Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Long Distance Coping

I live 160 miles from Mom and Dad. Both of them have been hospitalized this year, so I have made a number of trips up there. I was last with Dad about a month ago. I noticed then that he was weaker than he had been when he first came home from the hospital and rehab. I told him if he didn’t get up and start walking and getting more exercise, he’d be back in the nursing home again.

I shared my concern with Sister and Brother, and suggested we all encourage him to get walking more. Sister went over and insisted he walk over the cottage to visit Mom one day. She assured him he could stop and rest as many times as he needed to, and she would go get the car if she had to. He had to rest a number of times on the walk over there.

Two weeks ago she took him to the doctor, and shared her concern that he was back in congestive heart failure. She pointed out that he was retaining fluids around his middle. Her concerns were not taken seriously. His ankles weren’t swollen, and his lungs sounded okay. It didn’t seem to concern them that he had gained 32 pounds.

Dad insisted that he just had allergies, and that was why he couldn’t sleep lying down. I ordered a wedge pillow for him so he could sleep with his head elevated. He also had excuses for why he wasn’t walking or even going to the store or over to visit Mom anymore. Sister and Brother were doing his shopping and running his errands.

Friday when I talked to Dad, he said he’d had a terrible time sleeping because of his asthma. I asked if his inhaler had helped, and he admitted it hadn’t. He said he’d finally gotten up and sat down in the recliner, and then he’d been able to sleep. He went on to mention that if he stood up to do any work, he quickly became very short of breath and had to sit down and rest. I was concerned, but knew he would become angry if I mentioned it sounded like he was in congestive heart failure to me. I told him asthma is very serious, and if he had difficulty breathing again, he needed to call for help.

I then called Brother and told him I thought Dad was in congestive heart failure. Brother had been out of town all week on business, but promised to visit on Saturday and take him to the hospital if he thought it was necessary. Brother did visit, and decided he didn’t need to go to the hospital, but he would take him back to the doctor on Monday.

Monday Brother took Dad to the doctor. Again, he was assured that he wasn’t in congestive heart failure, even though he had gained 22 pounds in 2 weeks. He was just eating too much and getting fat. Sister and I both questioned this, because we knew Dad was being very careful about not eating too much. The doctor did acknowledge that Dad was very weak and had lost his sense of balance. He ordered some blood work and sent him home.

Tuesday the doctor’s office called Dad and told him he needed to come back on Wednesday for more blood work. He asked Sister to drive him over. Brother called the doctor’s office and demanded to know why they needed more blood. It seems his kidney functions were off, his potassium was too high, and one of the results indicated he was in congestive heart failure.

Sister called his cardiologist. The nurse gave him an appointment today at the satellite office, which is further away. She suggested Dad pack a bag so he could go directly to the office.
Sister had the blood work faxed to the cardiologist’s office. The nurse called Sister back and said the cardiologist wanted her to get him to the ER (at the hospital close to home) as quickly as possible. His colleague would see him there, admit him, and start treatment.

Today I hate being 160 miles away. I’ve been studying my calendar to see when I can go up for a day or two. I told Dad this morning that while he might think the current doctor is a nice guy, we are going to find him a new one. Dad didn’t argue. Brother and Sister are waiting in the ER with him. It will be a very long day for all of us.

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