As I mentioned in my last post my Dad fell and broke his hip on the morning of January 23. That morning Dad called and asked if I could come down to help out. Thank goodness I am retired. I was able to hop on a plane and be in San Diego by early afternoon. I ended up being in Escondido for two and a half weeks. Both my sisters and my brother also dropped everything to come down and help. It was a pretty intense exhausting time but thinking about the experience on my flight home I realized that it was also an intense learning experience. Here are some of the things I learned.
- I knew next to nothing about options for getting help with living when you need it. I learned that it ranges form hiring in house help, to skilled nursing which is more than Mom and Dad needed, to independent retirement housing to assisted living which is what fit the bill. In their case Assisted living made the most sense. They are renting an apartment and then paying on top of that for the assistance they need.
- In the two weeks I was in Escondido my sister and I looked at 5 assisted living places. I learned that in the area where my parents live there are lots and lots of assisted living places. The ones we looked at were all OK but the one we chose stood out to us as having better food, staff that seemed to know the residents and a more upbeat feel than the others we looked at. Of course only time will tell whether Mom and Dad like it or not.
- I learned the difference between a living will, a power of attorney for health care and a do not resuscitate order (a DNR).
- I learned first hand something that seems obvious. Moving from a 2000+ square foot house of your own to a two room apartment is very hard. Mom and Dad haven't decided if this is temporary or not. They may move back into their house when Dad's hip is healed or they may move somewhere else or they may move to a bigger unit in the place they are now.
- I learned that when you have trouble getting your words out people assume that your mind is slipping. My Mom is as sharp as ever but the Parkinson's that she is battling makes it hard for her to say what she is thinking.
- I learned the importance of perspective and of not trying to do everything and be all things to all people. I didn't realize how emotionally draining the whole experience was until I flew home and got some perspective.
- I learned how lucky I am to have a loving supportive family and three wonderful siblings . We all pretty much get along and are there to support each other even if we live in the four corners of the country (Boston, Memphis, Tacoma, and the Bay Area)
- I learned that we need to just take things one day at a time and keep our options open. My temperament is to always want to have a plan. But in a situation like this there are too many things changing on a daily basis to be able to see too much into the future. If my sisters hadn't helped me keep my mind open to the possibilities and if we hadn't continued to weigh our options based on the information available to us we would have missed out on better solutions that presented themselves over time. The first assisted living place that we thought we liked wasn't as good as the one that a friend told us about later. The first doctor we talked to about Mom wasn't as helpful as the second one and the solutions we worked out as a team were better than anything I would have come up with alone.
All of these learnings seem painfully obvious but in the stress of the moment I had to learn them anew. I'm really glad I could help out and that Mom and Dad are doing as well as they are. Who knows what the future holds but for now I'm trying not to worry about it. My brother arrived in Escondido today to help out and it sounds like everything is going pretty well.