Caregiving doesn’t end when a family member moves into a nursing home
“The daughter is here,” I heard someone say as I step off the elevator. I look for my Dad in his room and there’s no sign of him, so I ask a nurse. “He’s already in the dining room,” she replies. Sure enough, there he is, sitting at his assigned place at his table. I notice that his glasses are missing and I’m hoping they didn’t get lost again. The nurse’s aide that usually works this shift is off sick today and an aide from another floor is already feeding my Dad. Because of his advanced Alzheimer’s, his food is pureed and plenty of caution is necessary when feeding him. I notice she’s feeding him way too fast and I tell her, "I’ll take over now." She gives me an eye roll, stands up and leaves the table.
Sometimes, we stay in the dining room for Dad’s meals. Tonight we return to his room, where my Mum is waiting. “His glasses were on the floor by the closet,” she says. I can see that she is upset. Trying not to make the situation any worse, I say, “Oh good, at least they didn’t get lost again.” I’m greeted at his door by another nurse’s aide who hands me Dad’s dinner on a tray with a smile. “Here you go. We didn’t forget his pears, dietary is bringing them up in a few minutes.” Our evening with Dad has just begun.
The preceding represents a few moments from my Dad’s life in a nursing home, where he resided for five years. For ten years, he battled with Alzheimer’s at home, where we cared for him. Then, due to the progression of his condition, nursing home care was required. This was a heartbreaking realisation for our family.
During my dad’s nursing home stay, our family experienced good days with him, along with some very difficult ones. There is no getting around the fact that nursing homes face challenges. Understaffed facilities where employees earn low-wage salaries directly impact the quality of care that residents receive. Providing and managing care for someone with advanced Alzheimer’s is complex. An enormous amount of patience and understanding is required, in addition to knowledge about the disease, its stages and the numerous ways it impacts the individual.
During my dad’s battle with Alzheimer’s, I observed a tendency by others to sometimes treat him as if he was no longer there, as if he was invisible, due to the ravages of the condition. For me, this was never the case. No matter what, I knew that behind my father's gaze he was always present and that he recognised his daughter was right there beside him. I also knew that during his Alzheimer’s journey, he never stopped being the wonderful and amazing man who raised me, regardless of what Alzheimer's stole from him.
Caregiving doesn’t end when a family member moves into a nursing home. In some ways, it becomes more complicated. Although a family’s role changes, their love and concern stay the same. Nursing home care is challenging for families. Yet, just as our family experienced over time, strangers can become caregivers who you can trust and count on to be professional and compassionate.
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Lisa Marie Chirico's Caregiver Coaching supports and empowers those managing the nursing home care experience at Nursinghomeology.