I hate hospital sitting, but sometimes there is absolutely no choice. Like this past week when my Daddy ended up in the hospital with an infected leg. After initial fears, we became fairly confident it wasn’t life-threatening, so it then became a wait-it-out scenario. Lots of intravenous meds and lots of waiting. He isn’t very good at waiting, and apparently neither am I.
It all started with a leg injury sustained when he fell in his little yard, catching his shin on the edge of a piece of wood. Well, really it began when he decided, against all our protests, to construct a little deck in his backyard. In his day my father was a very skilled carpenter, but age and dementia have robbed him of any precision. He lacks the strength, agility, and balance to tote around big pieces of lumber and put them together correctly. The day he started on this project I poked my head out the back door and literally said to myself, “This isn’t going to end well.”
Sure enough a couple of days later, his legs, handicapped by severe neuropathy, tangled with the deck framework and down he went. I can only be glad it wasn’t his head that took the brunt of the fall. His injury is awful, not for the squeamish to see. It’s a tough fact of life that old skin is thin and very susceptible to bruising and tears. He managed to put a gouge in his shin so large it could not be closed with stitches (sorry if this is hard to read). My brother got him to the emergency room where they worked for over an hour to find enough skin to pull together, but finally just bandaged it and sent him home with instructions for wound care. He went daily to the clinic in his retirement community for new bandages and we felt like things were going along ok. But then about six days in we noticed lots of swelling and new, bright redness in the surrounding skin. The clinic sent us back to the ER and he was admitted that evening.
My Daddy can be about the most stubborn and ornery person I know. If you say the sky is blue he is likely to tell you otherwise. He is adamantly opposed to ANYONE telling him what to do, particularly my mother or me. (Though, oddly enough, he will listen to my brother who for most of his life had a complicated relationship with our father.) He 100% believes he can still do many things that make my heart stop, like driving and carpentry. And while I usually blame this on the dementia, the truth of the matter is that dementia has only exaggerated traits that were already there. His own father was a pretty cranky guy. It’s a family trait I’m scared to death I will inherit. Plus, Daddy was a law enforcement officer, having a 35-year career with the Texas Department of Public Safety. He has always carried a certain authority and sternness that made my teen boyfriends quake in their boots and still intimidates me today. I respected him as I grew up, never dreaming that one day I would have to treat him like a naughty child. It’s exhausting and frustrating and terribly depressing.
So, as you can imagine, Daddy isn’t a very good patient. He would not heed instructions to sit with his leg elevated, to stay out of the dirty yard, to not cause the wound anymore stress….thus the current hospital stay. And let me just say this isn’t the first time this has happened. He had another very severe leg injury (caused much the same way) two and a half years ago that put him in the hospital for a week, followed by three weeks of in-patient rehab. The dementia has actually blessed him with very little recollection of that event, but it was horrible for the rest of us. Yet, here we are again.
As the 60 year old daughter sitting by his bedside, my heart hurts for him, yet in some ways I’m actually resentful. Mad that he won’t listen to reason. Angry that he won’t accept advise. Hurt that he can’t understand our concern. This is a hard, hard time of life for all of us. And some days I feel too old to be dealing with this. I find myself feeling like he’s selfish, yet I know in many ways he can’t help himself. I tell my children all the time that they are NOT to let me act like that when I’m his age. Mostly, I’m mourning the father I knew and loved who’s been besieged by his own faulty brain.
I pray that this newest crisis will pass. Thankfully, cold weather, which doesn’t inspire much deck sitting, is coming soon. Maybe the winter will force him to stay indoors and let his leg heal. Maybe his restlessness will settle a bit. Maybe his orneriness will mellow some. Maybe I can calm my conflicted heart and help him wait it out. Maybe…maybe…maybe….