Sometimes the life of a caregiver takes an unexpected turn. When that happens, we have to learn to adjust to the circumstances or we end up banging our proverbial head against a wall. In early August, my father had his big toe amputated due to complications from diabetes. He ended up in rehab, but we expected that at some point he would return home.
His length of stay kept getting longer as his foot did not heal as was expected. Ultimately, he ended up being admitted to the nursing home area of the place he was staying. Luckily for us, he was able to transition in paper only rather than having to move to another facility.
About a month or so ago, further complications necessitated another surgery. My father said no! He did not want surgery. An emergency meeting was set up the day after he saw the surgeon (and the day before surgery), and his doctors, a couple of us family members, and a few other interested parties gathered to discuss his options.
My daughter was at that meeting and as an RN, she knew much more about what her grandfather would be facing without surgery than I did. It was explained to both Dad and I that if he did not have the amputation, infection would eventually set in. When the infection reached the heart, it would likely cause a heart attack and his life would be over.
He told the doctor about his brother eventually losing both legs after having several amputations, and he did not want to go through that. He basically wanted to die and be with his wife, my mother.
The doctor told him that it was his call and we would honor his decision. He also let him know that they would monitor his pain and give him the best care they could while keeping him as pain free as possible.
It’s now a couple of months later and he is going downhill rather rapidly. Infection has set in and he could go any day now.
Did he make the right decision?
How can we say whether he made the right decision or not? He made the decision he was willing to live with based on his past experience. It is getting increasingly difficult to visit him as he is failing quite rapidly. We cry while we are at the nursing home and we cry as we drive away. It’s tough watching someone die, especially when it was their own decision to do so.
But, he is going his way. He did not want, nor did he need to go through the pain of multiple amputations. While I’m sad for what we are currently going through, I totally understand why he made the decision. And, we will continue to honor his wishes.