After my mother died in March of 2013, I became my father's main caregiver: I moved in with him in Fresno even though I still maintain my permanent residence 45 miles away in Visalia. Hence, I have a great appreciation for anyone who cares for or has cared for an elderly parent. Sadly, some people place their elderly loved ones in nursing homes--and my father briefly stayed in such a facility for rehabilitation purposes. But like many in nursing homes, my father did not get better; rather, his health deteriorated and he could no longer walk after a three-month stay. After one of my nephews remodeled his hallway bathroom into a wheelchair-capable shower, I was finally able to bring him back home where three caregivers and I took care of him until his death. My advice to anyone is to avoid if at all possible placing anyone in a nursing home no matter how "nice" or expensive. All nursing homes have flaws, some of which can be harmful to your loved ones. For example, urinary tract infections are common in most facilities; many patients suffer falls, often because nursing home personnel are overworked or simply ill-trained and don't know how to keep their charges from falling out of beds or wheelchairs.
Since my father suffered from numerous ailments (heart disease, gallbladder problems, failing kidneys, an aortic aneurysm in his abdomen, etc.), we knew he had little time left, and we wanted him to die at his home instead of in a facility. Medicare offers assistance to help care for a loved one at home; when he went from home care to hospice care at home, Medicare provided even more help, including paying for all of his medications and incontinence supplies--they even provided an all-electric bed instead of the usual semi-electric bed we used during his home care status. And the hospice personnel who came to the house to attend to my father's medical needs were incredibly kind people.
And, of course, I'm glad I was able to find three caregivers who made my father's last months as comfortable as possible.
My father is now out of any pain or discomfort, for I know he's with my mother in heaven. I have written a number of poems about my father, but I'd like to end with a few lines I just wrote for him.
Jalisco in Heaven
for Jose Mercado Vasquez
The dirt road that leads to Rancho de Los Zapotes
exhales into Jalisco's November light,
and children you once knew soon come into view;
even the mango trees wave hello instead of goodbye.
A horse neighs and extends her long face
over the neck-worn wooden pasture rails,
and the small house in the background, the adobe
the color of skin, offers an open door.
And one kiss on the cheek follows another,
and trays of bread and fruit soon shine
as you smile, aware of your strong legs
that can now walk the endless horizons.