Wednesday, March 9, 2016
My father, The Bear, has been falling. The last fall might have "the one," the fall that signals a line has been crossed. He hit his head on a coffee table and could not get up, even with the help of his wife Linda and Linda's sister. They did what they had to do: call an ambulance.
At eighty seven years old, with a body that has taken serious hits from injuries, and a hefty dose of Parkinson's, The Bear's decline has steepened. His heart rate drops to thirty beats per minute when his atria vibrate rather than beat; his balance is off; his mind has gotten confused. He is entering a stage of what Andrew Weil calls "compressed zone of morbidity."
That sounds so clinical and sterile I want to reject the term outright. But then I look at his stooped frame, the lost train of thought and confusion in his eyes, and watch him move from hand hold to hand hold like a sailor on the deck of a ship tossed by a hurricane.
His capacity to function has declined past the point of staying in his home.
That is a hard fact, one from which I want to run away.
Maybe Linda could hire help. Maybe he will improve with spring and exercise outside. Maybe with railings along the hallways he could still be mobile without help.
The maybes don't address the gravity of his condition.
I am grateful to Linda for having supported his staying at home for so long. I think she gave him four years of living there. His onset of Parkinson's and dementia pointed to nursing care years ago, and many would have placed him in a home at that time.
But I have to admit that the "line" between home and nursing is near and has to be crossed, for his best interests and those of Linda and the rest of his family. They have been heroic in pushing that line back again and again.
Hard facts require action on painful choices.
I hate to say it, but it may be time.