Caregiver's Diary: Plans Change

Following this article we’ve now included a Caregiver’s Diary archive for any episodes you might have missed.

“White tablecloths”. My father’s voice, somewhat dispirited, came over the phone. “What?” I asked. “White tablecloths at breakfast, white tablecloths at lunch. I like to read the paper when I have breakfast”.

He was talking about the grand assisted living facility in Niagara for which he had paid a deposit and arranged an apartment. Recently widowed, and living in the Maritimes, he had finally decided it was time to come back to Ontario to be close to his children.

“Oh dad, you have to share your table, you have to get to know people”. “Oh no, I just want to read the paper in the morning, I don’t want to sit with anyone”. He had decided assisted living was too regimented for him, what he wanted was something like how he was living in the Maritimes now, in his own house, with Kathie Rose, a local lady to “do” for him on a daily basis.

Youngest sister, in Niagara, had seen this coming. I’ll turn it over to her:

Youngest sister here. Nearly two months have passed since my mother’s death and several weeks since her grand send-off in Niagara-on-the-Lake. After having my 87 year old father in my care for a full week (with siblings taking him under their wings from time to time, as all were staying in the same motel) I saw him off on his flight to the Maritimes. He cleared security and entered the boarding lounge unsteadily but with his head raised, eyes fixed forward in anticipation.

Anticipation of what, I am now not certain. I felt confident that his path was clear. He had resolved to move to Ontario to be near us, he had signed up for the upscale retirement home, and he was already making lists of the things that he needed to do once he got home. Measurements and floor plans were just his thing. As I drove away from the airport I thought of him sitting there waiting to board and I realized this might be the first flight he has taken alone, without my mother, since his retirement from business 22 years ago.

Well, how things change in a short time! We had arranged that Kathie Rose would be there waiting for him with a hot meal, and the housekeepers had also been there that day so his home was clean and warm and someone was there to receive him. The first few days his spirits were up and we were busy back and forth on the phone making plans. Then one morning I received the email that I was half expecting … he sent it at a very early hour, so clearly he had been awake much of the night making his decision. As my older brother indicates above, no retirement home for him! He wanted me to find him an apartment.

This was the first of several change-ups to the plans that he and I had originally worked out. Instinctively, I knew not to challenge him but to hear him out, offer my views, suggest a range of other options, and end with a ‘let’s wait and see’ attitude. We both agreed nothing had to be decided immediately. So days went by and we talked frequently and I remained flexible and accommodating and shared with him little tidbits and the coming and goings of my life.