday night, my brother, mother, and myself, could not figure out what he needed. The choices are limited: adjustment of his position on the bed? Ice/water in the mouth (because he has trouble swallowing, he cannot eat or drink)? Diaper change? Pain?

Many times, he does not (or will not?) respond ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Sometimes, after a full half hour of throwing different options out there, he’ll say yes (or no) to something I asked the first time. It’s frustrating.

And it also has me wondering if our visits hurt him. Stay with me here: Whenever I get there, if he is NOT sleeping, he’s calm. Quiet. And then he sees me and start trying to speak. Trust me, I’ve thought about whether he’s trying to tell us he’s being mistreated, but my mom was there so much before she returned to work, and through observing how they treat other patients, that cannot be it.

(*This is not to say I haven’t seen the staff get a bit snippy, or flat out ignore some other patients. In fact, it is the vocal and sometimes, most able, ones who find themselves ignored. :/)

So, I’m left wondering if dementia has really set in. After my dad fell, the hospital staff, unable to understand him, classified him with mild dementia. “Confused” is the word I’d see in his chart. Obviously, I hastily disagreed: He knew where he was every second. It was they who were confused about what he was trying to say. Or, when feeling ill with pneumonia, he wouldn’t respond to them. This is also confusing!

But, now, I won’t deny that he may have some mild symptoms. After all, it is expected in patients who have had Parkinson’s for many years. He is coming up on 19 years with this tough disease.

We are not going to stop visiting him, of course. I just wish there was a way to allay him of whatever is causing discomfort. Most of all, I think, if I were a millionaire, I’d purchase some technology where I could just strap some wires to his temples and a machine would tell me what he is saying.

I’ve said this before — my dad is where I get my personality and I sure do miss talking to him about sports, music, and jokes. :/

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2 thoughts on “On providing comfort

  1. garnettd

    Thank you. My father was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s and mild dementia. Your blog has helped me understand my new “normal.”

  2. Pingback: A well-being experiment: the Facebook-free summer. | Scene By Gina

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