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EDITORIAL RESPONSES  /Dear Ole' DadEditorial List  

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Dear Ole' Dad Editorial Responses
These are just some of the many responses we received from our Editorial of 06/06/08 - Dear Ole' Dad

I was a male home caregiver for my father-in-law.  His doctor told me he had two days to live.  I brought him home to avoid the stress of a hospital death on my mother-in-law.  He'd get home, rest for two days, then slip away in his sleep.  That's the way it's supposed to happen.  At least that's what I planned on.  I was the primary 24/7 guy for the next five years, but I brought it on myself.

On the second day I thought it would be a good idea to remind 'Grandpa' that he was a former Marine.  I wanted to reach into his memory and pump up that old WWII Corps pride so that he would move on with the full honors of those who had passed before him.  At least that was my idea sitting beside his bed in his room at home.  Just Grandpa and me.  I used the Drill Sergeant's voice I recalled from my Army days, as well as channeling my own dad, a former Marine Drill Instructor. 

I got into it from the start, but instead of the berating and belittling associated with troop training, I used my Drill Sergeant's voice to commend and congratulate him on his achievements.  It was an unusual twist to a tradition we'd both experienced. 

"Trainee, you are the finest example this man's Corps has ever produced.  You will stand at the head of the line where everyone else wants to be just like you.  You have honored the memory of the Marines and all the men who have served.  Your country salutes you.  Your family salutes you.  I salute you."

I rolled through a few more minutes before I choked up, realizing how much I would miss the old man.  That's when his eyes opened, focused on me, and he raised his arms.  Yikes, I thought, I've upset him and he's coming after me?  That was my first thought.  I didn't know what to do for a man so close to death, so I resumed my Drill Sergeant voice:

"Mister, are you getting out of your rack?  Do you want to strap on a pair of boondockers and put those Marine feet on my deck?"

He seemed frozen in mid sit-up, which I took for yes.  If he had two days to live, and this was day two, then why not stand up?  So we did.  We stood together.  I told him he was the bravest man I ever knew for even trying to stand, that a man who could stand up could do anything he wanted.  And so began our journey.  Grandpa and I did a similar routine for the next five years.  The only day he didn't get out of bed was his last day.  It was an honor to serve as his caregiver, to show him what caring meant. 


My wife of 40 years was severely injured in a car accident on 12/19/1989. She survived the coma, brain surgery, and a year of rehabilitation although she is blind in one eye and has limited use of her left arm.  Her greatest loss is her short term memory. Before her head injury, she was a teacher, administrator and the manager of her own business. She was a great mother of two daughters and the best wife ever. Since the accident her greatest challenge is the loss of her short term memory. She attends a day care center two days per week for Alzheimer patients and fits in well. I am her primary caregiver, but I am blessed with two adult daughters who sense when it is time to encourage me to take a trip, go to a movie, or just head out for a while. I am also blessed with a wife, who appreciates me, tells me almost daily that she loves me.  Many husbands do not know that joy.

I know if I had been the one who was totally disabled, she would be taking care of me.   I miss our long talks about politics, philosophy,and religion. She was brilliant. Now she lives in the present with no thought of the past or the future. A good example for me.

J. K.

My friend's father cared lovingly  for his wife through the entire course of Alzheimer's disease  in their lives.  He is a fabulous cook and survived her losing interest in eating and telling him "this tastes like -----" to his well thought out , and beautifully presented epicurean offerings.  He  did find one food that she loved, and made her home-made ice cream daily.   He was patient with her way of seeing the world.  She had always loved their dogs.  At this point in their lives they did not have one.  She took care of her 2 Irish setter dog statues and dog boot scraper  daily, as if they were real..  They shared her ice cream with her,  had fresh bowls of water, went for car rides, and kenneled with her daughter whenever she traveled.  When they finally did get a "real dog", and someone asked if her other dogs were jealous, she replied  "they're not real anyway!" (like that person should have known that!!)  I know that Alzheimer's is very hard as the caregiver, but he always seemed to handle it with grace and love.
Love your webzine and recommend it to the caregivers I work with that like to be on line!!

My last parent, my mother, died on April 24, 2008 following a long battle with Alzheimer's.  The last 5 weeks were in a nursing home.  Until that time we were able to keep her in the home my dad and her built when he came back from WWII.  He left enough money behind to allow us to provide 24 hour in home care when it was necessary.  It was for 3 years.
Yesterday, my brother and I signed paperwork to sell that house.  It is the only house we ever grew up in as kids.  I always knew where my roots were.  Now my roots belong to someone else.
I'll keep receiving your newsletters for awhile.  We lost our dad on March 28, 2000.  It was sad but we had our Mom.  Now it is all gone.  It is very different.

I wholeheartedly and joyously applaud all those male caregivers out there. It is a testament to a man's character to willingly take on such roles. Men are not normally seen as nurturing and therefore it's always amazing to people that there are those men out there that are up to the challenge of things like changing their mother's undergarments or assisting with bathing.
I have been caregiver for both of my parents now for 2 years. Until I started this role Dad was caregiver for mom and when illness and age robbed him of his stamina it was clear he couldn't do it all anymore and so here we are.
Indeed this is supposed to be a story about male caregiving but since the reason for that appeal for stories is to honor Father's Day, I would like to offer another side of the equation. You see, I have had to assist my dad with the most personal part of a man's existence from holding him up in a washroom while he relieves himself because he had only one leg and his sense of balance wasn't developed enough to manage his manly parts and hang on to handrails at the same time, to taking anal swabs on a regular basis to check for MRS infection (he is a carrier). It's assumed that because I am a woman and therefore a natural born caregiver, this experience shouldn't shake me but I have to say, the first times I had to do these things also had me wondering if I'd need years of couch time afterwards.
But that's not the point I want to applaud here. It's my dad. Here we have a man who was always a stoic authoritarian who made providing for and protecting his family his sole goal in life. He was the man who rescued me in all sorts of situations, standing by me in all sorts of life crises having to somehow maintain his dignity and manhood while the little girl he always felt he needed to look after, broke through the barriers of modesty to look after him. I do my best to make the experience as comfortable as it can be but I'm sure that inside, his sense of the world is turned upside down and his place in my life is completely altered. He doesn't complain, or grumble fact he tackles it very matter of factly and without a word. But I know that his outward composure isn't completely reflective of the turmoil inside. He's had a rough time and has dealt with the loss of hearing, kidneys and one leg all in the space of the last two years as well as turning over caregiving of his wife to his daughter. Physically he's not the man he once was but inside he's still the strong man I have always admired. I admire his daily struggle with trying to place his identity now that all the things he pinned his identity on are gone or going. It's not easy for him and admittedly there are times when we clash as we navigate this process. When you are caregiving for a parent of the opposite sex, regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, or the person being cared for, there has to be a great lowering of all the barriers between parent and child to allow for a reversal of roles.
Thanks for a great newsletter...interesting to read about how others handle things.



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