07/03/2014 08:17 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Roller Coaster Life Of A Caregiver

The phone vibrating on my night stand woke me from a deep sleep. I fumbled to find it and looked at the time -- 4:44 AM. The phone number seemed vaguely familiar in my foggy state, but was not one I had programmed into my contacts.

I have had wrong number phone calls in the middle of the night before. I put the phone down and decided if it was an emergency, the person would either leave a message, immediately call back, or both.

No sooner did my phone beep to indicate a message; it began to ring again.

I stumbled into the kitchen and answered the second call in a whisper, hoping not to wake my husband. It was a nurse from the memory care unit. My father had gotten out of bed and had a fall, hitting his head on the corner of the nightstand.

He would have to be transferred to the ER for treatment. The facility was required to report the incident to a family member, and I guess needed permission to put him in an ambulance. They had been unable to reach my mom.

I gave permission and tried to reach her myself. Her landline was off the hook. Her cell was turned off and went directly to voicemail. Later she would explain she had not been feeling well and wanted to sleep. So she turned off her phones.

She will never do so again.

Dad required staples on his head and also injured his elbow, but he was back in his own bed at the memory care facility within a few hours. The following day, he had another fall. The staff and the hospice team are watching him closely. Falls are not at all unusual with dementia patients.

They say it is likely a sign the disease is progressing. As fewer and fewer synapses in the brain are able to fire, a person can have balance issues and even lose the ability to walk, among other things. We had noticed changes in my father's gait, but until the other night, he'd been able to walk on his own without assistance.

Overall, my dad's physical condition had stabilized of late. His vitals have been excellent. He has been eating, but has continued to lose weight. However, the sense that death was near has not been present these last few weeks.

Mentally he is very up and down. Which is normal for dementia. He has been well enough for me to take my daughter to see him several times. We went just yesterday and had a nice visit.

We can't control the path my father's disease takes, nor is getting off this roller coaster an option. All we can do is hold on tight. It is going to come to an end some day. Then a new journey will begin...


Earlier on Huff/Post50:

7 Tips For Caregivers