Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Called my mom...

As usual, she had bad news about my dad, who is now sleeping about 17 hours a day.  She took him to the local Veteran's Administration facility for a week so she could have respite.  She said it was a great week, except she neglected to tell the caregivers at the VA hospital enough about how to take care of my dad.  Consequently, he got into some trouble.

They had him in the day room and he decided he wanted to go to bed.  So he started to wheel out of there, since he can't really walk very well anymore.  I think it's because he has poor motor control, not because he's paralyzed.  Anyway, as he was wheeling out of the room, the nurse stopped him and said he had to stay in there.  He got combative, so they shot him up with Ativan, which totally zoned him out.

At some point, my dad supposedly said something about wanting to do himself in.  This concerned the staff, so they called my mother.  She went to the VA hospital and found my dad sitting in a wheelchair next to a nursing station, completely out of it.  My mom got really pissed at the nurse, who said she had to watch him.  She told the nurse that he needed to be in bed.

She met with a social worker and a psychologist, who told them of my dad's supposed suicide plans.  My mom said she'd lived with my dad for 56 years and had never once heard him say anything about suicide.  He had, on the other hand, said things about wanting to kill other people.  But never himself…  Actually, had they spoken to me about it, I would have told them that he had once some years ago confessed to being depressed to me and made a comment that indicated that he had felt suicidal before.  But that was the only time… and given that he has suffered from significant depression and PTSD, it stands to reason he's been suicidal at least a couple of times in his life.  Most people have fleeting thoughts of suicide at some point in their lives.

In any case, while I understand why the staff was concerned and leapt into action (most surely due to liability issues), I also think it's perfectly understandable that my dad might be having thoughts of suicide.  He's 81 years old.  His brain is muddled by lewy body dementia.  He can't walk very well anymore or tend to his own personal needs.  He wears diapers and sleeps 17 hours a day and can rarely leave his apartment.  While he is fortunate enough to still live with my mom, who takes very good care of him, he's completely lost any autonomy.  Why wouldn't he want to die?  He's lived a very full life and it's on a downhill slide now.  While I know that many people think suicide is sinful and anyone who considers it is "crazy", I think there are situations when it makes sense.  Of course, in our society, it's not exactly culturally appropriate to want to die.

Anyway, my mom talked to these people and explained that he needs to be in bed.  She told me repeatedly that she'd probably put him in the wrong part of the hospital.  He probably should have been put in a locked unit.  It's very sad to be writing this about my dad.  Until just a few years ago, he was always a very proud, independent, hard working man.  He's always been very healthy and physically strong.

Mom was glad to hear from me, though, and thanked me for calling.  She seemed to imply that I had abandoned the family because I didn't attend Thanksgiving last year.  Maybe I have abandoned them to some extent.  It's sad to watch your parents get old and decrepit.



  1. it has to be sad to watch this.

    I agree that fleeting thoughts of suicide are normal. I also agree that your dad has every right to feel sad and depressed. There would probably be something seriously wrong with any formerly able-bodied and high-functioning person not depressed by a slow decline in functioning level.

    1. Well, he's 81… He's outlived his father, who died at age 74, and his sisters, one of whom died at 14 and the other who died at 68. I doubt he will make it to his mother's age, almost 101. I really wouldn't want him to. At some point, I think it's normal to be done with life.

      I'm glad my mom got her respite, though. She really needed it.

    2. Er, that's two of his sisters. He still has two living and four brothers.


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