Preemptive Grief

It’s been over a year ago that my dad fell and fractured his hip. He despised being a resident in the nursing home so much that he made sure to exercise a little longer, sometimes even taking an extra session a day on his own. Age and osteoporosis had taken a major hit on my dad’s brittle bones.

Late this past fall, he fell again. The first time, a horse had given him a upercut to the head. This time, the dog, not use to being leashed, became excited and wrapped up my dad’s legs like a bolo. He laid on the couch in agony until finally my mother who had been gone all day arrived home to find him. An ambulance took him to the nearest hospital, a tiny one story building in a town less than 15 miles away. The doctor who examined him told him he just pulled a muscle. Go home and take it easy…

That was a Friday. Over the weekend my dad could barely function, he was in such pain. On Monday they went to see the local practitioner who then sent him here for xrays. Imagine my surprise and anger to find out that my dad had actually fractured a disc and that an xray had never even been performed at the hospital. What kind of physician examining an elderly patient with a history of osteo and presenting with severe pain due to a fall does NOT order an xray?! Oh, this kind.

He spent the first 30 days of his stay at the nursing home flat on his back because the injury was inoperable, not even getting out of bed to use the bathroom or eat. Nearly another month after that in physical rehab. Thankfully, he’s home now, but he’ll never be fully recovered.

A few weeks ago, I got a call from my SIL (my brother’s wife): they had now taken my mom to the hospital. Diagnosis? Septicemia after a nasty bout of UTI. Her doctor told her that she was lucky they caught it early as she was discharged within a couple of days with instructions to take it easy and drink lots of fluids.

My mother, god bless her often bitter and crabby heart, has been a rock throughout my life. But we’ve (we, as in my siblings) noticed her mind is slipping. She often repeats a story several times within a short span in a way that you know she doesn’t remember already saying them once, twice and sometimes three times before. Whether it’s due to her forgetfulness or not taking her doctor serious, her UTI infection was not clearing up and this past Thursday she was once again admitted to the hospital with severe dehydration.

In all likelihood, by the time you read this she will be back home, but we as an extended family can no longer joke and tease about sending our parents away to a nursing home. The reality is harsh and cold and almost impossible to wrap my head around. I imagined my dad going out the same way my grandfather had: a heart attack while on the tractor in the fields. A noble way of going if born and bred to farming. As for my mother who always has had a sharp tongue? To watch her slowly slip away mentally is gut wrenching. She doesn’t remember many of the funny stories I tell her about Aitch or that Doodicus is getting awesome grades in school.

I don’t want to grieve for my parents already, but that’s what I’m feeling. And each time I see them looking smaller, paler, more fragile – basically at their worst – I have a harder time remembering them at their best.

17 thoughts on “Preemptive Grief”

  1. To quote my children…that doctor is a douche bag. I hope you wrote a letter to the Nebraska State Medical Board. It’s likely your dad isn’t the only patient that received less than stellar care from his doctor.

    One important thing…I simply cannot tell you how many patients suffer from mental confusion, that bizarrely clears, after a UTI is SUCCESSFULLY treated. There is a very definite link there, please pursue it with a urologist to see if there is an underlying pathology to her chronic UTI’s.

    This is going to sound so awful to many people, but losing my mom so quickly, while HORRIFIC, was actually a blessing. I have too many friends whose parents have been declining for years and it is the most agonizing process for all of them.

    I know finances are a consideration, but do they qualify for any type of in-home care? Moving to extended care can be traumatizing to people that have lived so independently for so long. Though, having said that, I have a friend that moved her mom after her dad died, and her mom blossomed, made friends and loves her “new home” (they moved as much of her furniture that would fit, to the new place).

    Heartbreaking stuff…watching those you love not flourish.

  2. The last time I spoke to my grandmother- I offered to take her with us when we move half way across the country so that I’ll know she’s been taken care of. The alternative- having her move into a home- is gut-wrenching for me.

    So sorry you are going through this.

  3. Is it wrong that I laughed at that doc for having gotten his degree in Puerto Rico? I thought all they created there were baseball players?

    I’m not to this stage yet, but was the only one living near when a pair of grandparents were aging – I wish you strength.

  4. We’re going through the whole nursing home decision with Mr. W’s parents and now, it looks like we might have to start thinking about that too with my dad. And, I, too am finding it hard to remember what it was like when my parents were at the prime of their life.

  5. I’m so sorry. That is horrible. To watch someone who loved and nurtured us have the roles reversed. Especially both at once.

    That isn’t fair.

  6. Deepest pre-emptive sympathy to you…

    My ex (never one to miss a chance to go for that soft underbelly) just LOVED to wax poetic when we were in the storm n’ fury part of our marital meltdown: how horrible it must be for my dad, getting older… (he was trying to emphasize that dad wouldn’t be able to look out for me much longer) He actually didn’t want Z to get too attached to his GP’s “since they are old & sick & will probably die soon”.
    Fortunately he was premature in his dire predictions, but now watching my dad slowly deteriorate under a myriad of degenerative conditions (hypertension, arthritis, vascular disease which I’m sure is the root cause of his slowly progressive dementia) is one of the worst things I’ve had to face…

  7. *HUGS* It’s hard watching our parents age and decline… it stinks. You have this image in your head of how they will always be and when that image starts to change it shakes your foundation a bit. Try to remember the good image… they’re in there. It just may be hard for them to get it out. Hang in there and know we’re here for you.

  8. We, being hairy and I watched as his once vital father deteriorated slowly at first then at a rate of knots scary to even think back on.
    My MIL lasted a year after my FIL’s passing it was sad and yeah we grieved before they passed how can you not? realising your parents (even loved in laws) are mortal is a bloody hard lesson.

    My love to you and yours and know I’m thinking good healthy quick healing thoughts for both of them. xox.

  9. I am so sorry. My grandfather’s recent illness was very sudden and very quick but in the short time he went down hill it was devastating seeing his dignity and strength lost. I am thinking of you and your family and hate this for you.

  10. My sympathies. It’s so difficult to watch your parents go from being the strongest people to people you have to take care of. Fortunately (or unfortunately), my dad was so much older than my mom that she was able to take care of him before he died, so we weren’t the ones responsible. However, we live in fear that someone will have to take care of my mother – and she’s a right pain much of the time.

    1. So sorry – it’s hard to watch your parents’ health decline. Both my mother and my mother in law are now cognitively impaired and it makes me sad that my son will have so little time with them.

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