Dear Home Health Nurse, Get a Clue

Melinda Crow

I honestly can't take another one of your holier-than-thou visits to my dad

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Photo by Christopher Boswell on Unsplash

Yesterday, when the nurse, (yes, the same nurse who reported me to Adult Protective Services) arrived for my dad's weekly visit the first thing she asked him was, "How's your financial situation going? Any change?"

What the actual?!

I called her supervisor, so I have no idea what to expect this week, but here's what I'd like to say to her:

Dear Well-meaning nurse,

I understand that in your thirty-two years you have probably seen quite a lot. I can only imagine the life of a home health nurse. The conditions of some of the people you visit must shock the senses. I want to thank you for taking on a job that most of us could not handle for even one day.

But here's the deal. My dad needs someone with medical training to stop in once a week to set up his meds for him (in case I am unable), check him over for new bumps and bruises, check his vitals, and maybe trim his nails or advise him on a good butt cream.

That's it.

He has family living fifty yards from him-- on the same property. He has a state-provided care aid designed to help him stay out of a nursing home for as long as possible. That alone should tell you several things: a) we cared enough to go through the months-long process of getting that help for him, b) we aren't in a hurry to put him away somewhere, c) he doesn't have a pile of money that we are spending frivolously (cuz the state doesn't provide this kind of care to those who can afford it on their own), AND d) that someone other than you is keeping tabs on him-- namely, the state health and human services caseworker who visits several times a year.

Yes, we took his damn truck away.

When two people have a conversation in the room with him, he thinks they are speaking a foreign language, intentionally, so that he cannot understand. He falls every week. He has dementia, Afib, a cataract in his right eye, a history of stroke, and can barely traverse his 600 square-foot apartment with a walker. What part of that makes you want to be on the highway with him?

Ever see someone so drunk that they can barely stand, but are determined to prove they can drive? (Of course you have; you're 32.) That's my dad.

He wants his truck in his garage so he can prove that he can still drive.

Yes, we took over his finances (all $890 a month of it, woo-hoo).

How the hell else is he supposed to get groceries and prescriptions? Do we keep his bank statements from him? As a matter of fact, we do. That started a few months ago when he started slapping his head over and over when he saw that we used his debit card at the ATM to withdraw cash, which we keep on hand for the state-provided caregiver when he askes her to run to the store for chives for his baked potato.

Yes, we spent some of his money on Wi-fi access, a security camera, and a digital lock for his door.

Wouldn't any prudent person if their parent was going to have multiple caregivers, therapists, and nurses coming and going from his building?

And no, we aren't hovering over him every second to keep him from falling.

But here's the list of things we have been there for:

  • The hands-and-knees in cockroach parts, trash, and dirty underwear scrubbing of his apartment when we finally saw the inside of it after he kept us locked out for the early years of his dementia.
  • The mountains of laundry he generated when he could still drive and thought it was more fun to drive to Walmart for new pants and underwear than doing the laundry.
  • Holding, dumping, and washing his urinal when he broke his right elbow last year.
  • Cooking (and delivering) three meals a day for nine months while we waited on the state to approve his daily caregiver. (We did this even though I happen to have a debilitating health condition of my own and even when my mother was in an ICU bed two hours away on a ventilator.)
  • Every doctor visit he needed or demanded for the last three years-- all the cast changes when he broke his arm, all the ophthalmologist visits for the cataract surgeries he refuses to proceed with, and the neurologist appointment that provided the comfort that he actually has dementia, but which could only be scheduled two hours away.
  • That time when he was bleeding out from a hole in his gut and the hospital floor nurses were content to let him lay there with blood pouring from his butt and his BP plummeting.
  • The hundred or so times when he fell and did not have the strength to get back up.
  • The yelling when the potatoes we bought aren't the correct size.
  • The threats to blow my husband's head off.
  • The trips to the library and the used book store for stacks of books he can pretend to read while his imaginary little people stand beside his bed watching.
  • Weekly trips to the proper grocery store for his very detailed lists of unhealthy canned food.
  • Daily visits, no matter the weather, no matter how I feel, no matter what else is going on in our lives, just to verify that he is still breathing and still angry with us about the money and the truck and the camera and the lock.

So, thank you for your dedication to your work. But if you could step into my shoes for one moment, pull your head out, and think about the agitation your words can cause and the crescendo of symptoms that flow from that agitation for days, I would be grateful.

Sincerely,

Bad Daughter

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Waco, TX
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