‘Where have you been?‘ asked dad when I saw him yesterday…
My 85-year-old dad has been in hospital for the last two weeks, after a fall at home and a bang on the head. Dad has poor mobility due to four strokes over the space of several years, and has vascular dementia. I’ve gone up to the hospital to see him most days, but sadly he doesn’t always remember things. Like where he is or how long he’s been there, or what time it is, or what day, or what year, or what decade for that matter. Or in particular when anyone last visited him.
There are still restrictions and limitations on hospital visiting due to Covid, so there’s nothing straightforward about booking a fixed appointment slot in the ward to ensure that only one visitor per room is in attendance at any one time – and as dad is in a six-bedded room, that means sharing all available individual slots with a potential five other visitors on a first come, first served basis. Additionally, each patient is only allowed two designated visitors for the entirety of their stay – so for my dad, that’s my mum and me.
But of course dad doesn’t really comprehend the intricacies of any of this – not long-term Covid restrictions, not his being in hospital, not his dementia, not why things have to be the way they are for him right now. Dad doesn’t always remember when I visit – I mean, he knows at the time I’m there, but generally he doesn’t retain that information even to the next day. It’s the same when mum is there with him, he doesn’t always remember when she visits, either. Inevitably that hurts, makes it all so much harder to cope with.
I try to remain positive but to be perfectly honest I’m growing weary of constantly juggling work and buses and visiting slots, and I feel guilty that I’m finding it all so stressful. I mean, he’s my dad, and I do want to see him as regularly as I can to make sure he’s OK, but yet… Some days I go up and dad gives me a big smile when he sees me, and that makes it all worthwhile. He is usually happy in the moment, and for dad, the moment is often all he has. But on days like yesterday it feels like a lost cause…
For whatever reason, dad was not in a good place yesterday. Quiet, uncommunicative, not partaking in anything much when it comes to social interaction but easily distracted by watching the comings and goings of staff in the ward. ‘Where have you been?‘ is pretty much all I got from him yesterday, accusatory, as if I was failing him somehow. And perhaps I am. So I just sat patiently with him for my allotted hour, simply keeping him company, trying to engage him in conversation but mostly passing the time in silence, and then I got ready to leave.
‘Where are you going?‘ asked dad as I stood up, and I told him I had to go home now, because my visiting time was up but I’d be back again tomorrow… I gave him a hug as usual and as I turned back to wave at him I saw the confusion in his eyes, the puzzlement, the struggle for him to make sense of it all… So I sat on the bus going home with tears in my eyes, knowing there is no easy answer to any of this, there is no quick fix, no positive prognosis to look forward to… No real hope of salvation.
Dad has vascular dementia, and the harsh reality is he will have good days and bad days but there can be no getting better, only a slow downwards progression towards… what? Who knows… ❤ 😦