On our way to Papa’s physical therapy appointment this afternoon he stumbled and slowly, almost gracefully, fell down in our driveway. I ran around the car and was able to get him up on his knees next to the car but could not lift him to his feet. I told Papa to hang tight and I would get Jim. Ya, Will’s Dad can lift me. Frantically knocking next door I realized Jim was not home. Seeing another neighbor’s orange car, I ran across the street hoping Juliette’s daughter was visiting, but she was not home either. As the light drizzle was turning back into rain I hurried back across the street hoping to get us inside before it started pouring. I took a deep breath, rolled down the car window, turned Papa around and told him he was going to have to pull with me. This is ridiculous I don’t know why I am so weak. Neither do we Papa. We counted and pulled for several minutes before I was able to get him up to a standing position. Papa looked at me with sad eyes and diligently started getting back into the car for PT. I laughed and told him no way, we were going inside. The poor man was covered in mud but I told him our 15 minutes of pushing and pulling was enough PT for the day. I might have imagined a little bit of a skip in his step as he made his way back inside, but I know that was not really the case.
I weigh a lot, I didn’t mess you up did I? No, Papa, I am ok. I forgot, you got two packages today, one looks pretty big. Thanks, they are your new shower seat. WOW, that was quick. Papa also fell twice this past weekend. He stumbled once near our front door and the second time he slipped in the shower. Doug was home both times to help him get up and fortunately other than a bit of wounded pride he was not hurt. Papa really does defy gravity and goes down slowly if he loses his balance. What worries us is that these are the several times we know about. What happens while we are not in the same room with him? What happens during the day while we are at work? What happens if in his next fall he goes down harder?
We have seen a significant and steady decline in Papa’s stability for the past two months, and have done everything we can to find out what is going on. Since mid-August in addition to twice a week physical therapy we have taken him to his:
- Primary care doctor. This was after we witnessed his first fall which produced two black eyes. He had a complete set of labs, an ultrasound on legs to check for any clots, an MRI to head, an x-ray to shoulder, and a referral to his neurologist.
- Audiologist. His hearing aid was not working properly because his filter was put in backwards. Huh, I wonder how that happened?
- Neurologist. MRI to his back to make sure no impingements, a referral for PT, and a referral for nerve testing.
- Ophthalmologist. A regular scheduled glaucoma follow-up.
- Neurologist. Additional labs and nerve testing to show how severe his neuropathy truly is.
- Primary care doctor. A follow-up to go over the labs showing nothing significant and a cardiologist referral.
- Audiologist. I can’t hear the TV, can you? This time a speaker needed to be replaced.
- Cardiologist. EKG, ultrasound to carotid artery, a 24 hour Holter monitor, and a referral for a tilt test next week.
- Primary care doctor. No one believes me, I am dizzy. It is difficult for Papa to explain if he is dizzy or if he is unbalanced. I am not stable, I just don’t feel steady. The room is not moving; I just can’t stand still. This time his doctor discontinued several of his medications to see if that could possibly help. Unfortunately, the first meds that are removed are medications to improve urination meaning he now has to get up more frequently to go to the bathroom.
- Audiologist. My hearing aid won’t stay in. Papa loves Dr. Goodwine and Kelly, he would go in weekly if we took him, she changed the seal this time and promised to make a new mold if that didn’t help.
While It is extremely worrisome for us it is very confusing for Papa; What is wrong with me? Why can’t they just fix it? Can’t I take another pill? He doesn’t want to hear it could be weakness from inactivity, or that he needs to continue to eat a balanced diet to keep all of his strength. Maybe it is from my accident 40 years ago. Maybe it’s my medications. He doesn’t believe it probably won’t get any better. He doesn’t always want to go to physical therapy but after 6 weeks he knows we aren’t going to back down so he despondently gets up when he knows he has an appointment. Hopefully next week will be better.
Tonight after dinner I reminded him that a year ago we all went on a hot air balloon to see the shades of autumn, and showed him photos to jog his memory. This past weekend we went for a drive to a state park several miles away to view the same colors. Papa smiled, then looked outside and asked, what will I do next year? I couldn’t answer, I have a feeling there will be many more falls between now and then.