Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Long Distance Caregiving

Dad went into the hospital last Wednesday and was discharged on Saturday. His family doctor had claimed he wasn’t in congestive heart failure, he was just gaining a great deal of weight and it was all fat. As of Monday morning, thanks to some powerful diuretics, he’s lost 37 lbs of the “fat” and is no longer weak and short of breath.

After looking at my calendar, I decided not to go visit while he was in the hospital. We will head to his apartment Thursday afternoon, I’ll do whatever he needs done on Friday, and then bright and early Saturday morning we will head to Daughter’s softball tournament. We’ll be home Saturday evening and I’ll be ready for a full day on Sunday.

He is now on a strict low-sodium diet. No processed foods. I’ve been doing some research and doing some cooking. I’ve made some very low sodium meat rub, smoked some pork chops, made a meatloaf, and will be smoking some chicken breasts. My goal is to take a number of quick meals that he can pull from the freezer and stick in the microwave. I figure if we don’t have easy meals available, he’ll end up eating things he shouldn’t out of desperation.

When I talked to him Monday morning, he sounded depressed. Those diuretics he’s taking are getting the weight off, but they’re also keeping him in the bathroom. He’s up multiple times through the night, so he’s not sleeping well. He’s also beginning to face the challenges of his dietary restrictions. Not only is he on a low sodium diet, it also needs to be low cholesterol and low in potassium. Dad has always loved food. He is an excellent cook who always loved to experiment. Sister had encouraged him to eat in the dining room at the senior residence, but he’s discovering his options are very limited there. Yesterday he selected the option that was low in sodium, and found himself facing a fruit salad that was very high in potassium.

I tried to be encouraging, and assured him that I was going to bring things he could eat. The reality, though, is that if he wants to stay alive and out of the hospital, he’s going to need to follow a diet that’s going to be a great deal of work and will deprive him of some of his favorite foods. We can’t change that. He is facing the outcome of 34 years of poorly controlled diabetes. At times like this, it would be nice to live closer to him. Since I live three hours away, I provide support via phone and seek to make the most of my time with him. It’s the best I can do right now. Sometimes I wonder if it's enough.

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