I remember watching my parents age in a normal fashion. I’d occasionally look at them and be startled by the realization that they were getting older, but that was all I acknowledged. I never consciously dwelled on the fact that they would continue to decline and eventually I would lose them. I didn’t want to. These things did, however, linger in the very back of my mind.
Then one day my dad underwent brain surgery to correct an old injury he sustained in World War II. It was made clear to us that without this operation, he would eventually suffer from severe confusion. Unfortunately, though, the surgery was unsuccessful. Instead of preventing this fate, he came out of the operating room with full-blown dementia. Our family was suddenly experiencing one of those tragic things that only ever happens to “other people.”
There was no time to fully contemplate the far-reaching implications of Dad’s abrupt change in health. Hard decisions had to be made and there was so much to be done that we couldn’t have anticipated. Where should he live now? What kind of immediate care does he need and how will his needs change down the road? What is best for Dad? What is best for Mom? I became the primary caregiver, immersing myself in the task of making Dad’s existence worthwhile. Whatever he imagined was happening, I did my best to make it so.
Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. “I hold onto your book as a life preserver and am reading it slowly on purpose...I don't want it to end.” ...Craig William Dayton, Film Composer
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