Well, I made it. Through snow and sleet. At Manchester Airport I bought A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian on CD and listened to it for most of the journey. I know, I know. Harry Potter. But he wasn't available in WH Smith. And A Short History was, oddly, an appropriate choice, being about two sisters who are 10 years apart coping with an elderly parent.
My nephew was still here when I arrived and filled me in on the falls and doctors' trips. On my first night I got a baptism by fire when my 86-year-old stepfather fell out of bed at 2 a.m. My mother got my nephew up, who lifted my stepfather back into bed. I looked on in extreme consternation. How will I cope if this happens on my watch? I can't lift my stepfather. I can just about help him up from his chair (it takes him about 10-15 minutes to get out of a chair on his own). And how will my mother cope when I leave?
That is the big dilemma. Her doctor took her off her tremor medication because it can cause lung congestion problems and hasn't prescribed an alternative. The shaking is annoying at best, but dangerous too. Watching her try to drink a cup of coffee is frightening. She is to have a colonoscopy on Tuesday. We are trying to get her over her latest virus, which gives her violent coughing fits, before then. I'm doing all the cleaning and cooking so she can rest.
But I'm still not attuned to life with my stepfather. He has gone downhill since last summer. We now have to help him get undressed at night. This is more difficult than it sounds. He is frail and can hardly lift his arms to help. Last night I guess I was a bit too rough and he cried out in pain as I tried to take his shirt off.
Since I'm jetlagged and waking up at 5 a.m., I have lots of time to think about this situation. There are only three solutions that I can see: 1. Get some more home help in daily to help these two. My mother can't cope on her own anymore; 2. Put my stepfather in a nursing home and my mother remains in his house till he dies; 3. My mother moves to Florida and my stepfather goes to a nursing home because he can't live on his own.
My stepfather has two daughters who love him dearly, one who lives just a couple of blocks away. I have not seen or heard from these daughters since I've been here. I think they have got their heads deeply dug in the sand about this situation. I am going to visit the local one while I'm here and force her to talk about it. I think Option 1 is the best. My stepfather would be miserable in a nursing home, I'm quite sure. If he were my dad, I wouldn't want to put him there. But they can't expect my mother to be able to look after him anymore. Then I'm going to talk to my mother's cousin, who seems to know all there is to know about this town, the Home Health Care lady, and possibly my mother's minister about where to find the help they need.
Currently, they receive Meals on Wheels five days a week. A woman comes in to bathe my stepfather every couple of days (now I know why old men are so whiffy). They both wear those alarm necklaces to push if they should fall. I think they need someone daily to look after them, as I am doing now. My mother, when she is better, will be able to cope with herself, but the added burden of my stepfather will be too much.
They are watching Lawrence Welk as I write this. As long as they can sit in their chairs all day and sleep, which is what they've been doing, they are fine. Car journeys are a torturous affair, with my stepfather shuffling to the car at the speed of a snail. Getting him in and then out is a bit like a horror movie. You never know what's going to happen. I can only guess at what goes on in his mind. Trips to the bathroom are also scary. If he's in too long, does it mean he has fallen again?
It's hell getting old. I'm not going to let it happen to me, at least not like this.