My father is on day 3 of ICU delirium

Posted by khecke1 @khecke1, Jan 18, 2023

Need some advice here. I’m 35 with a wife I love dearly and a mom, sister, and father that I love just as dearly.

My father recently had a back surgery. He aspirated 1 day post up and and the immediately moved him from the floor to ICU. From there his polyartritis nordosa flares up requiring 50mg doses of steroids. After being in the ICU for 3 days he started to get agitated and would want to pull his ekg leads off and his IV lines. I tried to couch him not to do it because it was best for him but he refrained and said he was getting out of here. Before I know it the nurse is coming in trying to put mittens on his hands which made him more combative. Next comes about 4 more male nurses and the doctor. They start tieing him down to the bed while I’m outside in the hallway crying. It was too painful to see my father who is such a gentle man have to be restrained at really no fault of his own. His lack of sleep and the steroids he was on made him act out in a way that he would never do. They gave him an injection in his leg. He was screaming he was calling the police and he was going to sue. He also screamed that he has never been so disappointed in me to let them do this. This all began to settle down around 2 am and I had to go home. I was so upset about what just happened and can’t believe that had to happen to my dad. I’m actually crying writing this.

We are now 2 after the incident. We have had some good doctors and nurse help me and my family cope, but we are not out of the woods yet. The first day he couldn’t believe his family would allow someone to tie him up and take him to a foreign country. Day 2 which we are just wrapping up he is saying he is going to report his incident to the hospital, that he is divorcing my mom, and he will no longer live with us. He and my mom have been together for 40+ years and would never get divorced. When we tell him we love him he doesn’t reciprocate which is not like him.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how we communicate with him right now. He get very angry and says I can’t believe my family wasn’t there when they tied me up and put me in the insane asylum. I love my dad so much and badly miss him. He just retired and I’m hoping to father his first grandchild this year. Any help is so much appreciated

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@khecke1 Welcome to Connect. I'm glad you're here. I do apologize that you have not had a response, and I just found your discussion. I am usually hanging out in the Spine group. Connect has grown a lot with many more members and conversations. As Volunteer Mentors, we always try to make sure a new member is welcomed.

I experienced a similar event with my dad many years ago after he had a heart bypass operation and was in the ICU. It was the same day of surgery and the first time we could see him. He was out of it, and I touched his hand which activated him and he started to try to pull off the leads and IVs. I called for the nurse, and they did the same, and tied his hands to the bed rails. In speaking with him after recovery, he told me that he couldn't breathe and was calling out, but no one would help him. That is really what he thought, and I explained to him what did happen. I think this is pretty common practice at a hospital so a patient cannot harm themselves.

I know that it is hard to see, and also hard to hear some mean things your dad said. He didn't know what he was doing, and was acting out in frustration of not understanding what was happening. Of course that hurts, and don't take on any guilt or blame from that. You were being the best son you could be at a difficult time for your family.

Have you had a chance to talk to a counselor about this? Has your dad come back to reality?

I know you asked how you could talk to him about this, but if he is in a state of delirium, you can't really reason with him. You could try to distract him with something that emotionally feels good and he can switch gears. My father in law had Alzheimer's, and when he got agitated about something, I just started complimenting him about anything to make him feel good and it stopped the bad behavior. He didn't want any redecorating of the 1970's kitchen wallpaper, and his wife wanted to update the counters and wallpaper, etc. So we all just kept showing him the nice wallpaper in the book and telling him how much we like what he picked out, and pointing to the selected pattern with geraniums on it. That worked like a charm, and he was happy about it, and even boasted about how nice the finished kitchen looked.

With aging and hospital visits, there may be more events like this. Aspiration is a dangerous event too. My dad had a head injury in his 60's and lost the ability to swallow. He had to relearn it, but later in old age, he wasn't doing it well, and was aspirating which caused pneumonia. That is something to watch, especially when you have a parent that minimizes something. Any time I saw my dad cough up yellow phlegm or sputum with any blood in it, I sent him to the hospital and it always was aspiration pneumonia. That coupled with heart disease was not a good combination. His head injury affected his ability to think and reason correctly, so it was like arguing with a child about his need for medical attention. There were times I had to bargain with him, or get him to agree because mom was "scared" about it, so he did it for her, and the paramedics even helped with this conversation at times, so he would agree to go with them.

Can you provide an update on how you are working through this problem and how your dad is doing with his recovery? Please remember, none of it is your fault, so do not take any ownership of it. You were doing what a good son does for his parent and family, and sometimes that is tough love.



@khecke1, it can be really awful and scary to see your loved one struggle in any way. Any time spent in an ICU can lead to what is called ICU delirium. It can be a very difficult thing to avoid, and can take time to resolve. The waiting can be the most painful part. One thing that has been found to help patients and families through this is keeping a daily journal. Once your dad has recovered from this, he will be able to review this journal and understand what was really happening during the days where he felt so confused. It will replace confusion, delirious memories, hallucinations, etc. with reality and that has been shown to be very impactful in recovery.

This can be extraordinarily stressful for families. How are YOU doing?

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