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So, those of you in a similar situation to mine – or those that have been – what do/did you do when you feel/felt you’ve just reached maxed-out? And I mean seriously maxed out. Dad is about to be shifted, yet again, from hospital back to rehab. In the next day or so, I’ll be back to living life between weekly insurance company rehab authorizations and tracking down male obituaries to see where an open nursing home bed might exist once the current rehab stint runs out – on top of a respectably busy freelance work schedule filled with clients who might be sympathetic but still need me to meet their deadlines. And all I want to do is curl up on the sofa, with “The Borgias” OnDemand and a pitcher of vodka gimlets.

Dad went into the hospital a week ago because of fluid-buildup complications in his lungs related to his congestive heart failure. Now, mind you, I’d been nagging the rehab center nursing staff (and it’s a good facility, really), because he’d gained 20 lbs. in two weeks. In their mind, since he’d come to them so depleted following the colostomy – and because, as a result, they’d been plying him with appetite enhancing drugs and anti-depressants – this just was a sign that the drugs were doing their job. Well, in the last week, he’s peed that 20 lbs. right out his catheter. Keeping both his kidneys and heart happy means walking such a tightrope that I don’t see how it’s possible to keep everything balanced. So, all I see is a return to the wash/rinse/repeat cycle – and an eventual replay of last week’s 10-hour ER visit, followed by daily 1.5-hour return trips to the hospital to see how he’s doing, until the whole process starts all over again at some point in the near future.

The whole experience has me beginning to feel an understanding of the concept of hitting bottom – reaching that point where you don’t see a way out without some kind of intervention. I had a serious conversation with my own physician (also my father’s doctor, so he knows the story) about antidepressants last week. I’ve thought a lot about bringing this up in the blog, but I think it’s important to mention, because it has to be a spot many caregivers hit. The prescription he gave me is still sitting on the kitchen counter, though. My doc’s description of the side effects and my own research has me holding back. My doc suggests patients not start on antidepressants if they don’t think they’re going to be on them for at least 6 months – but all I want is a helping hand through this last stage of Dad’s life. Plus, as a creative type, I’m not sure I want something that sets up bumpers to keep my mood focused on the center line – really, would this blog have been anywhere near as interesting to read without a few over-the-top rants? Beyond that, there’s a fair amount of research out there suggesting that sugar pills work just as well, so long as the patients THINK they’re getting the real thing.

Underlying the pharmacological distrust, there’s a big part of me saying – well, dude, the reason you feel so suck-y is that, um, well – you’re in the middle of a situation that just all-around sucks. You’re just feeling it as it is. [And I want to assure all of you who know me (and those who’ve gotten to know me through this blog) – my feelings have absolutely nothing to do with self-hurt or destruction. Really and truly.] So, I try to get out and walk every morning and get to the gym 3-4 times a week to take the edge off. I’ve even taken up yoga, which can be surprisingly therapeutic. I also have my gimlet, paired with 15th Century papal sex-and-history fantasies (thank you Showtime). And I just try to take it all a day at a time.

It would be good, though, to hear how others get/have gotten through such times. How do you see someone through to death while maintaining your own life during the process?