My father died of stomach cancer on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. I went back home to my parents' house about six weeks before his death, since the hospice workers had told me it was coming. The house was full of his favorite foods because his appetite had been understandably waning for half the year as the cancer progressed, and my mother would buy anything, anything he expressed a yearning for. All his childhood comfort foods, all his favorite snacks, anything he saw in TV commercials. Everything he ate was dense in calories & also had to have a very smooth texture, with no fiber in it at all, and very few things raw. I told him, "Dad, it's the opposite of the way I've been eating -- I need few calories, as little sugar & bad fat as possible, and as much fiber as I can get."
This was very difficult for me, yes, but what helped me is that I thought of it as "my father's food," as if it weren't even edible by anyone else, or as if it was that artificial food made in Japan & sometimes used in the display cases in restaurants & diners. I cooked everything for myself & tried to get my mother to eat with me, whenever possible. She was trying to eat exactly what my father was eating, partly to tempt him but also in a last-ditch show of unity & family togetherness at meal time. In the end, when he stopped eating entirely, I did get her to partake with me.
The atmosphere in our house with my father staying in a hospital bed in the middle of the living room was, to say the least, incredibly stressful. The floorplan downstairs is open, with just a knee wall between the kitchen & where he stayed. This helped my mother be with him all day & keep an eye on him, but it also made it difficult for me to cook or prepare my meals because he was often exhausted & trying to sleep.
I advise you to make sure you get in your "me" time. Make sure you get out of the caregiving atmosphere at least once a day. I did early in the morning, going to the local gym. It kept me sane. I'd keep my cellphone turned on & lying on the equipment. That was in case something happened with my father while I was out & I needed to be called immediately. I'd cry while peddling the bike, rowing, working the elliptical or even swimming. But it was a great release.
In the end, on the day he died, it was not long after I'd come back from the gym. I was upstairs with my soggy sports bra & bike shorts off, about to get in the shower, when I heard him choking. I had to whip on a robe & run downstairs. (Thank goodness I'd lost weight because I could secure that robe very tightly around me, as people immediately began showing up -- the hospice nurse, a neighbor who's a good friend & is a nurse, the priest, & etc.)
Also I am glad I lost weight & exercised before my father got ill because I was able to lift him on the hospital bed (he'd always slide down to the foot after a few hours) & hold him upright when my mother gave him a sponge bath. I was able to support him when I first got home & he was able to walk a little. If I hadn't been working out & in particular handling weights, I would never have been able to manage all the physical work that caring for a bedridden person requires. I was really able to help him & my mother that way. Maybe it's the most valuable thing my efforts at improving my health has given me.
Last edited by saef; 02-06-2009 at 10:00 PM.
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