I wish I could do something

I got another call from the psychiatric nurse yesterday. The one who, out of nowhere, started treating Danny for his depression.

A month or so ago I got a call from the joint that someone had seen him and declared him depressed (duh-uh), and therefore ordered a new antidepressant for him. A bit of sleuthing got me in touch with the psychiatric nurse who had ordered the prescription.

“He’s obviously depressed,” she offered, when we connected.

Again, “duh-un” was all I could think. “Thank you for noticing…and for doing something about it,” was what I said in response.

“He doesn’t shower. He has no personal hygiene. He’s filthy.” These were her declarations, her evidence for his depression. All I could think to that was, “that’s not depression, or not just depression. That’s Danny.” I didn’t say that to her at the time.

So they put him on some new med, and I heard nothing more. Until yesterday when she called to tell me that the first drug apparently wasn’t working (since he still wasn’t showering or letting his toenails be cut or combing his hair) and that they were therefore putting him on a new drug. Some antipsychotic. “Not that I think your father is psychotic,” the nurse offered. “He seems to be in touch with reality. But the first drug didn’t work. He’s still depressed.”

Now, of course he’s depressed. He’s only 72 and half-paralyzed. He’s in an assisted living facility with no one he has anything in common with (or at least no one he’s willing to see if he has anything in common with…maybe because he’s depressed). An assisted living facility where they steam the fish and chips after they fry them, so that they’ll be softer and easier to eat. My father, the ultimate food-snob and twenty-year restaurateur, has found his own hell. Of course he’s depressed.

This time I tried to explain to the nurse that I so appreciated her efforts for my father, and that I hoped almost beyond hope that the meds would kick-in and help him feel better, and that she needed a fuller understanding of my dad. That he never really kept a level of cleanliness that other people keep. That he didn’t shower now because it wasn’t fun to have the facility staff bathe him. And that – whether it started with him or with them – there was no one on the staff with whom he felt comfortable and cared for. Theirs seemed to be a “dislike-dislike” situation.

His not showering, I shared – his too-long toenails; his disheveled, stained clothing; his smoking in his room (again). She looked at these as evidence of his depression. I looked at them as evidence of Danny. He was angry. Perhaps depressed, but also very, very angry. At me. At life. At his situation. At it all.

I shared this with her, and got off the phone and went back to my day. Then I started to sob. Because it is so, so sad.

I wish I could do something to help him.

P.S. He was kind to me on the phone the other day, and responded with “I love you too.” Maybe the meds are kicking in. Or maybe he was just kind. And the magnolia tree picture? It’s his favorite tree and they’re in bloom right now. They make me think of him and smile.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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4 thoughts on “I wish I could do something

  1. What is so interesting is the reminder that “that’s Danny.” Is he really in his own perfect Hell? are parts of this that are just what he wants? An environment where he can keep his own level of personal hygiene. Where he has an excuse to be grumpy and angry. The parts of terrible food and bad company … did he find the ideal environment which let’s him feel snobby? As you allude to: I wonder how many kindred spirits are (there or in other similar homes). I can’t imagine how it can be anything more than depressing in any case…..and the insights of the nurse, and your ray of light must be crucial breaks in the cloud cover.

  2. Lisa, I read this not realizing that this was about someone I used to know, someone I had liked, even admired, for his free spirit and devil-may-care lifestyle. Then I saw your last name and put it together. THAT Danny. You see, I have been friends with your aunt for almost 50 years. I knew your grandparents on your Dad’s side. I even once had a Thanksgiving dinner of spaghetti and salad at your Dad’s NYC apartment. Please believe me that he wasn’t always a man of broken spirit and body. My heart goes out to you as you try to navigate the assisted living nightmare. You should not be surprised that the staff doesn’t love Danny. For most of them, he, as well as all of the other residents, are obstacles for them to navigate to get through a shift at a crappy job. Sad to say, but the only love, understanding and caring anyone who resides in one of these places needs, has to come from family and friends.

    1. Thank you for your memories of my dad, and for your thoughts. It means a great deal to hear from those who remember him as he was. Thanksgiving dinner of salad and spaghetti was in response to, and honor of, Peggy’s vegetarianism (and marches for animal rights). 🙂 Thank you!!

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