Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Dad Bod

The last time I wrote about my step-dad, I complained that he was sleepy, forgetful, and occasionally confused.  I thought that he might be suffering from a sleep disorder.  Turns out it's congestive heart failure.

He had an episode a couple of years ago during which his feet and ankles swelled up, and he had to take a course of diuretics.  Then he decided that he was fine.  He never followed up with his cardiologist.  Of course the diuretics didn't cure his heart problem; they only treated the most visible symptom.  His heart failure progressed.  He should have continued to take medication on a long-term basis.  Instead, he neglected to visit a doctor until last month, when he was so weak and tired that he could barely walk up a flight of stairs.

He thought that he had asthma, which he has suffered from in the past.  Actually, it was pulmonary edema (fluid accumulation in the lungs), which was slowly suffocating him.  No wonder he looked 75% dead.

He finally went to see a cardiologist and a respirologist, who scolded him and put him back on diuretics.  He'll be on a high dose until he's less waterlogged, then he can go on a maintenance dose.  It's not a quick process.  I just saw him for the first time in three weeks, as long as he's been taking the medication, and he still looks 50% dead.  He's up and shuffling around, but he gets winded after a few steps, and he's noticeably pale.

The hardest part is that he makes it harder.  He goes into denial.  He puts off seeing doctors.  He won't let my mother take charge of his appointments.  He insists on driving himself to the appointments he does attend, although I believe that, in the state he's in, he's not fully alert behind the wheel.  He also tries to hide his illness from people, but that's just crazy.  Anyone with two eyes and a brain can see that he hasn't just got the flu (which is one of the excuses that I've heard him make for his fatigue).

What can we do, my mother and I?  Take it day by day.  We tell people and then tell them to pretend that they don't know, so that he won't be upset.  (We're telling certain people who should know for his own safety, in case he collapses in their presence and they need to have information for first responders.)  I asked the cleaning lady who is at his office in the evenings to keep an eye on him if she ever finds him there alone.  She was very understanding.  "I have a father too.  I know how it is." she said.

We put as much pressure on him as we feel that we can without triggering his rebel-without-a-cause impulse to dig his heels in and be contrary.  I asked him yesterday to please give my mother permission to make an appointment for him with a general practitioner, because he hasn't seen a family doctor in a dog's age or longer.

In the final analysis, he's still a responsible adult who will have to live or die with the consequences of his own choices.  If he ends up dying sooner than was technically necessary, I refuse to feel guilty.  We can only do as much as he allows us to do.  He'll be as stubborn as a mule until his dying day, whenever that comes.

9 comments:

DarcKnyt said...

All you can do is all you can do. And you're doing all you can. You can't force a person to be responsible, and it's hard to make them see the selfishness in behaving that way sometimes.

I'll say a prayer for you both, hon.

Jenny Woolf said...

I feel you have the right approach. He is indeed an adult and is probably doing his best to hold on to that, not turn into someone who needs to be looked after. But oh,how very difficult and frustrating and worrying for you and your mother.

Abby said...

Well, that must be frustrating. But you're doing your best. He's an adult, and he could be in denial. It's rare for someone to admit that they're not as able as they used to be.

Granny Annie said...

I am almost 70 and live alone. My children visit and look at me with eyes of concern but so far they have not voiced that concern. It feels very good now to be allowed to be responsible for my own well being but their looks make me wonder how long before they start calling each other to discuss "what to do about mother"...

Lynn said...

My mother had congestive heart failure - she lived with that for several years after being diagnosed, with proper medication. He should listen to you!

Jenski said...

I'm no therapist, but your effort and response to your efforts seems very reasonable. I hope your step dad slowly comes around to more doctors visits and self-care "on his own".

G. B. Miller said...

I can genuinely feel your pain. My late father was notorious for hiding his health problems and we didn't find out about the one that took his life until he went in for prostate cancer surgery and by then it was too late to do anything about it (pulmonary fibrosis).

All you can do really is to keep doing what you're doing and hope for the best. And yes, it does suck to see a parent do stupid. Hang in there.

Father Nature's Corner

LL Cool Joe said...

I think I'm like your Step Dad. I refuse to go to the doctor too. But if I die early because of it, I'm totally prepared to take all the blame.

Vanessa T said...

I'm so sorry, Spark. I know it's painful watching a loved one go through this kind of thing. In the end, you are absolutely right, and you cannot feel guilty for the choices he makes about his own health. I'll be praying for you and your family as you all try to find ways to cope. *hugs*