Caregiver's Diary: A New Home

There’s one in every family. Usually female, usually the youngest. The one who will take care of the old folks. My youngest sister is that person in our family. In addition to being deeply concerned with my parents’ welfare, she is talented, organized, good with power tools and adept at navigating bureaucracy.

When my parents first moved back to Canada and settled in the Maritimes, my youngest sister inspected the house, fixed the deck, added hand rails and no-slip surfaces as they aged, enrolled them in disabled veterans’ benefits and arranged housekeeping. All this while running her own consulting business and co-raising a large family.

When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, youngest sister was there constantly, buying a new bed, arranging doctor visits, washing mum when she couldn’t. Now that my mother is dead, youngest sister has become my 87 year old father’s guardian and constant correspondent, and she will be his caregiver as he moves to a new life in Ontario. I’ll let her take over in her own words:

A little over a month has now passed since my mother’s celebration service in Niagara. My recently widowed father has returned to his home in the Maritimes. He went off with great plans, but as recounted in my last posting, plans change.

I have continued to phone my father every single day since his departure. Sometimes he is hard to reach because as a result of boredom he goes to bed very early, and in the mornings he does not put in his hearing aids right away and he can’t hear the phone. During the day he has little errands (post office, bank, lots of medical appointments, wine bottling over at the Liquor Commission self-serve depot, (a great invention if ever there was one) and he also takes a mammoth afternoon nap. Kathie Rose comes many days from 5 to 7 so I don’t want to disturb his time with her, which I feel is really important to his daily well-being. This leaves just tiny slivers of time to reach him on the phone, but I am managing. The daily conversation is probably more important to me than to him. I work hard to make this daily connection, because I fear that if I don’t, he will just quietly slip away….

The last month has been hard for him and for us. It would not be hard if he were nearby – I would have physical contact with him daily and could keep his spirits up. But he is down there in the Maritimes with no friends really – they were all my mother’s friends. A scant handful have invited him over for one or two social occasions and he always recounts these to me with great pleasure. The frequent visits of a VON nurse to attend to a wound he sustained in a fall nearly two months ago also perk up his day and he tells me how capable and friendly these nurses are. But mostly, he is lonely and he can’t seem to move forward.