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The concerns and chores of caregiving

Before the last wave of snow arrived, I left Pagosa Springs on Sunday afternoon, arriving in Farmington relatively unscathed by the drive and a bit of snow.

My father was scheduled for back surgery Monday morning; with his wife recovering from a virus that struck the early part of November, she was having a difficult time with her emphysema and was unable to transport him to the hospital, let alone take care of herself and household duties.

Sunday evening, my father gave me the scoop of my duties for the next couple of days. Shintao the Chow-Chow and his care, plant care, oxygen maintenance, the schedules of the visiting nurse, physical therapist and home health aide, food, etc.

We arrived at the hospital Monday morning and began the check-in process: allergies, medications, prior surgeries, medical history, your name and date of birth, why are you here, over and over again, check, check, double check.

I called my step-mom periodically through the morning; she was OK and had fixed herself a bite to eat.

Following the surgery, I met briefly with the surgeon, all is well, I was to meet up with my dad in about an hour once he was transferred to his room. I arrived at his room just shortly after he did. While the nurses fussed about him and settled him in, I pulled out my crocheting and sat by the window. Watching him stir and chatting for short moments, I crocheted and stayed with him into the late afternoon.

My dad needed to rest and felt obligated to chat with me, so it was best to get back to their house, figure out dinner and get on with the chores; the physical therapist had been by, all was well on the home front.

Smooth sailing wasn’t in the cards.

I visited my dad the next morning, he was becoming confused. That wasn’t my dad in there, and the staff wasn’t listening to me. A feeling of being overwhelmed was hitting hard. He had some left side chest pain that probably wasn’t anything to be concerned about, but just in case, he was now being monitored. What is going on?

I stayed by his side for a few hours, headed back to the house where I found my stepmom in good hands with the visiting nurse; day by day she was improving and gaining her strength back.

My dad called us a few times, relaying that he had chest pain coupled with sweating and had been sick to his stomach. They were transferring him to the cardiac unit, his confusion was worsening and continued to come and go.

The next morning, lab tests and an echocardiogram confirmed he had had a heart attack, with other complications setting in. The cardiologist was unable to assess him any further due to the complications and risk of bleeding at the surgical site. My dad needed rest; I went back to the house, teary eyed. The home health aide came by and assisted my stepmom with her needs; she continued to improve, a good feeling for all involved.

Thursday morning brought more concerns: Dad’s cardiac enzymes were continuing to climb, the nurse mentioned his heart attack may have not stopped yet. I spoke with his nurse, relaying I thought I might go home the following morning, my stepmom was doing well; however, I was concerned about my dad stabilizing and wondered if they thought it would be “safe” for me to go. The answer was no, I better stick around at least another 24 hours. Wow, my mind went into overdrive. Do we need to call the family in, are his affairs in order? Bills needed to be paid; he expected to be home by now. Thankfully he had the foresight to leave information for my stepmom, but now I found myself paying their bills. What if “something” happened, where is “that” information? I buckled in for some rough stuff.

No one ever wants to talk about end-of-life decisions. Fortunately, we have an open relationship and have talked about his wish to donate his body to science, but where is the paperwork? My dad’s sense of humor is great; he says they’ll be studying him forever. Conversations with family are necessary and knowing where all the paperwork is, is quite the bonus. I spoke to my stepmom and got what I needed to know.

Being honest with healthcare providers is key to recovery; it is imperative they know the truth about your medical history in order to best plan for your treatment and recovery. I have found end-of-life decisions staring me in the face, ones that, perhaps, could have been avoided had all information been shared. I’ve been preaching to everyone about the importance of having your affairs in order and I continue to feel the same way, in addition to making sure your loved ones know where your information is. I’m thankful I know, and feel guilty at the same time. Did I tell my kids where the’“need to know” file is?

The physical therapist came by and taught my stepmom some new tricks with breathing exercises, the day was winding down and she continued to improve. She was able to make lunch for both of us this day.

The evening brought a bit of good news: Dad’s cardiac enzymes were finally coming down; we would check back in with the nurse in the morning.

Friday morning rolled around, the complications were mellowing a bit; however, further testing and possibly more procedures needed to be done. I checked back in with the nurse later in the day. We could visit, however, we would need to wait a bit due to a bomb threat. Really?

As a friend of mine said, “You can’t make this stuff up.” My stepmom felt well enough to try going out for the visit. Arriving at the hospital, we learned my dad was now bleeding internally from an unknown site (not from his back surgery) and would need a unit of blood. We visited briefly and said good night.

I’m deeply concerned and did not sleep well; the good news is the phone did not ring overnight. We’ll see what the day brings.

Always planning ahead, I found the need to acquaint myself with the resources in Farmington during this past week. As senior services director, I am very familiar with the resources available in our community. I’m learning firsthand how difficult it is to find the resources one might need for a loved one. Will my family need home delivered meals? Who provides the meals? Where is rehab? How do we get further help in the home? What is the funding stream and cost?

Take the time to know your resources in advance and know that our office will happily assist you in obtaining any necessary resources you may need.

As for my dad, it was a wait-and-see day. Wait, we did, which brought great relief to us all.

My brother flew in on Monday for what we affectionately called, “changing of the guard.” Tuesday, my dad was finally stable enough to be transferred to rehab for his back. I now felt safe enough with everyone’s health that I decided to dash home before the next storm rolled in. I made it.

Back to work the next morning and, yikes, there was plenty of it! Thank you to Rob, my administrative assistant, for handling the crisis or two that came up and for keeping things under control.

I returned to Farmington with my daughter on Saturday for a quick visit and to take my brother to Durango for his return trip to Calgary. I was a little nervous leaving my stepmom totally on her own now. She is doing well and was able to cancel her health aide, however, the visiting nurse and physical therapist still come in to help keep her on track. She’s even back to driving so she can go visit my dad for a bit.

Thank you to my dear friends who provided support so I could hold strong through the rough stuff.

I’m glad you’re better, old man. Heal well and get home soon, the dog misses you! I love you, Pops.

Medicare 101

Are you new to Medicare and lost or confused by all the literature you have received? Do you know which portions you need to enroll in — A, B, C, D? What the heck are all those letters, anyway? Did you know you are entitled to certain free services? Well, we have the answer for you in Medicare 101.

Medicare 101 is for those who are new to Medicare or about to venture into the new world of Medicare.

Join us for this very informative session on Tuesday, Jan. 10, at 10:30 a.m. Registration is required; call 264-2167. All you need is an empty head, because we are going to fill it up.

Special events

Free movie and popcorn, Wednesday, Dec. 28, at 1 p.m. “Cars 2,” an animated Disney movie full of adventure and comedy, recommended by our very own Table 3. Star race car Lightning McQueen and his pal Mater head overseas to compete in the World Grand Prix race. But the road to the championship becomes rocky as Mater gets caught up in an intriguing adventure of his own: international espionage. Lots of fun awaits you!

New Year celebration

Ring in the New Year a tad early on Friday, Dec. 30, at noon, with an apple cider toast and loads of merriment.

Dining certificates

Awesome news: the United Way dining gift certificates are available again!? Just $20 will get you a gift certificate/stocking stuffer to one of almost 30 participating restaurants right here in our community. But, first …

Why should you choose to use one of the gift certificates?? Because, if you go out to eat, why not use a dining certificate instead of cash. Four dollars will be donated by the restaurant to United Way at no cost to you, just for using the gift certificate (now, how easy is that?). The Senior Center receives funding from United Way.? And, hey, the certificates don’t expire until April 30, 2012.

For more information, call Musetta at 264-2167. On behalf of our seniors, thank you.

Transportation service

Not driving anymore? Car in the shop? Get to where you need to go. Our service is vailable Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday to seniors age 60-plus. Suggested donation is $2 per day. Call for details, 264-2167.

Home meal delivery

Are you homebound, recovering from surgery or an illness? Let us do the cooking. Enjoy Senior Center meals delivered to your door. Our hot meal home-delivery program is available to those closer to town four days per week, with frozen meals for Thursdays and weekends. For those living further out of town, you may be eligible for the frozen meal program. Meals are available to people age 60-plus for a suggested donation of $3 per meal. Give us a call at 264-2167 for further information. Donations are greatly appreciated.

Weekly activities

Friday, Dec. 23 — 9 a.m. Geezers; 10 a.m. Stitchin’ in the Kitchen; 12:30 p.m. Gym Walk.

Monday, Dec. 26 — Closed.

Tuesday, Dec. 27 — 12:30 p.m. Gym Walk; 1 p.m. Meditation for Healing.

Wednesday, Dec. 28 — 1 p.m. Free Movie and Popcorn: “Cars 2.”

Thursday, Dec. 29 — Closed for administrative day.

Friday, Dec. 30 — 9 a.m. Geezers; 10 a.m.Stitchin’ in the Kitchen; noon Ring in the New Year; 12:30 p.m. Gym Walk.


Suggested donation for older adults age 60-plus is $3, kids 12 and under and guests $6. Our meal program is partially funded through the Older Americans Act via the San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging, United Way, Archuleta County, Town of Pagosa Springs and other donations and grants. These funds help support the cost of the meal which is approximately $11.51. Please note our menu is subject to change. The salad bar opens at 11:30 a.m. with lunch served from noon to 12:30 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 23 — Roast pork, baked potato, California vegetable blend, whole wheat bread, raisin nut cup, apple crisp with topping.

Monday, Dec. 26 — Closed.

Tuesday, Dec. 27 — Oven fried chicken, baked potato, spinach-mandarin salad, peaches, cornbread.

Wednesday, Dec. 28 — Spinach lasagna, Italian vegetables, tossed salad, strawberry fruit whip with banana slices, Italian bread.

Thursday, Dec. 29 — Closed, administrative day.

Friday, Dec. 30 — Birthday meal: Roast beef, baked potato, tossed salad, seasoned green beans, whole grain bread, chocolate frosted cupcake.

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