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Of Diapers and Dads

Updated on November 9, 2008
Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom is a keen observer of life. She shares her personal experiences and opinions in helpful and often amusing ways.

How I Became a Depends-able Daughter

I am a daughter, although I'm not sure how much longer I will inhabit this role. I long ago passed the stage where being a good daughter meant showing up for Thanksgiving, popping out grandchildren and calling once a week. These days, being a caring daugther is to be a care-giving daughter.

When you have elderly parents you slowly reverse roles. The shift is strangely familiar, like parenting as you've known it with your own kids. But it's also unsettling and surreal. Here they are -- the people who brought you into the world and raised you to adulthood, slowly but steadily declining back toward infanthood. And here you are, being called upon to resurrect skills you probably haven't used in at least a decade, probably more.

You can't just treat them like children -- they're not children. But they're dependent in ways that test your patience, if not your sanity. And in the end, the fight to preserve their dignity just gets... lost.

Now, I don't live with my dad (my mom is already gone). I don't have 24/7 care of his physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual well-being as I do my son's. Truly, he has been functioning just fine in all of these departments. Until recently, when he has started to fail -- and fail fast.

Dad's most recent hospitalization about 6 weeks ago really took a toll. He has never gotten his sea legs back. He's terrified of falling again, so he clings to his wheelchair. As a result, his leg muscles have atrophied. Which makes the possibility of falling all the more real.

I should mention that my Dad lives in a lovely residential facility that combines independent with assisted living. The wellness staff checks in on him every 2 hours. They escort him down to meals or bring him up a tray if he prefers to stay in his apartment. So it's not like (as my dear Hubby so aptly put it) he's living alone in squalor with no one to watch out for his needs.

Fast-forward to this weekend. Hubby and I planned a much-needed break from dealing with his father, the Alzheimer's/lymphoma patient. We planned to stop in to visit my dad and, if he was up for it, take him either down to our out for lunch.

We fully expected to have our usual pleasant visit -- chatting about politics and listening to his stories for the trillionth time. What we walked into instead was a feeble and miserable Dad, with what appears to be a UTI (urinary tract infection). Poor guy hadn't slept a wink worrying he might wet the bed. He had already changed his boxers four times. He was exhausted, dehydrated and having a devil of a time rolling himself into the bathroom every 10 minutes.

No one disputes that Dad needed relief, and quickly. The issue became how his (hopefully temporary) incontinence should be handled.

At this juncture it's essential for you to understand that the adult diapers were already in the apartment when I got there. The resident nurse, head of the geriatric wellness staff for Springfield Place, had kindly brought them up to give Dad a little peace of mind and comfort. All I did -- and I will swear this on a stack of any version of the Bible you you like -- was help Dad to put one on.

The minute that snug elastic waistband clinched around his belly he breathed a huge sigh of relief. No longer fearing the embarassment and discomfort of wetting himself, he could finally relax and enjoy our visit.

Hubby and I checked into our hotel nearby. We planned to drive out to the beach early the next morning and check back in on Dad before heading home.

The Diaper Wars

I texted my sister with an update on Dad's UTI symptoms and our actions. The minute she read the word "Depends" my cell phone rang... and the battle was ON.

By her reaction you would have thoguht I had bound Dad into a straightjacket and tethered him to the bed to ferment in his own filth for the rest of his days. The shear vitriole of her response set me into that familiar sibling-on-sibling defensive stance. "OMG, I've f****d up again. I don't know anything. I'm incompetent. She's the nurse and I should always check anything and everything medical with her before giving Dad so much as a glass of water."

It took me completely off guard, but once I regained my composure I realized the truth of the matter. My husband confirmed what I was thinking,"She's not only out of her tree, she's way out of line here!!"

I didn't do anything wrong. A fellow medical professional, a geriatric nurse, no less, had brought Dad the diaper. She just beat me to the punch.

This morning I called Dad to see if he wanted me to bring him anything. He said, "Oh yes. Bring me some more of those male diapers. They're tremendous!"

And so I did. And I defended the decision later to my brother, who had obviously been kibbutzing with my hysterical sister. He tried to convince me that Dad is in danger of being kicked out of Springfield Place if he becomes incontinent. I checked that with the Wellness Director and it's categorically untrue.

My dad's final comment to Hubby and me as we said our farewells: "I really appreciate everything you did for me this weekend. Don't forget, I make the decisions around here. And I say you did the right thing. Thank you."

The morals of this story:

1. Some people are full of excrement when it comes to making decisions about other people's...

2. Urine over your head, so don't get pissy with me, sister...

3. All's well that ends well ... no ifs, ands, or butts about that!!!


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    • NateSean profile image

      NateSean 8 years ago from Salem, MA

      Clearly your dad raised you well enough that taking care of him wasn't a huge deal on your part. I don't know how uncomfortable it was supposed to have been but it seems like you both survived it.

      I envy you and that relationship. Who knows.

      Opinions are like behinds. Everyone has one and clearly so did your brother and sister.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 9 years ago from Wisconsin

      My mother is still doing great, but the decline is already apparent. I dread the day I have to work with my siblings about her care since we rarely agree on anything. I hate seeing her decline so much after being so strong for all these years. My heart goes out to you.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      As my son would text me, "k." Happy hubbing!

    • Misha profile image

      Misha 9 years ago from DC Area

      After all those thoughts I still have some time for enjoying life in general and hubbing in particular :)

      I don't feel like hubjacking tonight, though - but thanks for the invite :)

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi Misha, we're going hubjacking. Wanna come? Meanwhile, I believe your assessment of the situation is spot on. Of the three of us kids, I am the one most accepting of the inevitable. And the one not living in total fear of losing control. Been there. Lived through that:-).

      I hope you don't expend too much energy worrying about your parents' death. 73 and 75 is still young. I hope you get at least another decade + from each of them... And by all means, enjoy every minute you have with them.

    • Misha profile image

      Misha 9 years ago from DC Area

      Hi MM,

      I have another explanation for your siblings reaction, it does not really oppose the one you have already, and probably just complements it...

      I think they are protesting against the obvious sign of your father coming closer to the end. They know it is coming, and they don't want to see it coming. They are not really rebelling against you, they are trying to deny the fact that diapers are needed already...

      I feel for you Mighty Mom, and I feel for myself, too. My parents are 73 and 75, and every single day I think about the end, and those are not fun thoughts, we all know this...

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hello friends Misty and CW. Thanks for your kind comments. I am back from visiting my dad. Doesn't seem like this time is going to be "the time" but I know it's coming and probably not too far away. Meanwhile, Hubby and I were just called to his parents' home to referee a squabble between his Mom and Dad. It's tough to deal with Alzheimer's. I think I will write a hub (or maybe more than one) on that soon. Meanwhile, I'm going to go find where the HubAction is tonight and join in some (hopefully) stimulating frivolity! MM

    • Constant Walker profile image

      Constant Walker 9 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

      Also thinking of you, MM, and wishing I had a ready solution.  I do know one thing; Your strength, class and intelligence comes through loud and clear in your words.  Keep it up.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thinking of you MM, let us know if you have any news.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi friends. Thanks for reading and commenting. Tom -- you hit the nail right on the head with sibling rivalry. This is not about Dad, it's about my sister and her need to micromanage anything/everything and be right. It's mostly about her living in FEAR and my brother also living in FEAR. We are all ACA (adult children of alcoholics). It's quite simple, really. I have and live by a program and they don't. Having said that, it's simple but it's not easy.

      I can only assume God wants me to live among prickly people right now for a reason. I know it won't always be this way.

      CW -- Yes, Dad is getting 2 kinds of physical therapy. It had been making some difference and he was using his walker until this new setback.

      Note to all: The diaper issue is moot for now. As of last night, shortly after Hubby and I left, my dad DID fall. I got the call from my brother, who lives in the same town, about 8:30. Dad want to the hospital and has been admitted. I am off once again to Petaluma to see what's going on. I have a feeling in my gut about this.

      I know I don't have to ask for good wishes. I am taking you all with me and will check back on HP later. Bless you for being here with me. !!!

    • profile image

      Eddie Perkins 9 years ago


      Thank you for writing and bless you for caring. I think your dad's statement says it all. "I really appreciate everything you did for me this weekend. Don't forget, I make the decisions around here. And I say you did the right thing. Thank you."

      Thanks again. ~ eddie

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      MM, you definitely did the right thing, and your Sister must be mad to question it. It certainly made your Dad more relaxed, so unless your Sister is annoyed with herself for not being there to help, I cannot understand what her problem is.

    • Constant Walker profile image

      Constant Walker 9 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

      Good for you, MM, and doubly good for you and your husband for getting away for a bit.

      I have a question and a comment: Is your father getting any kind of physical therapy where he's at? Can he? It could possibly help his fear of walking.

      I would have told my sister (and I do have one very much like yours) that if she is so unhappy with the way I am handling things (and handling them very well, I might add) to get her uninvolved ass here to help. Otherwise, kindly shut the hell up.

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 9 years ago from Australia

      MM, I have been mulling for 3 hours to come up with a good reason why your sister could possibly have been upset with you. There was only one and I don't like being nasty so I won't say it! I just know that if I am ever in your Dads position I would certainly want a daughter like yourself to look after me.

      And I think your Dads final comments should be enough to convince you that you did what your heart told you to do! The right think.

    • Tom Koecke profile image

      Tom Koecke 9 years ago from Tacoma, Washington

      Sibling rivalry is so much fun!

      I suggested that my mom consider moving from her three story house to a rambler. You'd have thought I suggested euthanasia the way my siblings came at me. She fell shortly after that because (we learned) she was taking too high a dosage of insulin. Despite that we knew the cause and it had been corrected, my siblings all demanded that she sell and move in with them, while I backed up her decision to stay where she was at with some extra oversight.

      I still think she should not heat two floors she cannot use, but she's not ready for dependent living. I just don't raise the issue. At some point, we (including her) will all agree. Until then, I just hope I don't find her at the bottom of the basement stairs.

    • Michigan Momma profile image

      Michigan Momma 9 years ago from Michigan

      Great Hub. My grandpa was in one of those "Homes". He isn't with us anymore and he HATED being there. Wish you and your dad all the best.