Eldercare: Profile--taking Care Of The Caregiver, March 1998
Thursday, March 5, 1998
Two and a half years ago, Seaside resident Nancy Mosely got a call from her mother and brother. They told her it was her turn to take care of Dad.
Nancy hadn't seen her father in 27 years, since the day she walked out on his drinking and constant abuse. But he was still her father, so she went to see him in the trailer park where he was now living.
When Nancy walked in, she couldn't believe what she saw. Her father was filthy, living in squalor, eating nothing but cereal, canned fruit cocktail, milk, water and junk food. He hadn't bathed in months. There was no heat or hot water. No one in the trailer park looked out for him, and he'd often be picked up far from home, wandering aimlessly.
For the next three months, Nancy visited him regularly, cleaning him up as best she could and bringing him more nutritious food. She lost 20 pounds from the stress. Finally her husband said, "Let's bring him here."
Nancy, her husband and their two grown children shared a modest two-bedroom home in Seaside, so Nancy bought her father an RV to live in, and parked it in their driveway. Three weeks after he moved in, he started shaking violently from an infection he'd contracted earlier. "He'd been eating old fruit cocktail, throwing up in the can, and eating it fermented," she explains quietly. "I don't know how he survived."
She suspects he'd been suffering from dementia for more than ten years, and possibly had a stroke. No one had noticed. After a few months in Nancy's care, he was up to a healthy 210 pounds, was taking vitamins and minerals, and had a good appetite. Six months ago, her children left home and Nancy moved her father into their bedrooms, which she refurbished into a cheerful living space for the elderly man. He spends most of his time watching TV or playing cards.
"I promised him his last days would be nice ones," she says.
But it's hard work. Dad is usually mild-tempered, but is very confused and quite fragile. He is incontinent, and needs his diapers changed often. He has to be bathed and dressed. Lifting a 210-pound man in and out of the shower isn't easy, Carol says, especially when he doesn't feel like doing it.
Three days a week, her father is picked up by the RIDES van and goes off to spend a few hours at the VNA/SHARE adult day care program in Seaside. The rest of the time, either Nancy or her husband must be home to watch out for him.
Last fall, Nancy discovered a lifesaver: respite care. "I went around to all the different nursing homes, but I couldn't afford them," she says. "Then I went to Crestview [now Ocean View Care Center]. It felt peaceful, and it smelled clean." Ocean View had a MediCal bed free for respite care, so Nancy and her husband put her father in their care and took off for a much-needed week-long camping trip.
When they returned to Seaside, Dad didn't want to come home. "He was having such a good time," Nancy says.
She's looking forward to next summer, when she and her husband plan another vacation. She thinks MediCal will pay for up to four weeks a year of respite care for her father, and she plans on taking advantage of it. She wants to continue taking care of him at home, but likes knowing she can take a break now and then.
"I didn't love him once, but I love him now," she states firmly. "This job was thrown on me, and I wouldn't give it up for anything. He lived in that trailer for ten years, doing nothing. Now he goes to SHARE, they play games, talk to him, feed him. He has a life.
"Anyone can take care of a family member at home. If I can do it, so can you." n