On April 23, 2006 my father-in-law, Marcos, passed away after being on hospice for a few months. He had lived with us for about a year and seven months. It all started when Henrietta fell in their home on the way back from the bathroom in the middle of the night. We got a call from Marcos saying she couldn’t get up and we jumped in the car and raced over there. Their house is about 30 minutes away. I called the ambulance on the way there and we made it in about 15 minutes. This is mainly due to no traffic in the middle of the night! *Mental note: have catastrophes in the middle of night, ALWAYS.* So we got there and H had, basically, broken everything. Well, it seemed like it. Tibia, hip, humerus, she was in bad shape. So the little old lady with the severe osteoporosis went off to the hospital and Marcos came home to live with us. John and I and our two teenage daughters in a three bedroom, one bath house. With Marcos. Together.
We got the hell out of that house as soon as we could and moved into a 4 bedroom 3 bath ASAP. This helped a lot, but Marcos was starting to slide into a depression that he never really came out of. I fed him an antidepressant everyday and we tried to keep his spirits up. H stayed in the hospital for months. Marcos went more and more downhill and his mental state deteriorated. He couldn’t be left alone for any length of time. He started falling. He had a walker and refused to use it for the longest time. The things that he determined were his duties, such as making coffee or going out to get the newspaper, became impossible for him to master. He totally screwed up, I don’t know how many coffee makers. Made HUGE messes in the kitchen attempting to make it multiple times a day and at various odd moments all night long. He’d get up during the night over and over and attempt to make it outside to “get the paper”. When I’d point out that it was dark out and night time, he was always very surprised and in the beginning he would voluntarily return to bed. But, eventually, it became harder and harder to convince him of anything.
I got one of the cowbells that H uses to ring for me and and tied it to his walker with a plastic cable tie wrap. That way, combined with the baby monitor there was absolutely no way he could make it out of his room with out me knowing at night. I started jumping out of bed when when I heard him get up and running down the hall and closing the door at the end of it and holding it closed so it would seem locked when he got there after he had used the bathroom and was trying to make it to the front door or kitchen. I remember him standing there kicking the door and fussing, while I was on the other side just praying for him to go back to bed. At first he would. Then it became a matter of he was going to find a way out and do what he wants. The ruckus became bigger and bigger and John would come and try to convince him to go to bed too.
We had always just kept the front door keys in the door, (on the inside, of course), and he would just head out anytime he wanted day or night. So I took the keys out and we started keeping the door locked. All. the. time. He searched the house and even went through my purse until he found the keys. It was like trying to deal with a highly intelligent toddler. The scariest thing going and SO tiring.
The truly strange thing is he didn’t have Alzheimer’s. Just old age senility combined with a HUGE overdose of old fashioned Mexican machismo. That poor little old man had stubbornness in spades. He was slowly dying and it was just not nearly fast enough for him. He got to the point that he refused to take a bath and was only doing so about once every 10 days to two weeks under duress. At some point John was the only one who could convince him. This wouldn’t have been SO bad except he had become totally inept in the bathroom and would end up with shit everywhere. Including on him. He really did try, bless his heart, but he just didn’t have the strength to do anything more than just barely get there. The commode seat and numerous other things in there were routinely smeared with poo. I cannot tell you the amount of latex gloves, paper towels and spray bleach I went through.
By the time he died he was a little dried up husk of a man and I could pick him up in my arms like a baby and carry him to bed. I did this the last time we changed his bed. H was in the hospital with a broken hip from a totally unrelated incident and the continuous care hospice nurse suggested we put him in her hospital bed. It was a good idea and we were changing his sheets anyway. So I just picked him up and put him in her bed. It was the strangest sensation. This larger than life man that had always seemed so dominant was no where in there. I think he died two days later and he had been so ready for so long.
Poor Henrietta was in the hospital and even missed his funeral. When we told her she took it very well. She said she knew he wasn’t going to make it much longer, and I’m sure that’s true. He had a 21 gun salute and honor guard as he was a decorated WWII veteran who was wounded and permanently crippled in the rush on Iwo Jima. He was someone to contend with…even before things were going downhill.