Misty has encouraged me to write about my experiences with my grandfather. I’ve been resistant. Something in me just isn’t quite ready. But I’m going to try to begin getting some of it out anyway. Sometimes I may seem disjointed and incoherent. When that occurs, I will clarify myself in the comments (and possibly edit this post) or another post, if brought to my attention.
The basic story — the elevator pitch I give to every doctor, nurse, therapist, friend, family member and any other interested party — with slightly more detail is this:
My grandfather lost the month of January. He can’t even remember it.
On December 30 of last year, he had a surgery to have his retina reattached. Now, he’s 82. He’s also incredibly lazy. The reason he isn’t in better health is because he’s sat on his ass for the last six years demanding my mother answer his every beck and call — whether or not she’s at work. The doctors at the VA Medical Center in Temple continue to put off operating on an aneurysm in his aorta because of the danger of putting him under. The local Texas Retina Institute, however, thought it would be a great idea to do so in order to reattach the retina. It was an outpatient procedure. My grandfather never really woke up. He lived, but barely. The doctor called it a success.
For nearly an entire month, my grandfather could barely wake up. Getting him into the living room was almost impossible. He slept. Constantly. We tried to get him to eat and drink as much as possible. The only thing that seemed to wake him — and by now I was spending 11 hours a day with him while my parents worked — was when physical and occupational therapists would force him to move around. He’d brighten, become a bit more lucid, but as soon as they were gone, so was he. Back into a near-coma. One of the occupational therapists recommended we go to HealthSouth, a local rehabilitation facility.
One January 27, we entered HealthSouth. On February 7, he was kicked out for refusing to follow his improvement plan. Given liquids, some antibiotics to clear up a slight pneumonia that had formed and some uppers, he was ready begin his therapies again. Physically ready, that is. He was completely resistant to the idea of being made to do physical, occupational, any therapy that required he move.
The people at HealthSouth were great. Except the doctors. They were useless. Worse, they were harmful. They pulled my grandfather off his regular antidepressant (used for appetite stimulation) without tapering and immediately put him on another. Then, when they discharged him two weeks later (roughly the amount of time it takes for an SSRI to begin to build up in one’s system), they pulled him off that med. He was delirious when we returned home. Once we restarted his normal anti-d, though, he returned to normal.
That includes more than I tell most professionals — most anyone, really, about the situation. But there’s far more. Far, far more.
Misty and I, having sold our house and living in my grandfather’s place (since he’s been living with my parents for six or seven years now) in Horseshoe Bay, decided to move into my parents’ old house in Leander, as they just moved into a new one seven minutes north. The move definitely helps us be close to Austin, but it was predicated on my taking care of my grandfather for nearly 11 hours a day while my parents are at work. It was a job I was reluctant to take on.
After the first night or so in rehab, when my parents stayed with him overnight, Misty and I spent two or three nights there. We’d sleep there, stay until the doctor made his or her rounds the next day, drive to Horseshoe Bay, take a shower, walk our dogs (who were real troopers and didn’t make messes at all while stuck in their cages for far too many hours a day during that time) and drive back to the hospital. Food fell in there somewhere. Finally, the whole thing became untenable.
I started going to the hospital each morning for his breakfast — watching him not eat out of spite. I sat with him while he complained about being forced to wait in a wheelchair instead of his hospital bed. I heard him tell the nurses and techs that he’d messed his pants but wasn’t interested in having them changed at the moment. At times, I did along with him the exercises the therapists required him do. But, mostly, I fetched him this or that and listened to him bitch about being told what to do by kids. Kids who have greater knowledge of medicine than he does.
The day he finally refused treatment, I started to cry. I told him he was going to kill my mother by making her take care of him for the rest of his life. I asked him where his other kids were. He said they were out of the picture. Earlier, and since, he’s said that my mother knows he loves her and that he would do that same for her. That fact is, that’s bullshit. He wouldn’t. He’s a selfish, lazy and manipulative malingerer. And I love the motherfucker, but it’s true. He doesn’t make it easy to care for him.
I cried and begged him to go to therapy. I told him I’d be there every day — right alongside him. The therapist and the nurse both tried, for my benefit, to get him to go. I told them to forget it, said I was leaving and went outside. I smoked a cigarette (no e-cig yet) and called Misty and my mom. I couldn’t go back into his room. He was home a few days later.
He barely remembers his stay in the rehab facility. He remembers nothing of the rest of January. He lost a month.
As the only family member who can work where he pleases — for the most part – and who was willing, I had to decide whether or not to take responsibility for nursing him completely back to health. The rehab facility had done a good job, but he was kicked out long before he was capable of doing much for himself.
I was taking on — along with my current work — full-time care for a very sick elderly person. And I was to get paid a few hundred a week.
Time passes. Much happens in between, which I’ll discuss in other posts.
He’s in fairly good health now. When people ask about his health, I tell them he’s well enough to be an asshole, which is true — and probably the most appropriate and accurate way to measure his health. As they say in the military, don’t worry about the troops unless they stop bitching. He has plenty of time and energy to demand things from those around him and annoy and harass and moan and come up with excuses for why he can’t do things (walk to the bathroom!, do PT today, press buttons on the microwave to warm food for himself) that he absolutely can do.
I think I may have finally shamed him into wiping his own ass, though. I got sick of that — and fast.
He lost a month. But he’s losing his life by just sitting on his ass and not being willing to walk.
Misty has unleashed a beast. There is more to come.