Learning More about Dad


As I mentioned in an earlier post, while I am away on vacation, paid companions are visiting dad on a regular basis. These are the same companions that visited dad last year and they are getting to know each other better and feel comfortable together.

Two of the companions are professional companions who have cared for many other elderly people in the past, and even currently care for several others. They have developed their own ways of keeping the elderly occupied and active. One takes dad for walks around his assisted living facility. This fascinates me as I can’t really get dad to walk unless we are on the way to lunch or an outing. But companion number 1 has convinced him to walk around the square just for the exercise and she gets him talking while they walk.

This week I learned that another companion can get dad to take part in a more in-depth conversation by playing cards with him. I was amazed. I have known dad all my life and I have never seen him play cards at all except solitaire on the computer.

Mom used to play cards with us a lot and so did my paternal grandfather. She also used to go out with friends to play cards. But in all those years, I had never seen dad play cards and just presumed that was something he “didn’t do”.

When I spoke to dad on the telephone I asked him about playing cards with his companion. I asked him what card game they play. He said “rummy”. I told him I didn’t know he played cards. Oh, he said: “It has been a long time since I played cards.”

I emailed my son to tell him this news. Often my son also has trouble keeping dad engaged in a conversation. I said he should bring a deck of cards and see if grandpa will play cards with him. I will see how that works out tomorrow.

The third companion is a retired nurse. She is more laid back in her approach to dad and talks to him wherever he is – in his room or in the lounge. She sometimes brings coffee knowing he may just be waking up when she gets there.

This reminded me that I don’t know my dad as well as I thought I did. He worked when we were kids and didn’t really “play” with us kids when he got home. He was a typical dad of the 1950’s in that he just had dinner, read the paper, watched television and worked in his downstairs wood working shop. Fathers didn’t play with the kids in those days.

A stranger doesn’t have any pre-conceived ideas about what dad does and doesn’t do. She just asks the right questions and learns new things about dad. I think maybe I should approach dad in a new way too and not assume I already know all about him.

I am very lucky to have 3 dependable companions to visit dad while I am away. In addition to keeping me informed on how he is doing, they are engaging him in new activities that I had never thought about.

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About letstalkaboutfamily

I am a retired and was the primary caregiver for both my parents before they passed. I have children and grandchildren. This blog is an attempt to connect with other caregivers and share ideas and experiences. I hope you will let me know what worked for you if you had an experience similar to mine. The main issues I am going to talk about are elder care, death and dying, assisted living, family relationships and hoarders and hoarding. Other topics will come up as I address the issues and my relationship with other family members.
This entry was posted in Alzheimer's Disease, Caregiving, Companion, Dementia, Elder Care, Eldercare and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Learning More about Dad

  1. jmgoyder says:

    Very helpful to me – hope ok for me to say that.

  2. My dad has early onset Alzheimer’s. He finally got into an appropriate center to care for him, and they are amazing. Great insight on how the staff relate to your father, i.e., they aren’t trying to relate based on his past characteristics. My dad used to play the piano all the time. Now he just sings unrecognizable songs. There is the occasional smile though, like when I did a silly tap dance in front of him (I’ve never done that before).

    • Yes, I learn a lot from the staff at Dad’s Assisted Living Facility. These companions are in addition to the regular staff. They only visit dad when I am out of town. They give me reports on how he is doing and they can spend one on one times with him the way I would be able to if I were there. It relieves me of some of the guilt when I am away. And as I mentioned in this post, they relate to him in a different way.

      I think we have to think “out of the box” now when we engage with a parent with Alzheimer’s disease. We need to try new things like your silly tap dance to see if that reaches them at a different level.

      Thanks for stopping by my blog. We caregivers can all learn from each other.

  3. I was always amazed by the things I learned about my dad when he was telling stories to other people. That’s a nice idea, approaching your dad with fresh eyes.

    • Yes, that is so true. Once I was in a cab with dad and dad started to tell the cab driver about his first job. It was a story I had not heard before. In this case I asked the companion about the game too and she said it was clear he knew it from before. She said he couldn’t learn it now with his Alzheimer’s as he played it very well. Now i hope to use this knowledge and have my children play cards with dad too. Dad isn’t much of a talker but I guess he talks more when playing cards, so it would be worth the effort.

  4. camsgranny says:

    Isn’t it strange, that “us” as kids, who think we know everything and anything about our parent, learn so much through other people? I have learned a bunch lately about both of my parents that I never really “knew” and it has enriched our relationship. I also think our parents act differently around other people than they do with us.

  5. boomer98053 says:

    You can certainly relax more knowing that his companions aren’t just “caring” for him, they’re participating in his day-to-day life. What a wonderful gift of compassion.

    • Thank you, Irene. I really feel blessed to have found 3 women that I trust to care for my dad on a regular basis. He enjoys their visits and I am reassured that he is OK. In addition, as I noted in this post, I learn a lot from the companions as well.

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