I am very lucky to have had my father around for so long. He was sharp as a tack until he hit 90, and then dementia crept in and robbed him of his memory and, finally, his dignity. It is a shitty condition, if you'll pardon my French. As a family, we are totally blessed with a sister who's super power is sublime compassion, patience, humor and strength. She has, basically, put her life aside for the past five years to be a full-time caregiver. And now, there is mom. Thankfully, she does NOT have dementia. But she is 96 and all signs point to more years ahead.
As we sat waiting for the funeral folks to arrive to spirit dad away (pun intended), we all agreed that we had made it through the past five years thanks to good wine (that would be the three sisters), close family ties and dark humor. And humor was needed in the last couple of weeks. In the middle of dad's fairly rapid decline at the end, the septic system backed up and ceased functioning. There was my sister, with two old ladies (mom - 96 and her sister - 94), and our dying father. Here is where level-headedness, preparedness and humor come to bear.
Anyone who has dealt with the very elderly knows that the topic of conversation from rising in the morning to toddling off to bed in some way involves 'elimination' (my mother's choice of terms). The magic of prune juice; the mystery of Metamucil; the benefits of dried apricots; how much water you drink; the need for the morning cup of coffee to 'get things working'. As my sister pointed out, there was a dire lack of 'movement' with the ladies until the septic system quit working. Enter the potty chair (senior edition). All of a sudden, there was lots of 'movement'. As they shuffled back and forth down the hall on matching walkers, each would whisper to my sister, "I've left you a little package, heehee." My sister, figuring she had enough potty bags to last a week, ran out in two days. Snort.
There were many frantic calls placed to their septic service who, I might add, showed a complete lack of compassion and appalling customer service. I tried my guys (they of the dimpled, blue-eyed blond fellow), who would have loved to have helped, but could not cross state lines. They did give me a name - Uncle Bob's Septic Service - in Bennington and thank goodness they did. Uncle Bob's dropped what they were doing and headed over. The pumper wasn't working, but they spent two hours trying to find the tank, then managed to clear the pipe so that it worked. My sister went out to thank them and found that the supervisor had recently lost his mother to cancer and the two of them stood next to the open septic tank, sobbing. They also donated a snazzy new lid so that the tank would be easier to find in the future. Uncle Bob's now has customers for life.
Connie sent a text to us early last Saturday saying that she thought dad would probably not last the day. I flung food at the dogs, sent an email to my neighbor, asking him to let the chickens out when it was light enough, and I headed to VT. It was a long day and dad finally left us in the afternoon. It was sad and it was a relief.
So, that is where I have been. We are now tying up loose ends and focusing our love and affection on mom. She's quite jazzed about it.
OH, I'm so sorry to hear this. It's not easy even if you know its coming. Bless you for rushing up there to be by his side and with your family. Hugs.
Dear, dear Susan. Yes, sadness and relief. I understand, and I'm sorry. God bless Uncle Bob's, and Connie, and all of you. Sometimes (most of the time?) life is just HARD.
I am so very sorry for your loss but I completely understand the relief. Having had Alzheimer's not only in my family but in my husband's I witnessed up close how terribly hard it is. it's so great that you had family actively involved since sometimes that's not the case. Take care of yourself...
Thank you for the welcome hugs. Yes, even though we had been expecting it, it seemed so sudden!
Isn't that the truth? I really don't know how we would have managed without Connie. She is truly amazing, although you're not allowed to tell her so.
Nancy, it is a terrible disease. The last three years, especially, have been tough. I really don't know how my sister was able to keep everything together and humming along. Thank you, for your kind thoughts.
Oh yes, the sense of relief and sadness I know well. My Mom and Mother in law had dementia and were card for at home. My deepest sympathies to you and your family for y=the loss of your Dad.
My thoughts are with you, Theresa. It is a heavy burden for the caregiver and this country is far behind in giving them the support they need, both financially and emotionally.
I'm so sorry to hear about your dear dad, but as we are dealing with dementia right now, and aging parents, I am laughing and crying and snorting all at the same time! Hugs and so much love to you and your sisters, there is a special place for all of us who have loved the elderly, especially the ones with dementia!
Hi Susan. Sorry for your loss but understand what you have been through. Right now my father-in-law is 92. He is starting to show signs of dementia. Fortunately he is at the California Veterans Home where we live and he enjoys it there. My husband and son work there and my step-daughter and I volunteer so he sees us all the time and gets the "bathroom" help we aren't able to give him. Every Christmas, we wonder if it will be his last.
Impressed by your ability to have your Dad at home to the very end-rare these days and an indication your family is made of the right stuff. Your Dad would be proud, I'm sure. He had a lovely smile, the type I go weak at the knees for. Tons of love to you and your family.
So sorry for you loss. Cyber hugs to you and your family right now.
wow...that was a long life to live! your parents are very lucky to have their kids take care of them at the end of their lives.
a life passage. your sister is a blessing. his suffering is over. I'm sorry for your loss but I also think death itself can be a blessing.
He helped raise some amazing daughters. My sympathy for your loss and hugs for all the emotions you've been feeling.
So sorry for your loss.
Sad to hear about your Dad. Your sister is quite a trooper! Why do things go wrong at the worst times. My Mom
lived with me for almost ten years and wish I could do it all again!! She had all her senses like your mom. xo
Such a well written heartfelt post you shared with us all. And so many responses from others dealing with similar situations. Both our mom's have dementia - one is 91, the other 97. We are blessed to still have them and try to find humor in things to make it easier. They are safe, both being cared for in adult family homes. Wishing you peaceful healing from the loss of your dear father.
My condolences, Susan, to you, your Mom and your family. I'm glad you were able to get there in time to say your final farewells to your Dad.
So sorry to hear this news. Dementia is an awful disease. It's hard enough caring for aging parents who can't hear or see well. But to add their confusion to the mix makes it doubly hard. Bless your sister, it does take a certain kind of person to do what she's doing. My prayers are with you & your family.
I’m so sorry, Susan. Not sorry, im sure you understand, that your father was released from his failed body, but sorry that you’ve lost another who you love. You and your sisters and entire support community inspire awe, and I’m so glad your parents and aunt have you all. But it all still hurts.
As you might have guessed, I laughed, I cried, I used four tissues getting through this post. Yes, blessings should be heaped upon Connie but also upon you, dear Sweezie, because of all the weekends, for all the years you've made time for your parents and all you've done for both of them. I wonder if your dear mom's last years will be easier for her now that the man she spent her life with is no longer suffering. How horrible it must be for life partners to see a loved one go through what your dad did. Sending huge hugs to all of you along with my heartfelt sympathies. XOX
Oh, thank goodness for the humor. Our mother died too young, of metastasizing breast cancer. As glad as I was we spent her last ten years together, I was equally glad to no longer hear of daily bowel movements.
May your sister continue to hold up. I can only send sympathy and love.
I completely understand your words, "it was sad and it was a relief". My condolences to you and your family. I get it.
I loved reading, also, about the way Bob's Septic Service stepped up and did the right thing - I really respect people like that!
I understand how humour must be a part of things, as well as compassion and resiliency. Take it easy these next few weeks. It's a period of adjustment. -Jenn
Massive hugs and support! What an amazing family 😊
So Sorry about your father. This was an amazing post.
So sorry for your loss - but it really is a celebration as well of a long life well lived, I hope. Hugs.
My condolences on the loss of your father but I'm thankful that you got to be there in the end. I have been there for both my mom and grandfather's passings and it has brought me comfort in both instances.
Tracy, you have my thoughts and sympathy. It is a tough time, but I think you are right. In the earlier stages of his dementia, we could easily calm him just with touch. That worked for years, until he was too agitated for any comfort.
Debby, that sounds like the best of both worlds - contact with family and the kind of support that is the most difficult. Dad was in hospice twice!
I think his smile is what attracted my mother, too. They were married for 70 years. We are very happy that we were able to keep dad home, but it was only because of my middle sister. My youngest sister and I would never have been able to hold up.
The same back to you, Kristina. I know you continue to go through very trying times with your extended family.
It was! And mom is 96 - showing no signs of leaving us anytime soon. It is what they wanted and we are glad that we could do it.
I totally agree. While we were sad, we were all so relieved. It is a non-ending grind, when you care for someone with dementia. I could never do it on my own.
Thank you so much - hugs to you, too.
Thank you, Elizabeth.
She is, indeed! And isn't that true? You reach a point where all you can do is laugh. That must have been wonderful for your mother. xo
I think there are so many of us out there. People are living so much longer, but not all are blessed to go out gracefully. Hugs and love to you both.
Thanks, Debra. I am glad we all made it together.
It certainly does. When I think about all the dementia patients in all the nursing homes, I have new respect for the people who care for them. It is a very difficult job.
I totally understand, Joy. It was such a relief that he finally found peace. We have a small and very tight family, that's for sure.
Thank you, my dear friend. My mom had a difficult time of it, the past five or so years. It was heartbreaking for her to watch the man she had spent 70 years with, slowly disappear. She is a tough cookie, though, and is already perking up. We hope she still has some good years to enjoy her life. Since she is in Connie's hands, I can guarantee it.
Amen, Joanne. There's nothing so helpful to sticking with your diet, than to listen to the daily status of one's bodily functions.
What a difference kindness can make. It's becoming more difficult to find companies that are capable of showing compassion.
Thank you, my dear. We are a tight bunch.
Thank you so much.
He did have an amazing and long life. He was a remarkable man and we have tons of good memories to erase the last ones.
I will admit that I thought, more than once, of your loving journey with your mom. I would put you with my sister in that category of people with a rare sense of total empathy and compassion.
Oh Susan, I'm so sorry to hear that. What a horrible disease. I hope this isn't offensive because you know, I relate to animals more than humans...my pug Winston has dementia for the last 6 months of his life, and it was sad and challenging taking care of him. Your sister is a saint. Sending lots of hugs and I hope you can visit my blog soon. xxx (trust me, there are no viruses!!!)
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