After I retired, I moved to a northeastern suburb to live near my children and grandchildren. It is nice to be near my family but the winters are too hard for me. I have solved that problem by spending a couple of months in the south where it is warmer. Until this year when I went south, I stayed in the same community where my parents spent the winter. This helped me to be near them to visit and help where necessary. Each winter they needed more help than the year before until last year when mom fell, broke her hip and passed away and I stayed the rest of the winter near dad.
After mom passed away, I brought dad north to live in the same community as I did. This made it easier for me to watch over his care and to visit him regularly. However I did not feel he could make the trip south any more for even a couple of winter months. I worried about how he would do if I went south and left him in his assisted living community. I discussed the issue with the manager and nurse in his assisted living community and they felt he would do fine if I left him. They could continue to care for him and I could telephone for updates.
I made reservations to go to a new location in the south this year, just to see what other options there were. I was no longer tied to the community mom and dad picked 30 years ago. Then dad ended up in the hospital and then the nursing home. I began to worry even more about leaving him home while I went away. The nurse had said they would watch over him even if he were hospitalized and I wouldn’t necessarily have to immediately return home. But I found that he was not automatically eligible to return to the ALF after hospitalization. He couldn’t go back until he met the state criteria and the ALF requirements to return.
I decided to find some other people I could entrust with his supervision in addition to the nursing home. I wrote about this in “Building a Care Team: Using Professional Caregivers”. I created a care team of 4 women who would each visit dad one day a week. Two were professional companions, one was a friend, and one was a retired nurse. In addition, my son and grandson always visit dad once a week and would continue to do so.
In spite of his loneliness, dad did very well. An epidemic of gastroenteritis ran through his assisted living facility and dad got sick as well. Some of the care-givers, especially the nurse, were able to continue to check on him, even though his facility was on quarantine. I told the companions to use their own judgment on whether to visit or not depending on the circumstances they found when they got to the ALF. The nurse was especially helpful as she was able to evaluate dad’s condition while he was recovering. Her evaluation gave me confidence that he was being well cared for and I did not have to rush home.
I was comforted knowing that I was getting an independent judgment from outside professionals rather than relying solely on employees of the ALF. I had no reason to believe the ALF employees wouldn’t be honest, but they were extremely busy caring for over 20 sick residents in a small ALF. They did not have the luxury of being able to devote an hour or more just to dad.
Dad recovered slowly, sleeping a lot for 2 weeks. Then he was more alert and more talkative. He writes himself notes to remember the name of his companions. He tends to be quiet and non-demanding, but one day he asked one of the companions to take him out for an Italian lunch. He ate well and really enjoyed himself.
In the meantime, I was away in the sunshine. This was my first time away from the constant stress of caregiving for over a year. Before that, by telephone and during visits, I was still constantly on call for my parents’ problems. Now I found that getting away to the beach relieved much of the tension that I had carried for so long. However, some worries traveled with me as I continued to make phone calls and pay bills even from afar. Still, this is the longest I have gone without constantly caring for one or both of my parents. I have released much of the tension that followed me for so long.
When I call dad, he always asks me where I am and when I will be home. He has Alzheimer’s so he doesn’t remember my answer for very long. Still, he misses me and will be glad when I return. In the meantime he has become more independent without my almost daily visits. My plan now is to visit him only 3-4 days a week rather than 5-7 days a week as I was before. He spends more time in the common lounge area now and I want him to continue socializing and not go back to his habit of staying in his room and napping all day.
I will be home soon and back to my routine. I hope the relaxation I have been enjoying stays with me after my return home. I don’t want to get so caught up in the tasks that await me that I forget how good it was to relax and drop my worries for awhile.