Thursday, September 24, 2009

Commendable Caregivers

I saw two new patients/families today worth noting. The first patient slept for most of the visit, he has Alzheimers and the overcast skies were not encouraging him to get out of bed. I met with his daughter "J" who shared their harrowing story. J has really stepped up to the plate for her dad. She moved up from Florida last fall to take care of her dad, after he left her close to 70 messages in 2 hours repeating the same thing. She knew something was wrong and advocated for him despite a healthcare system that would not take the time to diagnose him. She advocated for him even though he tried to kick her out. She pursued guardianship even as her siblings fought about who should be in charge and spread lies about each other. In the end, her dad was diagnosed with Alzheimers, she was named guardian, and she moved her dad into an apartment he owns. Her husband travels back and forth in the meantime. All this is commendable in and of itself. However, I think J's past informs her present. You see, J's dad beat her and her siblings throughout their childhood. He was emotionally unavailable during her adulthood. And even as she takes care of him now, it is not uncommon for him to bite, kick, or try to punch her. Yet J told me she feels it is important to do this for her dad. She said she has forgiven him; she is letting the past stay in the past. She said someone needed to step up to the plate and she knew her sisters and brothers wouldn't do it. So here she is. Her life has drastically changed because of this choice but J has no regrets.

This afternoon I met with a spunky lady, her hired caregiver, and her daughter. The patient has just returned to her home after a year of hospitalizations and nursing home stays. She is so happy to be back home! Her daughter has seen a big improvement in her mom since she's been back...the power of being in one's own home. This patient is very hard of hearing and almost blind so the daughter and I talked about what we can do to bring enjoyment to her days. I'm referring her for a volunteer, pet therapy, and music therapy, plus I'll be visiting every week. I talked to the daughter for awhile about family involvement. The daughter has handled all the details of her mom's care and transition back home. One would assume that she is the POAH but she told me that her brother is the POAH, in fact. She said that he really doesn't do anything other than sign the papers; he is content to leave the details up to her. I talked to her about this and she is at peace with her role. She asked, "Isn't this what daughters do?" Daughters are overwhelmingly the primary caregiver or decision maker for their parents but I don't think statistics lessen the impact of this role. Both of these situations are complex but at the heart of the matter, these daughters are doing their best for their parent, regardless of the toll it takes on them. It's beautiful to witness.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, daughters and forgiveness. I'm still working on that one.

Finally pet therapy is becoming "mainstream." Years ago my mother set up the financial end of several linked Alzheimers facilities. They had a cat the residents loved.

Years later when she was terminally ill, the same person who employed her back then got her into hospice care and hopefully she died at peace with herself and her life.