On Tuesday of this week, my brother Gray helped get my dad into a nursing home. It’s been a long struggle. For the past three-and-a-half years Dad has suffered from severe anxiety and depression, lying on the couch during the day and tossing and turning at night. It’s such a change from the man I’ve always known, who was optimistic, energetic, and enthusiastic, ready to change the world or chop a load of firewood, whichever was needed most. We’re not really sure what happened. My mom thinks it started when he stripped a piece of furniture and spent three weeks in the presence of those strong fumes. The doctors disagree, and they’ve experimented with a raft of psychotropic drugs. Nothing seems to help.
And so Dad went to the hospital last week mostly because he lacked the will to get out of bed. Mom called the doctor, who suggested that they meet him at the hospital. After four days there, and a full battery of tests, a nursing home seemed like the best option. My brother Gray, who lives in the same town (and who has been absolutely heroic in the care of my parents) sent this message to his five brothers at the end of a long day on Tuesday:
Today was a good day.
I picked up Dad and Mom from the hospital at about 2:00 and drove them to the nursing home. We were warmly greeted by a number of friendly staff members and taken immediately to Dad’s room. While the nurses went through the check-in process and helped Dad unpack, I took Mom for a tour, including a stop by the ice cream parlor where she made Dad an ice cream cone. By the time we got back, Dad was all settled in. I left Mom to visit with Dad, went and did all the paperwork and then dashed back to the office for a meeting. When I returned around 5:30, Mom was all smiles and Dad seemed totally content.
Dad’s is sharing a room with a very sweet and alert 90 year old man who worked in the CCC camps during the Great Depression and later served in the Navy. His sister and brother were visting from out of town and were very reassuring about what a nice place this nursing home is. That was really encouraging to all of us.
All of the staff that we worked with, or just bumped into while we were touring around, were super nice, cheerful and patient. A nurse and a physical therapist got a complete run-down on Dad’s medications, medical history, and current physical condition. I think Dad appreciated the professionalism and it probably didn’t hurt that they were both young, pretty, and sweet.
Mom was absolutely thrilled. She couldn’t believe what a nice place it was and that we could actually afford it. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to see so pleased with our choice. She had been really determined to go the Presbyterian Home and I was afraid that she wouldn’t like any other option.
When we left the nursing home, Mom and I spent about 45 minutes practicing how to get to there. (It’s only a mile or so away from one of the hospitals that she has been to repeatedly, so we just had to practice on that small stretch of unfamiliar road.) It was cute. A lot like giving driving lessons to your teenager. After a few tries, she seemed to have it down pat.
I think it will be a couple of weeks before we really have a feel for how this is going to work, but like I said, it was a very good day.
Anyone who has helped a parent into a nursing home knows what a difficult decision it can be, and how many emotions are attached to that move. I’m surprised by how grateful and relieved I feel at the moment. Maybe it hasn’t sunk in yet. Maybe it will. But for now I’m simply thankful that such a good place exists, and that my dad is there.
And that my mom can bring him an ice cream cone.