Caregiver’s Diary: Patience

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I’m not my 89 year old widowed father’s caregiver, I’m just an occasional visitor, and a voice at the end of the phone. Youngest sister is his caregiver, and she sees him frequently and, until recently, took him out for lunch. What she has in abundance is patience, and it’s something I don’t have a lot of.

Patience is essential in dealing with Dad. He takes his time changing sweaters before he goes out, and sometimes decides he doesn’t want to go at all. It’s an incredibly fraught operation shuffling him down the hallway to the parking lot, and getting him into a compact car (he’s 6 feet 4 inches tall, or was) is almost impossible.

Once at the restaurant, it’s almost impossible to extricate him from the car again, and then there’s the long slow shuffle inside. Back in the day, Dad used to like chatting up waitresses; he spent a lot of time on the road, and they were his muse. Signs of the old sparkle still show, but he can’t banter anymore, just smile winningly. The waitresses at the lunch joints around Serenity Towers all know him now, and they’re quite patient too. I guess life is slower in Niagara than here in Toronto.

Youngest sister has given up ordering Dad anything for lunch, because he just doesn’t eat. He’ll steal a roll for later, and maybe take one bite from a grilled cheese sandwich, but he’s not there to eat. I’ve noticed that he will polish off a dessert, so I urge him to order dessert first when we go out. Youngest sister says she will now no longer take him out for lunch.

Youngest brother has had some free time lately, and he’s been down to Niagara a lot. He says dealing with Dad one-on-one is particularly difficult; he has nothing to say, and he can’t really say it anyway. He sits there smiling dimly as though memories had taken the place of reality. It’s really much better to see him with someone else, so you have someone to talk to. Dad likes just watching and listening now.

Youngest brother describes a recent exchange:

Dad “So, do you have a girlfriend?

“Dad, you’ve met her several times”

Dad “What’s her name?”

“You know her name, it’s Donna”

Dad “Ronnie?”

“No, Donna. Ronnie was your dog”

Dad “Ronnie has a dog?”

“No, Ronnie was your dog, you put her down”

Dad “You put your girlfriend down?”

I guess these last years will get crazier and crazier. Dad is feeble, but in basic good health. He could hang on for 3 or 4 years into his 90s, becoming ever and ever more decrepit. He has a mortal fear of the Second Floor at Serenity Towers, the floor where the incontinent and incapable are kept, but he’s on his way there. Unfortunately, I think his body will outlast his wits, and for a splendidly educated man like Dad, that’s sad.

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