Elder Care - Dealing With Confusion

I was on night shift in my father’s bedroom during the final days of his palliative care.  I heard him struggling with his covers and opened my eyes.  The digital clock read 4:00 a.m.  He was sitting up by the time I turned on the nightlight and came over to his side. 

I helped him walk to the commode, then back to his bed where I handed him a glass of water.

“The ship is rocking a lot.  There may be a storm tonight and they’ll be closing down the ship’s casino.  Is the sea very rough?” he asked.

“Probably is,” I replied. “Do you feel the floor moving?”

There was a long pause.  We sat on the bed, side by side.  “Wait one second.  You’re putting me on.  We’re not on a cruise ship, are we?”

“No dad.  We’re not.” I replied.  ‘You’ve been dreaming.  And that’s no surprise considering the amount of morphine they’ve got you on to manage the pain of your cancer.”

He turned to look me in the eyes.  “Then why did you lead me on instead of correcting me?  Tell me the truth, am I losing my mind?” he asked.

I put my arm around his shoulder.  “No, you aren’t losing your mind,” I answered.  “Absolutely not.  Far from it.  I didn’t want to contradict you, that’s all.  Despite the morphine you seem to be able to see through the haze just fine on your own, at your own pace, in your own time.  You don’t need correction.  Here, have some more water.”

He lifted the glass to his lips with two gnarled hands.  “I never knew water could taste so good,” he chuckled.  “All my life I’ve drunk coffee and maybe orange juice in the mornings, beer and booze in the evening.  I don’t think I ever really tasted water when I was younger!”

“You’re probably right.  As a kid I don’t remember that we ever had water at the dinner table.  Now thanks to Helena, one of your Personal Support Workers, we have noticed that drinking lots of water clears your mind.”

“And gets me up all the time to go to the can.  I’m glad we’ve got the commode here in my bedroom.”

“You’ve exercised all your life and you’re still moving around a lot now,” I said.

“All these years I’ve been a dehydrated old alcoholic.”

“Yes, dad,” I laughed.  “You’ve been a lusty, thirsty man.  Here, have some more water.”

He tilted back the glass and enjoyed another few gulps of Toronto’s finest tap.