nurse-with-elder-clipartToday, I’m delighted to offer this wonderful post from guest-blogger, Tonia Boterf, a certified life coach, holistic health practitioner and author. You can find her at Options Through Holistic Health and Life Coaching

“I’m Escaping”
By Tonia Boterf

I had come to the nursing home to visit Dad but couldn’t find him in his room or the common area. I asked a CNA if they knew where Dad was and when I told them that I couldn’t see him, they said to check the central common area. Well, I checked the central common area and still no Dad and thus began the search by everyone to find him. I followed a gut instinct and loudly said, “Dad, where are you”, I heard this faint reply from a delivery hallway and when I went to check, there he was by the outside door. “Dad, what are you doing?”, I asked, his reply was, “I’m escaping.”

Needless to say, my father didn’t escape that day, but he did a number of other times! Dad had gone into the nursing home, intially, for rehabilitation from a recent stay in the hospital. He made good gains in the nursing home and we had expected that he would return to his assisted living home with his girlfriend. Unforunately, over time, it became obvious that though his physical condition improved, his mental capacity had not recovered as well and he ended up qualifying for nursing home care. I could not care for him at home for many safety reasons and he could not go back to the assisted living home due to the same reasons. It now became a rush to make things work for him to remain in the nursing home and to make arrangements for his girlfriend who not only had now lost him (he was an 1 hour drive away and she did not drive) but she would also have to move and my sister and I would have to get my father’s belongings seperated from hers and stored.

Dad, at first, did ok in the nursing home, he loved to talk with staff, tried to make friends with other residents and tried to always “be in the know” of what was happening in the facility. But eventually he got bored and he wanted to smoke and sit outside when he wanted to, so he would find a way to get outside of the building. The problem though, was that Dad had really begun to think he was in places he wasn’t, doing things he wasn’t, and thinking he would just go hitch a ride to go to some town for some reason. He was still very angry with us for ‘taking away his car’, but that’s another story. Because of safety, my father had to be moved to a ‘locked’ ward, and if that wasnt bad enough, he was still mentally functioning much higher than the other residents in that unit which meant he had no real peers. My sister and I were sickened by all of this, what had we done, were we doing the right thing, what alternatives were there? With my sister being a nurse and I, a social worker, you would have thought we had things pretty well covered but we still faced the same emotional issues that all adult children face when dealing with an aging parent. There was no acceptable choice but for Dad to stay where he was and the nursing staff was very good at trying to make life more acceptable for Dad. The Nurse also told us, it will be easier once our Dad’s mental capacity deteriorated a bit more and thus he would not be so aware. What an awful thing to hope for but it meant the difference of him being miserable and being very loud and clear about it or hoping that the progression of mental deterioration continued quickly enough so that he wouldn’t be so unhappy. It felt like a no win situation and that we were not being good daughters.

Dad adjusted to the locked ward by becoming the jokster, ‘listening in’ on conversations at the nurses desk so he would be in the know about everything and, escaping from the unit. Dad become very good at getting through keypad gates, locked doors and keypad locked elevators. He would wait by delivery doors, so when a delivery was made, he would slide out the door after it had been opened. He would wait for visitors to get on the elevator and then get on, passing for someone visiting and get to the next level that lead to an unlocked and unguarded door and then away he went. Dad was found wondering down the road a few times, wondering in the yard and elsewhere. We were very lucky he hadn’t hitch hiked off somewhere! Thus the Escape Artist of the unit was born.

We would laugh sometimes about Dad’s escape escapades but underneath that was always the knowledge that he was doing it because he was bored and because he didn’t want to be in the nursing home. Even when he his mental capacity was very limited, there was still that need inside to be the master of his own life and be where he wanted to be. It didn’t matter what any of us tried to do for activities with or for him or taking out for meals and picnics. He wasn’t happy and that hurts you as the adult child to the heart. Eventually Dad couldn’t get around well, so escaping became too difficult but it never truely left his mind. When Dad lay dieing, I told him it was ok to ‘go’, that he had better things to do and places to be and people to see. I told him that we loved him but that we would be ok and that we would see him again but it was time to ‘go’ and be with Mom and be in a much better place.

Dad lived in the nursing home for 2 years and there isn’t a day I don’t wish we could have had another alternative that would have met his needs, but there wasn’t and so we did the best we could in the situation we were in. Though Dad is gone now, I know he has escaped to a much better place, that he is on a tractor and coming up with who knows how many ‘projects’, is with Mom and seeing old friends and family and that I’ll see him one day again too.

I am happy Dad finally escaped.

Provided by Options Through Holistic Health and Life Coaching, www.optionslifecoaching.com. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.


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