How family relationships come full circle

After a 2-week long hospital stay in November 2010, and with my dad rapidly declining due to his dementia, he was deemed by medical staff to be too fragile to come back home, so he was placed in an assisted living facility. The cost of those facilities is staggering, and many people find themselves being blindsided by all of the bills associated with such care, and how much Medicare does not cover. I know we were.

What was even more surprising was what that $4000 per month fee didn’t cover. We were charged for transit to and from doctor’s appointments. We were charged for hair cuts and manicures/pedicures. We had to pay for the adult diapers and Ensure drinks separately. At home, my dad had only needed to wear a diaper at night, because he was still ambulatory and could still attend to his own toileting needs (usually.) But once he was at the assisted living facility, he was in diapers full-time. It seemed more and more often, we would get that call from the facility, “Patrick is almost of out diapers.” At one point, I called and asked just how many they were going through a day. “Oh, at least a dozen or more.” I thought I was going to have to take a second job just to cover the costs.

At first my mom was trying to handle buying the diapers and taking them to the care center herself, but that was too much of a burden so I offered to research online and find the best deal, then have them shipped directly to the facility. It’s both humbling and depressing to spend many nights on the couch, surfing Amazon.com looking for great deals on diapers for your 78-year-old father. Briefs or pull-ups? I learn the pros and cons of the various brands: Depends, Attends, Abena, Molicare, TENA, etc. I spent hours reading the sometimes sad, sometimes humorous accounts of adults with incontinence problems and their personal reviews of these products.

My mom had another take on this task that I did for my dad. “When you were a baby and your father would come home from work late at night, and I would tell him you’d run out of Pampers, he would say, ‘Well, Joy has to have her diapers’ and would get right back in the car to pick some up. He never complained.”

When I went back home just after my father passed away, I was greeted in the spare bedroom by stacks and stacks of adult diapers that were left over from one of the orders I had placed. In a plastic grocery bag atop the tower of diapers were unused medications that had been prescribed to my dad. These things, a few clothes and one lone studio portrait of me as a chubby-cheeked two-year-old were all of the belongings my dad had with him at the end of his life. It’s a sobering thought for our materialism-driven society.

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