Fourteen Months

I work downtown Minneapolis, and often pass “The Lumber Exchange” building.  My dad often took me there when I was young to buy building products – it truly was “the lumber exchange”.  Now it houses offices and restaurants. 

Nursing  Home Staff

Most of the nursing staff were caring, loving and dedicated.  I remember one nurse, a gentleman from the West Indies.  He hovered around each of the residents under his care. My sister described him as a bird flitting from patient to patient, keeping an eye on each one.

Another of the day nurses was so kind and caring; she said she cried every time one of her patients died.  I believe her; she was so invested in their care.

The head nurse on the floor and I were in frequent contact.  She walked me through procedures, any difficulties with my dad, such as accidental injuries to his fragile skin or difficulty in moving him.

We talked about the shortage of nursing assistants, and the lack of budget for training.  She urged me to tell the world their story – and to appeal for more funding and resources for seniors.

CALL TO ACTION:   Ask your legislators to support funding for dementia research. Support your communities in establishing housing and resources for the elderly.  If you are a baby-boomer like me, we will eventually need care.  There are a lot of us Boomers, communities need to be prepared.

Eyeglasses

There was one frustrating event; both pairs of Dad’s eye glasses were lost right after he moved in.  I spoke with the administration staff several times.  Eventually they helped pay for a new pair, which we marked with his name right away.

(This inspired me to get Lasik eye surgery, as I had very poor eyesite, and feared being blind as a bat in a nursing home someday.)

My Bad

Senior care homes often try to provide sensory experiences for their residents.  They will give women baby dolls to “mother”.   Boards are provided with locks and latches for people to fiddle with, along with “safe” tools or materials.  These items offer a sensory experience.  Books with colorful pictures are on hand.

My father always liked to read, so I thought I would buy him books of machinery and vehicles for Christmas.  Unfortunately, he clearly saw through me; he took one look at those books those books and threw them – apparently, they were too childlike.  Oops.  Bad on my part to underestimate my dad.

HAT!

Visiting with him could be a challenge, since he could barely communicate.  There was a nice patio area at AJs with swings and flowers.  I wheeled him out there one sunny day.  He whispered a word; I listened closely.

What Dad?

“Hat”

I forgot to put on his outside hat.  I had to run find it for him.

Family Visits

The best times were when another family member came along on visits.   When I found my son, sisters or other family members at the nursing home, or my husband and I would go together, there would be someone else to converse with, while Dad listened.  Time passed more quickly on those days.

Fourteen months at AJs are a blur of visits, holidays in the common room, care conferences, and watching him lapse into more silence, more muscle rigidity and even more blank stares.  Shortly after arriving he lost the ability to walk, and eventually lost the ability to even feed himself.

More tears, more mourning, more grief.

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