Five weeks after Dad died, Mom moved to New Mexico to be near me. Through serendipity and the kindness of a stranger, we were able to find her a patio home just four blocks from our house. I'm grateful for how things have worked out, because while Mom lives 'independently,' the truth is she needs help with everything but her activities of daily living. From bill paying to house cleaning, I'll be doing it -- so it's nice that I can simply walk over to her place to help out.
The big questions now are: Where do we go from here? And what have I learned from my experience with Dad?
I'll take the latter question first.
If I had it all to do over again with Dad, would I do it? Yes. But I have to admit I would think much longer and much more seriously about ever moving a parent into my home in the future. If I had lived my whole life in close proximity to my parents and, hence, had a very close, personal relationship with them, maybe I would feel differently. As it was, I found it very stressful to give up my privacy by having another person – even my own parent – living in my home.
I also grossly underestimated the time investment in caring for someone at home. It truly requires every minute of every day. Well-meaning friends encouraged Lee and me to be sure to "make time for yourselves," but the reality is much different. Dad was always aware enough to realize when he was being babysat, and that caused hurt feelings and acrimony. The path of least resistance (i.e.: simply staying home most of the time) proved easier on everyone. But for a couple used to jaunting off frequently for 3-day weekends, being housebound felt mentally claustrophobic to Lee and me.
On the plus side, I learned there's nothing like sharing your home with a parent to add indescribable depth to your relationship. I discovered things about Dad that I never knew before – tidbits from his childhood that had never previously surfaced. I learned the name of the cafe my grandparents owned when Dad was a teenager. I heard stories about why Dad's uncle was disowned by his family in Norway, and how Dad was nearly killed in a car accident as a teenager. When Dad came to live with Lee and me, my sister told me, "You'll get the best part of Dad," and she was right.
I also discovered my beloved husband possesses depths of character I never suspected. Despite asking that he never be required to provide personal care to Dad in his final days, when the need arose, Lee was there – willingly, lovingly, and uncomplainingly. I love him more than ever before. An experience that could have wrenched us apart instead pulled us tight.
And as to the other question: Where do we go from here?
My sister, who lives about an hour away from where Mom used to live, recently told me, "It all seems so strange now. The house is sold, Mom's not here anymore, and Dad's gone. It's a lot of loss in a very short period of time."
She's right. And, for me, another loss is this blog. After all, it's titled "Dad has Dementia: Elizabeth's Home-Care Journal." And now, Dad is gone, and I'm no longer doing home care. So, the blog must end.
I want to thank everyone for reading and commenting over these past 36 weeks. Sharing your stories has buoyed me in ways you'll never know. I'll miss sharing my thoughts and feelings with you on a weekly basis.
But don't count me out yet. You may well find me back here on Caring.com in the future – whether blogging or doing something else. So let's not say 'goodbye' yet. Let's just say 'see you later.'