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
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
"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.
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.
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 ...in 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.