Monday, December 7, 2009

my father, snacking

IMG_4375, originally uploaded by Susan NYC.
This was taken in July, 2009, when it was fine for my father to eat ice cream. He was diagnosed with dysphagia recently, and ice cream is on the forbidden list. Apparently it turns to thin liquid as soon as it hits the throat, and he can aspirate it "silently" (no cough) into his lungs, where it will become bacteria that cause pneumonia. At least that's the story I got a few days ago from the nutritionist.

So my father can no longer eat his very favorite food. And it's been years since he could drink his very favorite beverage: beer. His history of alcoholism makes that prohibited.

I had signed a waiver of consent that said my father could have ice cream daily, at lunch and at dinner. At that time I'd only been told that it would become thin liquid in his throat and he might choke. Not knowing the whole story, I figured they were being weird about the waiver.

So I retracted the waiver the minute I understood it could be a death sentence.

Now I'm thinking about it. My father is 94. He has Alzheimer's. He likes to joke around - especially dirty-old-man jokes - and some of the aides and staff at the nursing home are religious and prudish. I've been "talked to" about his language and sexual innuendos (as though I could talk to him, a 94-year-old man with Alzheimer's, and convince him to stop). In all the institutions and floors he's been on, this is the first floor that makes sexual jokes taboo.

(One of the staff said dirty jokes and sexual innuendos are not at all typical of old men with Alzheimer's.  Huh????)

No beer, no ice cream, no dirty jokes.

I hired a private aide last month - someone who was a private aide on a floor he used to be on. She thinks his jokes are funny. And she's certainly not dangerous to his health, the way beer and ice cream are.

The quality of his life has improved since Sylvia's arrival, so I guess my father doesn't need ice cream.

If I sign the waiver and let him have ice cream, am I (as they clearly want me to understand at the nursing home) signing his death sentence?

Obviously my father is going to die, whether ice cream is part of his diet or not.  Am I free of guilt if he's not allowed to eat ice cream?

Am I supposed to feel guilty when my father dies if I've signed another waiver allowing him to eat ice cream again, knowing what I now know?   

Will I feel guilty?  That's a big question.

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