My Dad was a strong and independent person who had always said that if possible he’d like to live out his remaining days at home and my family promised him that we’d do everything in our power to ensure that happened.
After a long and successful career, Dad finally retired and enjoyed a couple of happy and incident-free years until he suffered a heart attack that left him considerably weaker. To make matters worse, in the months after he returned home from hospital he developed emphysema and found it increasingly difficult to complete everyday tasks by himself. Luckily, my Mum was a strong and vibrant woman and was able to take on the role of his day-to -day caregiver. As a result the rest of the family (my two brothers, my sister and I) were able to get on with our lives pretty much unaffected.
Then seemingly overnight, Dad’s balance deteriorated dramatically. It was becoming increasingly apparent that it was going to be more and more difficult for us to care for Dad by ourselves and it wasn’t long before things came to a head.
Mum had to go into hospital for what was expected to be a routine operation. Naturally, she was worried about the operation but she was more worried about who was going to look after Dad. However, as I was able to get some time off work it appeared that everything was pretty much in hand. Little did we how wrong we were as things were about to take a dramatic turn for the worse.
After three days of looking after Dad I got a call from the hospital to say that there were complications with Mum’s operation and she would need to stay in hospital longer. It was suggested that it might be a good idea to put Dad in a home for the time being. While the doctor said she was very sick, we didn’t grasp at the time that she was fighting for her life with a severe case of peritonitis. When we put this to Dad, tears welled in his eyes and he accused us of wanting to put him in a room to be left to rot. We assured him that this was not the case and that it was only a temporary arrangement but all to no avail. Dad was inconsolable!
It broke our hearts to see Dad like that and even though we knew he wasn’t being logical, we felt we needed to find a solution that would allow us to go back to work while ensuring Dad got the care he required.
The next day I made a few enquiries and was put in touch with our local home care service provider. I explained our situation and was more than relieved when they were able to offer us emergency temporary assistance in the form of homecare nursing. This was a godsend for the rest of the family as it allowed us to get back to work even though we all still had to take turns to stay overnight. From the next day on, the homecare nurses arrived like clockwork to look after the difficult and often messy task of caring for Dad.
In the morning they would wake him, lift him out of bed and assist him on his walk to the shower which could take as long as 3-4 minutes due to his poor breathing. They would then shower him, dry him and apply lotion to his skin. They would dress him, walk him to the kitchen, administer his medication and make him breakfast. The home care nurses and carers also took care of his continence aids. If there was time, the home carers would do the dishes and hang out the laundry before they left for the day.
In the evening they would arrive again at 7.30 to help Dad on his walk from the kitchen to the bedroom. They would lift him into bed, attach his continence aid and make sure he had his asthma puffer and a glass of water within easy reach before they left for the night.
After a few weeks Mum returned home from hospital but she was still far too weak to care for Dad so the temporary homecare turned into an ongoing arrangement. Dad needed care for about another year before he passed away and during that time the nurses and carers went about their job with grace, good humor and compassion.
In hindsight there was no way that the rest of the family could have continued on with our jobs and dealt with the range of personal challenges we faced then if it wasn’t for the amazing support of the homecare nurses and carers.
It’s been over four years now since Dad’s been gone and I still look back on those days and take great comfort in the knowledge that he was able to live out his life at home and that we kept our promise to him. Without the fantastic help from the homecare nurses and carers, that could have never been possible.