“My sister stops by every day or so to check on mom, so we have it covered,” said 60-year old Mike as I explained what we do at Penrose Senior Check-In Services. (We visit seniors and assess them and their quality of life and report to families).
I said, “well, maybe your sister would like some help so that she can drop by occasionally versus just about every day.”
“No,” said Mike. “She’s only there 20 minutes so it isn’t that big a deal.” Not a big deal, I thought, because you don’t do it. There is no “we” in “my sister….”
There is a common misconception, even among the family caregivers, that visiting an aging parent every day or so isn’t a big deal. Well, I can tell you from first-hand experience, it is a very difficult experience.
First, you fall asleep the night before thinking that tomorrow I need to go see dad. It’s as Forrest said, you never know what you’re going to get. What mood will he be in? Will he be dressed? Will he stink? Will he be sick? Will he remember my name? The pit of my stomach would begin to hurt.
Even though he lived just a few miles away, it would think and worry and plan for hours about today’s trip. What would we talk about? Would all those “old issues” rise up again? What will be wrong?
On the way, I’d stop by and pick up some new socks and a shirt. Then, on to the grocery store to pick up Archway Cookies and Pepsi. Finally, I show up.
With Rush Limbaugh on the news, Dad’s in one of his riled up Republican moments. Smile and nod. Smile and nod. His eyes are deep and red, his pants stained. His slippers falling off. He reaches for a tissue to use, then places on the top of the used tissues piling up on the side-table. His wheelchair has crumbs and scum from food gone by. He wonders why my mom doesn’t visit him. Should I remind him that they were divorced in the 80s and she died in the 90s? Smile and nod…
A half hour later, I’m back in the car shaking the smell off and trying not to think about what he said. Back home, I relive the experience with my husband, who smiles and nods.
A couple hours later, I’m back in my life, doing what I do and not thinking or worrying about him. But, soon it is time to go to bed and the cycle begins again.
Mike, you might want to talk with your sister. It isn’t just 20 minutes every day or so. She may need some help.