Let me tell you, elder care is not for the feint of heart. My parents moved in with me 5 years ago. I had this romantic view of what it’d be like – my mom and I would go shopping; Dad and I would go fishing. They’d be able to go to all of my son’s basketball and football games. Dad would have a place to garden again; Mom would have space to read and do her puzzles. It seemed perfect.
I had no idea it would be so much work. My dad had cataract surgery shortly after moving in with me. A few months later, a heart attack. Mom was also dealing with severe depression and anxiety. She was convinced Dad was getting Alzheimer’s. I cannot tell you the number of medical appointments we went to in a month. There were at least two or three a week between the two of them. It wasn’t short-term, either. The medical appointments were constant. They always wanted me to attend as they didn’t trust themselves to remember everything they were told.
It didn’t stop after Mom died and Dad went into assisted living. There are fewer medical appointments since a nurse and doctor are on-site, but there are specialist appointments. It’s never just one. One appointment leads to another…and another. Dad is now completely blind. He doesn’t move as well as he used to. A 20-minute appointment is now a 3 to 4 hour excursion. By the time I get to his home, get him in the car, to the appointment, and back to his room, half a day is gone.
Hearing aids never stop working at the same time. I take one in and a week or two later the other needs to be fixed. There’s always something Dad needs me to get for him.
Martin is experiencing this now that we’ve moved his dad to be closer to us. It’s never-ending. With both of the dads, we ask if they need anything. “No, no, I’m good.” A few hours later or the next day…”I need…”.
It’s a tough situation. We want to be there for our parents. We also need to live our own lives. From an observer’s standpoint, it’s fascinating to watch. The older they get, the more toddler-like they become. They can’t walk as well. They are fussy eaters. They need help doing almost everything. They can only focus on what what is an immediate thought or need.
I try to frame my mindset to “I get to …” rather than “I have to …”. I’m fortunate to still have my dad. I know that. I know how much he and Mom did for me as a child. Still, when I’m tired, part of me thinks, “They chose to have children; I didn’t choose this.”
It’s normal to have these feelings. I still have an young adult at home. I work more than full-time hours every week. Getting enough exercise is important to me. There are all the ‘adulting’ things that need to be done. Sometimes, Dad feels like one more obligation. There’s a reason respite is offered to caregivers.
My dad lost his wife of 53 years and his vision within two years of each other. He can’t do any of things he loves to do. Yet, his attitude is still one of, “Well, it could be worse” or “Well, what can you do?” He loves his family. He’s so very proud of the adults his grandchildren are becoming. He stays in touch with his extended family. If I ever need anything, Dad is there.
As exhausting and frustrating as it can be, being able to look after my dad is a gift. He will be 85 in April. He’s already outlived everyone in his family. He won’t be here forever. I’m fortunate we are still able to create memories.