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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Living With Dad, 8

Today is one month since Dad moved in.  Its gone a LOT better than I expected.  Which isn't to say "great", but you know what I mean.  It could be a whole lot worse.

Getting Dad up here was awkward, but my "too complicated" plans worked (thanks to my brother actually driving Dad from FL to MD over 2 days).  Settling Dad into the house was difficult at first.  Well, he went from a house of his own to a room of his own; that was hard for him.  Of course, he has the rest of THIS house now, and its bigger than his FL house.

Dad had a hard time getting used to the idea of being here as a resident, not a visitor.  I did too.  Nothing like (me) living alone for 28 years and then suddenly having a housemate!  I still haven't gotten used to having someone else around 24/7. 

The odd thing is that I've always been a happy loner, but I'm doing OK with Dad here.  I've always been good about adjusting to new situations.  Hmmm...  Let's correct that to "Ive always been good AT adjusting to new situations, even if I hate it and do it kicking and screaming at first".  Which of course, I couldn't do with Dad here being all concerned about this major change in his life.

So this was ONE time I surpressed the "kicking and screaming at first" and went straight to the acceptance part.  Well, I guess family matters.  I never had a family housemate since I left for college 44 years ago. 

Please don't take this wrong, but the idea that it is not permanent helps.  There will come a time when Dad needs professional full time care I can't provide.  It may not be all that long.  But it is uncertain.  He is both healthy and fading at the same time.  I don't know how to explain that (but of course, I will try anyway).

He is HEALTHY in that he has a good appetite, needs no personal hygiene assistance, can usually walk around on his own, and can deal with simple daily activities very well.  He can get in and out of the car, carry dishes to the table and back, help with some parts of the meals, etc.  When I say "healthy" I mean that his internal body (heart, lungs, etc) seems to be in good condition, and he is mentally able is daily things.

He is FADING in that he is having more difficulty getting STARTED walking around (his feet just won't go when he wants them to), is more hunched over, and possibly more forgetful than when he got here just a month ago.  When we were in FL, he could remember events of a week previous.  Now, a few days ago is beyond his recall.  So some things are fading in just a month, but other parts of his life are staying steady.

None of his doctors suggested Alzheimer's, and only one suggested "mild dementia".  I question the non-dementia part, though.  Its one thing not to remember what he had for dinner the day before (sometimes I have to think about that myself), but its another to not remember going in the car with me to deposit checks at his bank the previous day. 

He is generally happy...
He watches Fox News or golf most of the day, he enjoys my cooking (and he should - more on that below), and he has someone to talk to (Mom went into assisted care in 2009 and died in 2010).  I actually listen to him.  Its hard with old folks, but I register when he says anything and make sure I hear what he is saying and respond.  Even when it doesn't make sense at first. 

It helps that I have cats.  Don't laugh!  As parents always have an ear open to the sounds of children, I have always had a part of my mind attuned to the sounds of the cats.  That same part hears Dad all the time.  I can always stop what I'm doing and sit next to him to hear anything he wants to say.  And I suppose if I've done it for a month, I can do it for a year.

The hardest part is dealing with documents that come in the mail.  I've started just tossing the obvious junk mail, but most of his mail is uncertain as to importance.  I hate the advertising from established business arrangements most.  Some are important, some are junk, but they are all equally concerning to Dad.  I HAVE to let him open them.  I will NOT open any mail to him that might be important.  He has a right to his mail.

Even if it takes me an hour to convince him that some mail is not important and some is...

About the cooking...  In FL, Dad was living off (as far as I can tell by asking and by what was in his refrigerator/freezer) hotdogs, frozen fish filets, ice cream, and martinis.  It is very likely that the best thing the 2 weeks of rehab hospital gave him was balanced meals! 

And I've been doing that here.  That part is easy, I am just cooking the same stuff I normally eat, just twice as much.  Except that he MUST have a potato with each meal.  But basically, I have always had a meat, a green veg, an orange/yellow veg, a tossed salad, and sometimes a starch like spaghetti or rice.  Fresh fruits for dessert, though I kind of fell into a weakness for small slices of fancy cheescakes just before Dad arrived.

So we meet in the middle, sort of.  He has to get my good diet, but he also gets his ice cream for dessert and I get some fresh fruits into him with the ice cream.  I wish I could get him to eat more fruit.  He likes it well enough, but if he was ALMOST full and had a choice between ice cream and a good ripe peach, he'll go for the ice cream.  Well, he's 90, maybe I shouldn't worry about that so much.  If he made it to 90, ice cream probably ISN'T going to be what kills him!

Dad still does strange things.  Mostly "strange" because they are not what he did the day before.  I found a laundry hamper to fit in the main bathroom (he doesn't want it in his bedroom for some reason and the hamper in his FL house WAS in the bathroom).  And he usually puts his worn clothes in there.  But yesterday he "washed" his underpants in the sink and set them to dry over the air vent. 

Well, life with Dad isn't boring; there's always something new...



Ramblingon said...

You are one of the honest folks I have "met" here on Blogger. You say what you think and what you think is good, as it so happens.

I like how you deal with changes and I can appreciate your part here in that I too would have to make an adjustment to having someone there 7-24.

As with most folks who are alone-- because in my case, the kids are gone, we settle into a routine and we are comfortable by and large. But to have to go so painfully slow in regards to mail/care/the rest of what you are dealing with..that would have to be particularly trying for awhile. I think you are making great headway from what I have read. Your cats have helped you hone your patience skills. :-)

Ramblingon said...

this is Katie Isabella's mom, by the way.

ABBY said...

This time with your Dad is a hard blessing.
You will always treasure this time that your Dad has in his twilight. Even though it is difficult and it pushes you in many directions. You are honoring your Dad, he has raised a fine son.

Mariodacat said...

Mario's mom here - you are doing a fantastic job. Every parent should have such a caring son as you are. It's good you realize there will come a day when you can't keep him at home, but you can also have peace of mind knowing you did everything for him that you could possibly do.

Ramblingon said...

Yes to Abby and Mariodacat. You are an honorable son. I hope mine will care for me if the need arises.

Megan said...

Mark - as someone with two elderly parents, one in a nursing home, one living my herself in the family home, I am finding your posts about living with your father inspirational. Thank you for taking the time to write them.
And I am pleased that your father has come to like the cats and the cats - or at least Iza - like him!

Sydney, Australia