By guest contributor -Karen (Dutt) Horan.
“I’ve become a burden,” sighed my 87-year-old father Jack from his Fargo, North Dakota hospital bed. “You’re missing work and being with your family.” He was right. I’d missed 4 days of work, sitting beside him after he was airlifted from Bismarck. And my daughter and grandson, who’d flown to Bismarck for an extended weekend, were waiting for us to get back home. But Dad was wrong about being a burden. To our family Dad always has been a shining example of how to live one’s life.
He is one of those guys from the “greatest generation” who’s always been fiercely independent and responsible. He spent his life being a good son, brother, husband, dad, grandpa and great-grandpa. He was the neighbor who minded his own business, but was always there to help. He was a loyal employee, showing up every day and working hard to provide well for his family. He continues to work part-time for the local school system, managing sporting event parking lots and taking tickets at games because he loves the energy of the student athletes and spectators. He lives independently, drives, gardens, cleans, cooks, pays his bills and, until three weeks ago, avoided going to the doctor like the plague.
In an instant an episode of dizziness and a frantic phone call changed everything. It brought me face-to-face with a father depending on me for health care assistance and decisions.
Now we’re traveling a new road, balancing dignity with care. I know more about Dad’s health than he’s comfortable with. I’m trying to help him understand medical information, procedures, plans and options, while continuing to respect him as the man who raised me. Dad doesn’t feel the need to know his blood pressure is high, but I freak out because of my Mom’s history of strokes. Dad doesn’t want to hear the arterial bleed he has can cause him to bleed out or stroke out, but I need to remind him why he can’t lift or strain in any way. Dad doesn’t want to give himself shots in the stomach, so I do it and tease him that he fusses like a girl. I don’t want to remind and check up on whether or not he’s taken his medicine twice a day, but I can’t relax until I know it’s been done. He doesn’t want to call and report to me when he’s going somewhere, but I need to know he’s safe.
To navigate this new frontier with Dad, I’ve created a list of 6 reminders for myself.
These 6 Reminders Are:
- Allow Dad to experience his life and comfortable routines. His current medical situation shouldn’t change his life any more than absolutely necessary.
- Slow down and process information and situations at Dad’s pace, not mine.
- Include Dad in all decisions. As an only child there is no one else to include. Even if there was, he should be included.
- Preserve Dad’s privacy and modesty in all situations.
- Reinforce who the patient is when medical personnel talk about Dad as if he isn’t present.
- Allow myself to be imperfect. Dad and Mom didn’t get everything right when they raised me and I’m not likely to get everything right in this matter with Dad’s health. Always keeping the love I have for him first, I know things will be all right.
May his soul rest in peace. (Deceased 12.17.18.)
Karen (Dutt) Horan (Mike) is an energetic Bismarck, ND professional. She is the mother of two and grandmother of two, with another grandchild expected in 2015. She is the daughter of Jack and the former Teresa (Reis) Dutt. Karen is an avid reader who enjoys gardening and spending time on the Missouri River aboard her pontoon. The most precious hours of her day are the ones she spends with her family. Karen has discovered that respect and love are the guiding forces for dealing with an aging parent’s health.
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Copyright. September 2015. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved.