Daphne

Daphne
Age at interview
60
Age at start of caregiving activities
58

Daphne is 60 years old, lives with her husband, and was a nurse in her professional life. She cared for her father for two to three years from the time he had a heart attack at 89 years old until he died recently. Daphne describes her father as a proud World War II war veteran. Daphne’s home is in a different province from her parents, who remained on their family farm into their retirement.

Daphne became a caregiver rather suddenly when she went to visit her parents (she was living in another province) following a call from her brother letting her know that her father had fallen ill. When she arrived, she found both parents in hospital and there was much confusion about what had happened to her father, while her mother was recovering from pneumonia. Daphne didn’t return home immediately, but stayed for two and a half years with her parents on the farm to support them (returning home now and then). Her father remained in-hospital for about a year, and then had different nursing home arrangements due to his deteriorating heart condition and other problems, until he finally received a place in a veteran’s hospital – where the care and professional culture was very much more satisfactory. Her father died there after several months. Although Daphne’s mother was at home after her illness, she was not able to help with her husband’s care, and Daphne helped to support her as well.   

Daphne was very angry and upset about the care her father received in the first hospital he was admitted to. She describes the care there as woefully inadequate and downright abusive. She fought very hard as her father’s advocate to ensure appropriate care, and after his death was left feeling very frustrated and disappointed that the healthcare system failed someone who had given so much for his country as a war veteran.

Although Daphne found caregiving for her father very stressful and because of the situation she was often angry and frustrated, she did enjoy caring for her father as it brought her closer to him and it was wonderful to feel so useful during the last years of his life. Daphne found great support from family, friends and a counsellor who helped her cope through this period; with her expertise as a professional nurse, she was a strong advocate for her father’s care and was not afraid to stand up to the healthcare professionals that she felt were not meeting basic quality standards of care. She believes that had he received timely and better care, he would have had a better quality of life for his remaining years. She would like governments and those working in the healthcare system to pay more attention to caregivers and to improve the quality of care provided to sick older people in hospitals.

Daphne feels strongly that caregivers need to advocate for their loved ones to ensure that they receive the best possible care. She encourages other caregivers to find support for themselves to help cope with all the challenges that caregiving throws your way. Daphne feels stronger and wiser as a result of her experience; she is working hard to focus on the lighter and positive side of life.

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So I got a phone call from my brother in [city in the US] and he said, “I’m flying out to a small town, […] near [city in AB]. Dad has had a heart attack,” or something to that nature. Now, I had thought that dad had had a heart attack a few years back, probably 10 or 15 more years back. So I thought, “Hmm, okay this is maybe a second one. Maybe this is time to go out and see what’s going on.” 

So the family was quite disjointed. I wanted to meet up with him; he just wanted to leave and get there. So I arranged a flight and I got out there, but I decided to take an aunt with me, which I thought was a good idea because I hadn’t seen my mom and dad for a little while. We were in contact through the years for Christmas and stuff, and I’d go out with my daughter to visit on the farm. But I thought it would be nice to bring someone as a support person maybe, because sometimes these things don’t turn out the way you think they’re going to turn out. So, I brought my aunt with me as a companion in a way. We met up with my other aunt and uncle who are very close to me in [a city in AB] and drove to [a town in AB]. It’s just a small town outside of [a city in AB] and we were immediately met at the desk. I’d also been told that my mother was in the hospital as well, with pneumonia. So, there was a lot of stuff going on. When I hit the desk, the nurses were kind of evasive and me, [having] a professional nurse background, I kind of got a sense something was wrong. 

So [the nurse] said to me, “Your dad is near the desk,” and “Your dad; do you know what’s wrong with your dad?” I said, “Apparently he’s had a heart attack.” She said, “Well, your mother is here too,” and I said, “Well let’s start with the better one”. She started with my mother so that was odd. She said, “Well, your mother’s doing well, she’s up with a walker, she’s had blah, blah, blah, pneumonia. She has COPD already…” and okay that was fine. My dad, she said, “Your dad had a stroke; he’s had a heart attack,” and whatever. I stood there in shock.

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They weren’t turning him. They wouldn’t feed him. They didn’t put him on any special equipment. And lucky by the grace of God and my angel I knew about all of this, because I had worked medicine and acute surgery. I couldn’t believe that a small hospital didn’t have the appropriate equipment to treat a stroke victim. Later after talking to other people in the hospital, because it’s a small town you seem to get to know people who know people, and I had lived there for most of my life, grew up and went to school there. You started finding out that this hospital had a history. And if I had known this, we probably would have shipped him out of there. But the people in the hospital made you feel, and I hope people out there have maybe felt that too, that you can’t do anything, that you can’t ship your person out of the place. All you need to do is get an ambulance or a Handi thing, get a stretcher, whatever, and get them to hell out of there. We didn’t do that. We talked about it a lot, about transferring him down to another hospital that was bigger or even [city in AB]. I think going backwards if I had done it all over again I would have got him out of [town in AB] and shipped him to [city in AB] to the [name of hospital] who was a big hospital and had a neurological unit. When I asked for an assessment down the road neurologically, this doctor, country doctor, didn’t seem to think he needed it. When he was in [city in AB]  later on, I went to the neurological unit in [city in AB] [hospital in AB] and I told them my dad’s story and she said, “What the heck was going on there? Your dad should have come up here and had an assessment and probably could have been treated and probably would not have ended up with the deficits that he had.” Not saying how long he would have lived after because of his age, and that sort of thing, but definitely would have probably been treated with drugs.

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I want to tell my story and I’m trying to let go of the past. I wanted to sue those people so badly, and if you’ve got a lawyer in your family or something, do it because you’ll win. They like to settle. That’s another thing I found out when I was in the hospital as a professional. Hospitals don’t like being put in the paper. They will settle out of court, under the table. So don’t be scared. I’m sure I would have won my dad’s case, but there’s no point right now. I think it’s… there was too much agony going through. I did consult a lawyer, and I did have a case, and I just ran out of energy. But I’m sure dad up there knows I did the best I could, and everybody else does too. So winning a bunch of money in 10 years or whatever it takes… I don’t know. No, stop it when it’s happening.

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Life was never meant to be easy. So nobody’s going to hand you a platter with a bunch of, a book that says this is how you deal with life. It doesn’t work that way. You will always be learning throughout your life. There’s never a mistake. It’s a learning experience. So when something happens, dive in. And you can always say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know” or, “I didn’t know to do it that way. Thank you for telling me.” That’s the way I’m looking at life now, and I don’t give a shit who hates me right now. You’re, if you’re going to like me as a friend, or advocate, or whatever I’m going to tell you the truth and I’m not going to lie to you. I’ll be kind to you, but I will not lie to you, no.

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Anyway, dad had four clots. I think if he was intubated, trached, he probably would have lived, but what life would that have been for my dad. He couldn’t talk, and I don’t think my dad would have wanted it. So the night, he did a congested cough, and nurses know that there’s a death cough and it’s really deep down, but you really can’t suction it at all. And I thought, “Oh my God Daphne, your dad is dying.” But he was comfortable; he wasn’t on too much pain killers, no morphine or anything. And finally I said, “Good-bye dad,” and I said, “I’ll be back tomorrow.” He said, “Take care, drive home safely,” and all that. “I’m just tired.” So, we did him up and he was more comfortable and positioned and I drove home crying and I thought I should have stayed there. But I had my mom at home too. So, there are no right and wrong answers when it comes to sick or being an advocate; it’s doing the best you can and God will forgive all the other little incidents, or your guardian angel will help you or somebody. But when I got home I didn’t sleep, I phoned my husband at six o’clock in the morning I said, “I think my dad is dying [name husband], and he did this congested cough.” And at seven o’clock in the morning we got a call.


So I went up, and I drove my mom up, and it took forever to get her going. We have an interesting relationship our family. Well, my mom didn’t want to see him and she hadn’t visited him that much either. And if you want to go see your relative, don’t let any relatives tell you—your mom or dad, grandma—that you’re not allowed to go see them, because they’ve past away. You need to have closure. And I went in there and hugged and talked to my dad even though my brother was there. And he goes, “Do you need help Daphne?” “No, I don’t need help. I need to be with my dad.” And […] when my […] mother and brother decided to make funeral arrangements, I wasn’t allowed to go, and eventually my brother said, “Maybe we should let Daphne go because she’s been so involved with dad.” There was a game going on there, but anyway, when I went to the funeral home with my mom—another lesson learned—he said, “Is there anybody coming to see your father?” And they had chosen the coffin and all that, and she said, “No,” and I put my hand up to my mom and I said, “Stop right there. You’ve said everything you’re going to say, right?” And I looked over at the funeral director and I said, “I want to see my dad in his legion outfit, and I want to say good-bye to him. I don’t care whoever else doesn’t, but I do.” And my daughter and my husband came down for the funeral and they came and saw my dad with me.  And my daughter put a note in my dad’s jacket to look over her in the future, and I brought my dad’s prayer book because he was Catholic from home, snuck it out, and I put it in his hands with his rosary. I took a lock of his hair. They’ll do anything in the nursing home or in the funeral home. [What] you want done they’ll do. I said, “I guess this seems odd.” And he goes, “No it’s not; you can take anything you want. You can put a picture, anything, in that casket you want.”


And he had a little funeral out in the country, very simple, and the legion came and my dad wanted to be buried—this is another thing—with veterans. He wanted to be buried with the British flag. I thought, “Where in hell am I going to find a British flag at this?” So I phoned my husband. He had a place in [a city in BC] here that sold flags. I was going to put a little flag on there if I could. He found a British flag. So I said to the funeral director, I said, “And we made a shaft of wheat because he was a farmer, to put in front of the coffin.” He said, “You can’t put it on the Canadian flag.” I didn’t know that. “Nothing on the Canadian flag.” So, we put it in front. So, what the people did was, after the legion did their little last call and explained about it all—it’s beautiful—and have the legion come. A lot of my uncles, all of them, were in the war and none of them did this. And it’s such a nice last remembrance for the legion to do the last call and that. And they took the Canadian flag off, the girls, and then the British flag was flowing on a pole in the wind, and they took it down and they put it on dad’s coffin, and as the coffin was going down into the ground he was buried with his British flag, because he flew under the British flag.


That’s a lovely closure for all of you.


And I talk to my dad still. And we still have issues, and I still have my mother who’s going to be a different kind of issue, but I have learned a hell of a lot from everyone around me, people in the hospital, people I’ve worked with, people on the phone, doctor—good and bad. I’ve learned a lot and I have a lot of stories to tell and people seem to listen. Because I’ve come through a small town’s hospital, to a nursing home, to another nursing home that finally he only stayed about three to four months, and that was his final place.


Now ending, another thing I could recommend—my dad wanted to go home. My mom said she couldn’t handle him. Well, I guess if I’d lived there I probably could have took him home and got 24-hour care. You can do it. But what my dad wanted was to see his farm. When we were packing up his things at the [veterans hospital] after he passed on—because nobody else was going to do it—that I could have took my dad home with [name caregiver] in a rented van thing from [veterans hospital], and we could have took him home and wheeled him around his farm when the grain was growing and maybe made it in the house, we’re not sure, with a plank. But that’s all he wanted really was to see his farm. Because I told dad, “You can’t stay there. Mom can’t look after you.” But that’s not what he meant. And I promised him I would bring him home a different way. But I’m sure he’s flying up there with his buddies—he’s the last one of his group—and I bet he’s got a smile on his face and he’s looking down and saying ,“I got what I wanted.” Yeah.