As I’ve explained, youngest sister in Niagara is my widowed 88 year old father’s real caregiver, I’m just a visitor and a chronicler. With that, here’s youngest sister in her own words:
“Hi siblings, here is another update on your dear old Dad. Since your visit about three weeks ago we have had five family dinners, three medical appointments, five or six trips to the liquor store and about the same number of trips to Shoppers Drug Mart. He has stopped using his car because he simply cannot get in and out of it without assistance. This is a real benefit to my family because one son is home and has a commute to his summer job, so an extra car really helps us manage.
Yesterday we visited Dad’s doctor to discuss the results of his echo-cardiogram, a lengthy test done in February, the results of which went missing for two months (don’t get me started on our health care ‘non-system’ … While Dad’s primary care at a local clinic full of young doctors is superb, the rest of the picture is impossible). We know Dad has congestive heart failure and chronic pulmonary disease and these are the things that slow him down to a standstill and reduce him to a life in the horizontal position. The echo results have confirmed that he also has atrial fibrillation, meaning the top half of his heart isn’t pumping regularly and in sync with the bottom half. This puts him at risk of a stroke but the risk is very low because he has few other risk factors (diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking …). In fact, his risk of a stroke is officially 2.5 percent.
His doctor was quite pleased to report that Dad’s condition is better than we thought. He gave him the option to begin a regime of ‘coumadin’ (the same active ingredient that is in the rat poison Warfarin) to further reduce the risk of stroke, but the benefit over a simple daily aspirin was negligible. I suggested that Dad did not want to introduce potentially toxic chemicals into his body that required weekly blood monitoring (which meant going to a blood lab every week) and that had multiple side effects. The doctor was skillful in not telling Dad what his choice should be, but in gently steering him to the better choice. Daily aspirin it shall be!
So apart from these medical highlights, Dad is well, but increasingly wobbly on his skinny legs. He should get a walker but he is holding out as long as he can. Very likely he will have to fall before he makes that decision. Such a fall might alter his life forever, and mine too, or may not: he has fallen many times before and seems to bounce quite nicely. His low body weight is also an advantage.
Sleep is what he does very well now. His one worry, the Maritime house, has been set aside as I have arranged to rent the house to his former caregiver for a below-market rate to cover Dad’s costs. There is wonderful ‘karma’ to this arrangement. Kathie Rose did so much to help my mother in her illness, and to care for my father through his stubborn sojourn on the Aast Coast, all for a wage hardly above the statutory minimum. She also cared for my parents’ little dog, Pippa, taking her for a long off-leash walk every morning with Kathie Rose’s own mutt, Sunny. Now Sunny will be able to enjoy my parents’ house and their large, fenced back yard, just a short walk from the woods and trails around the reservoir.
Dad is very popular with everyone at Serenity Towers. He doesn’t join in any organized activities (that’s not his style and I totally understand, as it’s not mine either). But he is on everyone’s speed dial to spare in bridge which means he can join or take a pass depending on who else is playing. The ladies are fond of him and like to sit at his dining table, but the seat right beside him is reserved for Zelda, his special friend. Zelda is a large woman aged 92, with puffy white hair and twinkly eyes, who has never had a sip of alcohol or a drag on a cigarette in her entire life. An unlikely match for my smoking and boozing father, but they sit and giggle together, and I know he looks forward to his meals and Zelda’s warm company.
Dad remarks every day about the beautiful spring weather. At his home, he enjoyed sitting outside with his wine and his newspaper. At Serenity Towers he can do this too, but it takes an effort and he doesn’t really have the energy for it. I have set him up with a nice chair and a side table for his balcony. There are also lovely sitting areas around the grounds and gardens. So far he has not ventured to these so maybe I will arrive one day with a small picnic and we will give it a try.