brenda | Caregiver Action Network


brenda wampler
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My widowed father came to live with me four years ago because it became clear to me and my two sisters that his health was quickly deteriorating. His primary health concerns are heart problems and severe emphysema, but secondarily brittle osteoporosis and he frequently fractured ribs or vertebrae while doing simple tasks around his home. At the time, I was living alone after a long-term marriage had just dissolved. My husband and I have since re-united and I could write volumes about how he has helped and supported both my father and myself. He is truly dedicated to us both.

My father is a strong spirit...a very determined soul. I believe that anyone who lives to be in their 80's has these qualities. I was aware that there would be many challenges, but his deterioration was so rapid that we all thought he would probably only live a few more months. I never dreamed he would still be with me after all this time, but would have made the same decision. In actuality, his health gradually improved with my monitoring of his medications and preparation of healthy, well-balanced meals.

At the time I was working full-time as a registered nurse, but was experiencing debilitating pain due to severe degenerative disc disease. I have since had to quit working, have had surgery and am soon to have extensive surgery. My challenges have certainly been overwhelming at times as my father has grown very frail while I have been so limited because of my own health. My sisters are unable to help with my father because they live out-of-state. When I ask specifically for their help, they will oblige, but only if it doesn't interfere with their plans. My three adult children and their spouses help whenever they can, but none of them live nearby. I will have to be in another town to have the upcoming surgery and had planned to place my father temporarily in a nursing facility, but the children arranged to come in shifts to stay with him.

During a severe bout with vertigo almost a year ago, my father began falling and becoming more and more confused, requiring much more help than before. Eventually, he became so ill that there were several hospitalizations involved with placement in a skilled care facility in between the hospitalizations. In June, he fell, fracturing his hip resulting in such poor progress in the SCF that he was transferred to a nursing facility. Even though his level of orientation deteriorated greatly, he still experienced spells of alertness. He knew where he was and was most unhappy with the situation. He became depressed and stopped eating except tiny amounts of food and nutritional supplement. I soon became apparent that he was dying, but for some reason, he kept fighting for life. After four months I felt that my husband and I could handle him at home.

It was amazing to see his progress once he returned to our home. He was extremely weak and in a wheelchair. Modern homes aren't built with doors wide enough to allow a wheelchair through, even though he is a tiny man and in the smallest wheelchair. We had to remove the door from the bathroom so that he could get in. We had to remove the hand rims over the wheels just so he could get through the other doors, and even so, the wheelchair has gouged out the doorframes. We bought an elevated toilet seat and a transfer bench for his twice-weekly shower (a nursing aid came to assist him with that).

My father grew stronger and stronger and soon wanted to get out of the wheelchair, so we enlisted the help of physical therapists to come work with him in strengthening his very-atrophied leg and arm muscles and to teach him how to use a walker. He has been walking with the aid of this device for months now and is even able to get his baths by himself. My husband and I prepare his breakfast and evening meal, but he prepares his own lunch. I monitor his medications and pay whatever bills he generates, make any appointments he needs, make up his bed every morning, clean his bathroom daily, and wash his laundry. My husband runs any errands necessary and does all the grocery shopping for us.

It has been a most challenging time for the three of us, but so very rewarding, too. To see him progress and to be able to live in a comfortable, clean home, maintain his own schedule of activities of daily living, help make choices in planning of meals, and even little things such as being able to have his clothes laundered at home have meant so much to him, and to us. It has also been an inspiration to our children as they have witnessed how effective it can be to have loving caregivers provide and nurture their grandfather, and to help to restore his health to the maximum level possible, thereby increasing the quality of his life.

P.S. This far exceeds the 250 word limit, so please feel free to edit as you feel necessary.

Wish List: 
1. Respite care, help from my sisters, and the return of my own health. My father refuses to allow a sitter. 2. Funding! We're saving Medicare and his supplemental insurance much money by caring for him at home. 3. The thing I want and need most is time alone with my husband so that we can work on restoring our relationship.