Human condition: When the right choices are hard to make _lowres


We recently admitted my father-in-law, Leroy, into a nursing home.

It wasn’t long ago that Leroy was a big, proud, tall, strong, strapping man.

But 50 years of construction work had not been particularly good to Leroy as it had steadily transformed his body into a bent, fragile man who can barely stand. No one will ever know how much it hurt my heart and my wife’s heart to put Leroy into a nursing home.

We knew this day was coming; we could read the signs.

The first sign was when the DMV would not renew his driver’s license because he could barely walk and only with a walker.

I met Leroy on my first date with his daughter, Pam, my wife of 34 years. He and his wife, Helen, were installing a shower door on their bathtub. When he stood up I gauged him to be around 6 feet 4 inches with swollen muscles and a full head of short, neatly cropped, brown curly hair. His hands were heavily callused from years of work as a steamfitter.

“Steamfitters are different; they are a notch above pipe fitters,” he used to always say.

In the mid ’80s, a recession hit, and Leroy was pushed into retirement when he was laid off from his job of many years.

The union advised him to just let it go, so Leroy retired and became a nuisance husband and a full-time grandfather to our children.

When Helen died, Leroy segued into a bit of a curmudgeon having lost his friend, servant and an exceptional cook. Helen was the sweetest thing and would do anything for anyone, especially Leroy.

There were other signs of Leroy’s deteriorating physical condition. In the last few months, Leroy had fallen a couple of times and steadily he began to need help with many things able-bodied people take for granted, so we hired a sitter to stay with him during the day.

Pam and I occasionally discussed that maybe we should admit Leroy into a nursing home. In the end, we found a good one and checked him in.

Leroy is not particularly fond of the nursing home.

We understand his situation; no nursing home is good enough for Leroy or for any one of the other residents because at one time they were all young individuals full of life. Now they all have to give up their dignity and become dependent on complete strangers to take care of them, cook for them, help them go to the bathroom and give them a bath.

Leroy doesn’t know it, but he is getting much better care in the nursing home than we could provide him when he lived at home by himself, even with the sitters.

He is served a nutritious meal three times a day and is given his medication at the prescribed time.

All things considered Leroy is in his best health in the last 15 years.

Admitting Leroy into the nursing home was the right thing to do, even he knows it, but it is still hurts when I see that frail, balding, grumpy old man, my friend, my father-in-law, my wife’s daddy sitting on the edge of that bed when all I want to see is that happy young man I met on my first date with Pam oh-so-many years ago.

— Papia lives in Metairie

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