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Saturday, 11 May 2013 12:25
[personal profile] prog
Here's what happened this week, starting from the night that dad's social worker summoned me to Waterville.

We're navigating the crisis, and I hope that its endpoint is in sight, but it's uncertain. This is the sort of work where the horizon is an arm's length away; only at the end did I realize did an end-condition resolve at all, and I'm grateful for that much.



TUESDAY

Against all odds, Ricky actually succeeded in his frustratingly stubborn plan to drive dad's car to Bangor for the sake of some personal errands, then drive it all the way back to our parents' house in Oakland, then immediately make the tricky (for him) taxi/bus/taxi route back to his Bangor apartment. His unlikely removing himself from the stage simplified the week's work a great deal. I did not know at the time how little room for further complication the week would have.

WEDNESDAY

I sent and received well over fifty phone calls on this day alone, all involving my parents. This is about half of all the calls I would make between Monday and Friday. (On a normal week, I doubt I field ten calls for any reason.)

The day began when dad's nurse called during breakfast to ask where I'd put him, a call interrupted by middle-brother Peter asking if I could corroborate the neighbors' story about an ambulance carting dad away, and this call was interrupted in turn by another from dad's social worker.

Eventually the story came together: Mere hours after it was installed, dad hit an emergency-response "panic button" by his home phone after he fell in the kitchen and couldn't get up. The ambulance took him to Inland Hospital's ER, which kicked off a full work-day of frantic finagling between myself, the social worker, and her contacts. Dad was now too weak and injured to stand, which meant he couldn't safely go home, but he couldn't stay at Inland, or any other nearby hospital; no room. After several hours, the social worker managed to win him a slightly less temporary bed at an Augusta hospital, half an hour away.

Amy spent all this time at mom's so she wouldn't be alone. Amy had to at one point dissuade Mom from hitting the panic button herself; she wanted the ambulance to come back, so that it would her to dad.

The social worker was shadowed all day by a trainee, who confessed that the current situation, with management of their hospice patient complicated by a self-endangering spouse, schizophrenic adult children, and a series of other mishaps and unfortunate revelations was rather more involved than any training scenario. I let on that I was pleased to provide the education.

The ER doctor had treated dad in healthier times, and was clearly affected to see him in such a worse state, so soon. After frankly describing the injuries he'd sustained in the fall -- and, obviously, well aware of the terminal cancer's presence -- he told dad in a roundabout fashion that he regretted his inability to legally provide assisted suicide, rather than being obliged to help prop up his broken body until it finally shook itself apart. He also made some fine bleak jokes about "accidents" dad might look out for around the house, should he ever go home again. (There's a lake right there!) I liked him. The social workers found this bedside behavior kind of gross, though.

When I could get away, I performed salient research work as best I could from the nearest parking lot with decent cell reception. It was here I learned that my parents stopped paying their life-insurance premium months ago, and the policy had lapsed. The agent left me a voice mail saying that we could reinstate the plan, so long as their health hadn't changed much. I haven't bothered calling back.

I also took a call from an investigator from Adult Protective Services, who was pleased to hear that I'd gained power of attorney over mom's affairs and wanted to help set her up with financial aid so that she could get herself into assisted living ASAP. The understanding here being that if that can't happen The State will have to step in with its blunt and unsubtle ways, because it knows about mom's condition now and does not intend to allow her to live alone. Dad's social worker helped me set up a meeting with her for the next morning.

Before calling it a night, I had a phone conversation with the home-care person staying overnight with mom. She assured me that mom was a charming lady and a wonderful conversationalist, something I have been hearing again and again during all this.

THURSDAY

Home care-person interrupted breakfast in a state of agitation, and probably (in retrospect) sleep-deprivation. Mom was completely beside herself with demands to see dad again. Hearing herself being talked about, she grabbed the phone away from the worker to tell me personally that she would sign away the house, the car, whatever: just take her to dad. I didn't realize it at the time but she was connecting her signing of power-of-attorney documents last Friday with dad's disappearance.

Hit the bank branch across the street from our hotel as soon as it opened at 8:30 AM. Learned it was the same one my parents used -- and that dad had visited as recently as this past Monday, sigh. I said that he was not doing well, no. The bank folks I spoke to were sympathetic and excellent and gave me pages and pages of documentation that proved directly helpful for the next couple of days' work.

We visited mom and proceeded to meet with the APS investigator, and filled out the aid application quite efficiently, thanks in large part to the banking info I'd just collected. All this talk of bank accounts and mortgages alarmed Mom again, though, who at one point interrupted to say "Is it too late to rescind power of attorney? How do I rescind it? I rescind it!" Amy responded by steering mom away from the table and talking about pleasant things, a dependable tactic whose effectiveness we all have been quickly learning about.

Then we finally did manage to see dad at the Augusta hospital he'd been temporarily transferred to. Mom made a sound of longing recognition the instant she saw him, Aaaaaaaaa, a pure animal sound that I will never forget. As has happened before, the undeniable reality of dad helpless in a hospital bed shocked her briefly into lucidly. She kissed him and stroked his head and told him that he'd have to be there for a few days, OK? Presently she resumed normal altitude and tried to help dad out of bed, and a nurse I waved over gently backed her out of that.

While their visit continued (under appropriate supervision), Amy and I retired to the waiting room to conduct more phone calls. We decided then that we didn't have much choice but to set up 24/7 care for mom for a little while, which will cost me -- is costing me -- more than $400 / day. I instructed the service to continue through Tuesday, then scale it back to night-shift-only, if she's still at home after all that time, and not checked into a more appropriate facility yet.

Received one call from the doctor, two rooms away; invited him to join me. When asked, I confirmed that dad had no need of any treatment beyond pain management, and that this included no longer administering the Coumadin blood-thinning drug that he's been taking for 25 years; that stuff would just complicate things, at this point. I'd been worried about expensive but pointless procedures kicking it without my consent or control, so being handed the master switch and invited to turn them off myself was a great relief.

Fixed mom's phone, which hadn't worked in days. Ricky called literally within a minute of the repair; I answered and waved him away for the time being. "Well, Ricky can start calling you again," I told mom, who had been sitting dejectedly, still processing the hospital scene. "Er," she said, "is that good?" We all had a laugh over that.

Amy and I celebrated a hard day of work -- about 14 hours long -- with cheap mixed drinks at the local Ruby Tuesday, one of the few restaurants in Waterville still seating at 8:30 PM. Interrupted by a call from the home-care service, alerting me that their scheduled overnight worker had bailed upon discovering the cat, to which she was allergic. With me clearly getting sick and neither of us in any shape to drive, we decided to just leave mom alone overnight. This left me so worried that I slept very little, rapidly exacerbating a cold that I'd managed to pick up at some earlier point that day.

FRIDAY

A low-key day. I was too sick to be very hungry, so nobody could interrupt my breakfast at least. Amy drove me around and eventually drove me all the way back home. Plan A involved my giving Amy a lift to the bus station and then staying in Waterville for several more days, but we decided that there wasn't much good in me hanging around alone and sniffling in the hotel all weekend.

Dad completed his move to a nursing home, which is probably where he'll live out his remaining days. We're angling to get mom moved into the same place, but her application is moving ahead more slowly.

Something's wrong with the plumbing at mom's house (which we're now all thinking of as "mom's house" given that dad's unlikely to ever go back). Receiving reports from home-care folk of various fixtures spraying or leaking water in undesired directions. Everyone seems to be coping with towels and honestly I'm OK leaving that there for now.

Nobody knows why there's a rainwater-filled bucket of clothes outside the house, et cetera. There's a hundred little details like this I'm skipping over here.

My work continues over the weekend: I intend to pepper the APS investigator and various other folks with questions and updates via voice mail and email, and faxing and fedexing various documents and talismans around as appropriate. I have every expectation I'll need to go right on back to Waterville on Monday, alone this time; Amy's out of vacation days.

This phase of operations will be done when mom is squared away somewhere. I wish that was the end of all this, but alas it will not be.
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