Caregiver's Diary: Probably For The Best

March 22, 2011

Youngest sister reports her latest thoughts on our recently widowed 87 year old father:

Six weeks have now passed since my last visit to see my father. This was the fifth trip I had made down to the Maritimes since my mother became ill and the third visit to assist my father in preparing for his imminent move to Ontario. We had plans that he would relocate this spring, and I was getting a bungalow ready for him in the city where I live.

On previous trips I had accomplished quite a lot in terms of getting rid of household junk that had accumulated over the decades. But on this last trip the sum total of my achievements was moving my mother’s books from her bedroom to the living room, shovelling snow from my father’s driveway, and giving his caregiver Kathie Rose a few days off. My father resisted any other efforts to take even tiny steps towards his leaving, and I left the Maritimes finally understanding that my father really did not want to move, although he wouldn’t say so in so many words.

Since my visit, I have had a lot of time to rethink my father’s situation, and my own. I quickly changed gears on the bungalow renovation because it was clear that my father would not be relocating soon, if at all. I have arranged for another perfect tenant, a single woman in her early 60s with impeccable references who is looking for a long-term living situation. On the phone with my father, I agreed that I had been rushing him and that he needed to make decisions at his own pace. His relief at this acknowledgement was palpable through the telephone line.

In subsequent phone calls, I have suggested that he has a pretty good situation there – a daily caregiver with whom he has a friendly rapport, young VON nurses who visit frequently and dote on him, a handyman who does all his snow removal and lawn care, and a different handyman who does odd jobs ranging from minor plumbing repairs to fixing the computer. His house is safe and secure, he is surrounded by his books and music, and he has a heated garage for getting in and out of his car. He even has a stair lift to get down and back from the laundry room. Soon, it will be summer and he will be able to sit in his lush back garden with his glass of wine and newspaper.

So these are my thoughts, and I believe my siblings share them. Frankly, I think a move will be a huge setback for him now. Back in the fall, in the early days of being a widower after 62 years of marriage, he did not know how things would unfold. But as the months have gone by, he has discovered that he is coping quite well. And I agree – he has the care he requires and the comfort of many small, idiosyncratic routines.