Wisdom gained. Things I had wished I had known before. Sharing.


With elderly people, their situation is always very fluid.  I really never knew what I would find when I visited my dad each day.  Sunday was no different. I received a call from the facility saying he had fallen but he was okay.  That was at 1:30 pm.  I came over to see him an hour later and the first thing I did was rest my hand on his thigh and ask him what happened.  Upon placing my hand on his thigh, he grimaced.

LESSON:  Facilities tend to always say “he’s ok” after a fall.  Particularly with folks with dementia because they cannot adequately express their pain or difficulty.

LESSON LEARNED:  Always evaluate yourself whether, in fact, your parent is “ok.”

It was a Sunday, and with our healthcare system, apparently you really shouldn’t need help or get sick because it’s difficult to find a nurse.  In our particular situation, the nurse had just left.  Supposedly, she did check him out after his fall and deemed him “ok.”  So when I asked a med-tech (the closest medical professional I could find on a Sunday), she assured me that since he didn’t seem to be in too much pain, we could probably wait until tomorrow to have an X-ray.  They can do x-rays right on site.  I knew he was in pain, but it seemed to be only when he moved in a certain way.  So I went along with it and waited until Monday, thinking he’d get an x-ray first thing.


The mobile x-ray people roam from facility to facility doing these X-rays and they get to you when they get to you.  They can’t really tell you when.  As the day went on, my dad started to slump sideways in his wheelchair and then was experiencing muscle spasms in his back.  By 2:30, I was really agitated at having to wait so long and was ready to call 911, when the person finally arrived.  What I didn’t realize is that they would have to move him from his wheelchair to the bed in order to do the X-ray.  The whole reason for not taking him right to the hospital is because I wanted to minimize movement.

LESSON:  Ask questions.

LESSON LEARNED:  Do not assume anything.

Two hours later (at 5 pm) it was confirmed that he had fractured his hip. So, at the end of the day, we had to call the ambulance anyway.  Off he went to the hospital. When we arrived, the first thing they told me was that they don’t really rely on mobile X-rays; they would now do their own X-rays. So that was a complete waste of time and an entire day of possible pain I had put my dad in.

LESSON: Do not trust anyone.  Ask questions and more questions.

LESSONS LEARNED:  Skip the mobile X-ray. Go right to the hospital where there is real medical expertise.  What they have in these assisted living facilities isn’t the same level as what is available at a hospital.

Now sitting in the hospital a full two days after my dad’s fall, awaiting hip replacement surgery (that could have been done yesterday, had I gotten him to the hospital directly),

Live and learn.  I’ve lived it, now you can learn it so you don’t make the same mistakes. What lessons have you learned in your caregiving?  I will help you if you help me.  No one needs to travel this road alone.

If there were books on eldercare, no one would read them because we all think our parents will always be there.


The funny thing about this experience is that there are only two times in my life when I have felt so unprepared.  The first was when they handed me my son after he was born and the second was when I got the phone call that my dad had fallen and was in the hospital in Iowa…and I was living in Pennsylvania.  The difference between the two scenarios is that in the first, I had a 9 month advance notice that this baby was going to be handed to me to care for and with this most recent scenario, I had zero notice.  I thought I was doing everything right.  We had the talk about advance directives, he had all the appropriate power of attorney paperwork drafted and appointed me as his health care proxy.  Of course, he never really explained fully what that meant.  I knew that I would be making health care decisions for him, should he be incapacitated and yada yada yada….the funny thing is, is that the state of denial is a very long river and I was on a long long cruise.  I assumed my dad would just drop dead one night, as my mother had when I was 27.  He even told me that was his plan.

Best laid plans.  Instead, he is living in a memory care unit for people with dementia and needs a very high level of care just to manage his activities of daily living (eating, dressing, bathing, taking medicine).  His body is fairly healthy for an almost 89 year old guy.  His mind, however, is slowly fading from us. Each day I try to assess who the guy is in front of me.  Will he remember who people are?  Some days he does and other days, he has no idea.  When is it my turn to be forgotten, I wonder.