In 2003, my husband and I retired and moved to within 50 miles of my parents so we were able to help more at the end of my mother’s battle with breast cancer, and the remainder of my father’s life. For a time after my mother died, my father was in good health and living independently in his home, but age and heart issues began to take their toll on him. My father was a very stubborn and pessimistic man so caring for him was difficult, and I found myself dreading the visits. He was absolutely insistent on staying in his home, though he did miss the socialization that would have come if he would have moved to an independent living facility which I had suggested. When he started relying to heavily on his sister for daily care, again my brother and I stepped in and insisted on outside help. We hired a woman to come every morning to get him up and dressed and fix him breakfast, and used one of the non-medical agencies for someone to come in and provide the evening meal along with companionship. It turned out to be a man who my father became very fond of. They watched a lot of sports together and talked about cars, etc. As my father’s health deteriorated, we increased the amount of time he had help, and he was able to stay in his home until the end, using hospice for the last couple of months.
None of this was easy, as it takes an emotional toll. I knew that I could not become the primary caregiver for either of my parents as it would have been too heavy of a toll on me and my marriage. That certainly didn’t mean that I didn’t get involved or make more than one middle of the night trips when things turned bad. Fortunately, my parents had the resources to pay for help, though it was a tough sell to get them to use it. When my father began using outside help, I asked my brother to pay those expenses out of my mother’s trust fund for which he was the executor, so that my father could not cancel them without notifying us. My father was very alert mentally and knew the costs, but not having to write the check made it easier to swallow. As I look back now there is little I would have changed in the type of caregiving we did for my parents. I was able to have a very significant role in my parents last years and care, and feel that the care they got was very good and allowed them to stay in the home that they had shared for over 60 years. Compromises were made to keep us all safe and happy and I can look back at those decisions feeling that they were the right ones for us and our circumstances.