You remember 2019, right? It was just an ordinary year; everyone was typically living their ordinary, mundane lives, and the world was functioning as it was at the time. We thought that the year 2020 would be the same and that it would be another mundane year with everyone living their everyday lives. Then…2020 happened! It was a year unlike any other, and one that changed everything forever and not in a good way. 2019 was the last year that America would function as pre-COVID America, and 2019 would be the last year that I would act as someone's daughter.
In 2020, everything started normal at first, like every other year. Life for me and my family started typically like any other day. My dad drove to do his errands, my mom was the breadwinner working hard at her job, my brother lived independently, and I lived at home with my parents. Everything was running its natural course until one day; America became infected with COVID-19. My dad was infected with it, too, but he was also infected with something else. In May, my dad was unfortunately diagnosed with vascular dementia. According to the article Vascular Dementia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments, Vascular Dementia is defined as "…changes to memory, thinking, and behavior resulting from conditions that affect the blood vessels in the brain. Cognition and brain function can be significantly affected by the size, location, and number of vascular changes." In my dad's case, he lost a significant amount of blood vessels in his brain that he'll unfortunately never get back.
It's important to mention that this is not something that spontaneously came out of nowhere; this was years of build-up in which my dad was constantly losing blood vessels in his brain over the years through mini episodes of strokes. This would cause him to check things repeatedly, such as whether he locked the front door. It caused him to move at a slower pace with his driving and one time, he even got confused about his clothes and showed up at my mom's workplace with a heavy coat and thermal pants.
When my dad got diagnosed with vascular dementia, that was the day that I stopped being only my dad's daughter, and I became more of his caretaker instead. This was also the beginning of my crash course medical training in nursing. It didn't come from school, rather mostly from my mom, who works as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at a nursing home. There was an immediate change in our homestyle routine, which involved my mom helping my dad get out of bed, helping him get to the bathroom, getting my dad his breakfast, me giving him his medicine, and helping my mom get his clothes on.
One of the earliest medical techniques my mom taught me was the toileting technique. According to dictionary terms, toileting means "helping a patient with defecation and urination." According to an article titled How to Help an Adult with Toileting, I had to prepare the toilet, help my dad on and off the toilet, and help him clean himself afterwards. This was quite a difficult phase. There were plenty of times that my dad made a mess of himself, and I had to wash him up. Sometimes, I had to watch my dad and ensure he wasn't walking into places he shouldn't. There were even times when my dad was difficult to feed food. My first new normal was a challenging experience.
My second new normal and the beginning of the second phase began on Sunday, March 6, 2022. I'll never forget how it was that night on my dad's last day of walking. It was late at night, and I was trying to get my dad upstairs to bed. When we got to the stairs, my dad collapsed next to me. I was scared; I didn't know what to do, and I called my mom several times, but she didn’t answer. When my mom got home, she had to call for an ambulance to get my dad to a hospital, and my dad was gone for a few weeks. When he got home, a new routine began, which involved me learning how to use new equipment such as a Hoyer lift, cleaning my dad in bed, which included bed baths and diaper changes, and feeding my dad his food in his hospital bed.
The second phase was a little easier since I didn't have to get him to the bathroom anymore. Still, feeding my dad was a challenge, especially on the weekends. Then, on Thursday, November 17, 2022, when I prepared my dad solid food for the last time, I saw him unresponsive in his room.
After being away for two months, my dad came home with a feeding tube because he could no longer eat solid foods. I had to learn how to use a feeding pump, and the third phase was mostly the same. Then, on Sunday, August 6, 2023, my dad went to three different hospitals, and when he came home, he was given oxygen for breathing assistance and a suction pump because he couldn't swallow saliva anymore. My dad also has an infectious disease called Candida auris, in which my mom and I must clean everything we touch. I didn't ask for this, but here I am anyway.
In conclusion, I didn't ask to be anyone's caregiver, but it happened anyway. My dad didn't ask to be sick, but it happened anyway. If this experience has taught me anything, it's how to appreciate life and the people in it. After all, if it weren’t for my mom’s medical experience, I wouldn’t know how to take care of my dad. If it weren’t for the adventurous I’ve had with family/friends, I wouldn’t be reminded of how fragile and precious life is, and that anything can take it all away in just seconds.
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