Friday, May 14, 2010

Rice Pudding and Cooley Hats!

This was my dad a few weeks ago when he first ended up in the hospital with his second heart attack. He looks tired, and perplexed, but still pretty much like my dad.

Later that week, he reached for the cover to his lunch tray one day, put it over his head, and told me it was his Cooley hat. It was so random, and so out of the blue, as he hadn't really been talking much anyway, that I just burst out laughing. I also didn't realize that apparently a "cooley" hat is NOT very PC. I guess I am showing my ignorance by saying I thought coolie's were a TYPE of hat Asian's wore, or it was someone who worked in the rice fields? I don't know. I apologize for thinking it was funny - but I really didn't know. And although my father has NEVER been racist, or prone to demeaning ANYONE, I think either he, too, no longer realizes that perhaps it isn't a nice thing to call someone, or, more likely, at his age, he simply just doesn't care? But, funny, regardless, I thought!
 The past two or three weeks have not been good ones for my dad.  And, therefore, not particularly good for me, either, although I THOUGHT I was sort of rolling with it.  We had to place him in a nursing home, because he lacked the physical and mental stamina and ability to return to the Assisted Living facility where he had been for  about six weeks. I didn't think this was necessarily a bad thing, as I felt he would be getting a lot more attention and interaction with people, rather than just sitting in a room alone. Plus, selfishly, he is now only a few miles from me, and I can, and do, run down after school several days a week. My sister has had a REALLY hard time accepting it, which I completely understand. If there is anything that dealing with our aging parents has taught me, it is that we all have our own mental and emotional maps which have guided us from childhood to, and through, adulthood, and my map is not the same as my sister's, or either of my brother's, but they all take us to the same destination in the end. And all the main roads intersect at most of the important times, so although we may not be carpooling, we all get there eventually.
But it is no secret that my dad has gone downhill pretty rapidly in the past few weeks. He is at the point where most of his day is spent sleeping, and it no longer interferes with his ability to sleep through the night. He has had a terrible, terrible cough that developed on the Wednesday he was in the hospital, and so has now continued for nearly a month. Apparently it is not pneumonia, though they did finally put him on an antibiotic, in hopes that it is bronchitis and will help clear it up? I tend to think it may simply be a symptom of congestive heart failure, and that there is no cure for it.
Although his oxygen levels were good in the hospital, they are now down in the 80's while he is up, so they started him on oxygen.
He was having trouble swallowing in the hospital, and now, can not seem to swallow even soft foods. I guess it is common in the elderly to sort of "forget" how to swallow?
We had to make a decision this week - and we did. We are offering "pallitive" or "comfort" care. If he's hungry, they will feed him something he can eat, like cream of wheat, or pudding. If he isn't hungry, they won't force him to eat. If he's tired, they will let him sleep. If he's thirsty, they will offer him a drink.
They will keep him warm, and cared for, and I will continue to sit next to him after school for an hour or two most days without waking him up, so that he is loved right through to the end. And not just me - my siblings, with their own maps, will find and love him too, in their ways, and with their time.
I thought I was doing well with it, until it was spoken this week that he is, for all intents and purposes, dying. I guess I somehow expected him to just go on this way indefinitely, but I guess that is unrealistic. I think I accept this knowledge, but doing so, for real, has taken it's toll on me this week.
I am exhausted. I feel like I just want to sleep. All the time. It's all I can do to get through a day, and all I can think about is how soon can I go home and lay down and take a nap? Sleeeeeeeepy!
And  last night, I asked my husband to make me blueberry pancakes for dinner. It was a little bit odd, although occasionally I will make breakfast for dinner, but not usually when he is home. While working on those for me, he asked me why the rice was out.  I said, "to make rice pudding."  All of a sudden, the light went on for both of us: I was requesting, and making, comfort foods. Hmmm. Guess that means I am an emotional eater? I can't think of much that is MORE comforting than a warm bowl of rice pudding with milk on it.
I  only wish my dad could swallow some. 
I don't know what other comfort I can offer him.


Peruby said...

I am so sorry that you are dealing with this. Life is so precious and to watch our parents (our guiding lights) become so fragile is indeed exhausting.

You turn to whatever comfort you need.

Callie said...

This is a very difficult time for you and you should turn to those thing that give you comfort. After the earthquake I wanted to eat all the time and I was tired and sleepy. Maybe your body reacts to stress by craving sleep and comfort foods are after all comforting. Take good care of yourself! Treat yourself! The better shape you are in the better you will be able to deal with events.

Leigh said...

In time you will feel better again. Do what you must to find yourr comfort... and as far as your father... I am sure that your presence is very comforting to him, whether he can express it or not. I will keep you in my thoughts.