My Dad suffered a stroke just over 5 weeks ago. The last few weeks have been some of the toughest that we have ever gone through. Strokes affect the sufferer and their families and nothing can prepare you for just how much it changes things.
I found Dad slumped on his bedroom floor. His face had dropped, his hand looked like a claw and he couldn’t speak. I’ve no idea how long he had been like that and at first I thought that he’d had a diabetic hypo as that’s happened before. As I was on the phone to the paramedics, Mick arrived and tried to understand the sounds Dad was making. You could tell he was trying to talk but it was just noise – there were no recognisable words.
The paramedics eventually arrived and they took his blood sugar which pretty much ruled out a hypo. Deep down I knew that he’d had a stroke but I didn’t want to admit it. I didn’t want it to be real. At the hospital, the stroke team arrived immediately and confirmed what had happened. By then it was apparent that Dad couldn’t see properly but his speech and movement started to come back. We took this as a great sign that he was recovering so quickly and that perhaps this hadn’t been that bad.
Brain scans confirmed the stroke and also showed that he’d had a previous stroke although we can’t confirm when this was. As the days passed, the eyesight didn’t return but the speech and movement was back. There were some words he struggled with and a bit of confusion, but we were feeling really positive. After 2 weeks they sent Dad home. We were told that there’d be carers and that Dad would soon be independent again.
The plan was to have these ‘carers’ in 4 times a day which sounded ideal. The first thing they said was that they weren’t carers, they didn’t help with medication and that Dad had to do things for himself. They were a reablement team who are there to help the person live indecently again. This is great … for someone who has recovered enough for this to be an option.
Once Dad was home it was clear he was far more confused than we’d realised and he could barely see. He’s an insulin dependent diabetic and has to inject twice a day, as well as take quite a lot of other medications. Dad can’t remember how to inject his insulin and no matter how many times you show him, he forgets. He’s also forgotten that he has to take his tablets and you basically have to do it all for him. At first a district nurse would come and help with the insulin but she turned up at stupid times and as soon as she realised I’d learnt how to sort it out, she disappeared.
I spent 2 weeks preparing all of his meals, dealing with his insulin and medication, repeating myself 30 times a day. I’d find the kettle in the fridge, plates under tables … the dog sat out in the front garden by the road. Then one night Dad went for a shower. He came out of the bathroom dressed in my pyjamas which were far too small for him and he was frightened. He said there had been Russian Communists and Israeli terrorists in the bathroom trying to kill him. Then he looked at me and said I was trying to kill him. I took him back to the hospital who did nothing … and I mean nothing. They stuck him in a waiting room for 4 hours before I gave up and took him home.
Dad would get up in the middle of the night, convinced people were trying to break in, or he’d start doing random things. After 2 weeks I was exhausted, a nervous wreck and very close to a breakdown. Dad was clearly declining and regressing and I didn’t know how to keep him safe anymore. My mental health had taken a sharp decline and something had to give.
To cut a very long story short, Dad is currently in a local nursing home for a period of 8 weeks. During this time, the plan is to assess his needs and work out a plan for the long-term.
Whilst this has given me a break, it’s not the answer. There’s a hospital not too far from here that has an in-patient rehab for stroke patients. This is where Dad needs to be. However, because the hospital didn’t refer him there we can’t get him in. Social Services have tried and failed and I’m angry. The nursing home aren’t doing anything to try and stimulate Dad’s brain or get him doing things … he just sits in a chair and snoozes. Each time we visit, he seems more and more confused. Suddenly he seems like a small child in an old man’s body and it is heartbreaking.
I don’t know where we go from here. We have an appointment to see if they can try and restore his eyesight – the problem is with the brain and not the optic nerve – so hopefully that will help a little. As each day passes, and as he regresses more and more, I feel like I am losing him. I’ve lost a parent and it hurts like hell and now if feels like it is happening again, even though Dad is still here. He looks like Dad, he sounds like Dad but he’s not Dad. There’s the odd glimmer of Dad but they soon pass.
I also feel guilty that I couldn’t cope with his care. He says he feels abandoned by everyone, but I know that he means me. That hurts and I feel like I’ve failed him. I don’t know how to make him better and I’m scared that he’ll never recover. For now, I guess we just take it day by day, but there have been some TIAs (mini strokes), so I’m terrified that another big stroke is on the way. So if I’m a bit crap at posting at the moment, now you know why. I feel like I’m swimming against the tide, desperately trying to keep my head above the water.