A Place for Daddy

31 Jan

I started shopping for an assisted living place for my Dad a few weeks ago. He’s been living with us for a little more than a year. The arrangement wasn’t planned.

A year after my mother died, my brother had moved north from Florida to live with my Dad. At first my Dad was fine. He could be left alone and he was still able to drive to the supermarket, my house and wherever else he wanted to go.

After a while, though, my brother started noticing strange behaviors. Dad once got up late on a Thursday night, got dressed and told my brother that he was going to church. He started getting lost from the lobby to his first floor apartment. When he sent thousands of dollars to a scam lottery in Australia based in  Jamaica, we knew he could no longer be left alone.

I was so happy not have to worry about him, to have my brother be my Dad’s companion. My brother had said that I was too stretched with responsibilities of my nuclear family to look after Dad, but after two years my brother moved back south and my Dad came here.

His memory has gotten worse,  even though like most people with dementia, he has moments of lucidity. He is still his same pleasant, peaceful self. He is physically in perfect health and doesn’t need any medication. He is strong, but he needs reminding for everything–what piece of clothing to put on where, what a toothbrush is for, that kind of thing.

It has taken me a while to come to the realization that he needs more attention, stimulation, company his own age, things that neither his home caregiver nor I can give him. My friends have been telling me practically from the beginning that taking my Dad in was too much for me to handle. They were right, but now that I’ve made the decision, I realize that I had to come to it on my own, in my own time.

When I started looking at places on-line, a service appeared that is like a concierge for adult living facilities. You tell them what you want and they make suggestions and appointments. Easy. My person’s name is Ruth and when she was setting up the appointments for me, I said, “it’s just like looking at schools, right?”
Ruth paused and said, “not exactly.”
A few days later I was having lunch with my friend Linda and told her what I’d decided to do. She offered to go with me.
“That’s sweet, but I don’t think I need that.”
She insisted that I did and insisted on going with me.

I don’t know what I would’ve done without her. She was literally there for me to lean on. It is so much more emotional than I expected and there is way too much information to absorb.

The places we looked at were really nice, one of them was like a nice hotel, where baking smells waft through the halls. The staff bakes everyday so that the smells trigger memories of happy times.

One of the places even boasted that many couples had formed there–12 of whom have even gotten married. These place are not depressing nursing homes that smell like urine; but still the idea of putting my Dad in a place weighed heavy on my heart along with the reality of where my Dad is in his life. It is still heartbreaking. Linda was there to support me, but also to ask smart questions and help me remember a lot of what had been said, what we saw.

I don’t know why I thought this would be like comparing middle schools, as I’d recently done, for my son.
One of the places I looked at had a nice single room with a view of a small park. I thought, I could be happy here.

Right now I’m figuring out costs, his benefits, moving him at the same time my husband and I are doing virtually the same thing for our daughter as she prepares to go away to college.

My Dad has been a steady presence in my life. Worked everyday for 35 years at General Motors from can’t see to can’t see. I never heard him complain and every two weeks he’d hand his paycheck over to my mother. They were a team.
After she died, I expected that he would go soon after. You read about that all the time in long term couples–their union had lasted almost 60 years.
He didn’t leave us physically, but…

So, he will be moving to his new place and my daughter will be leaving for hers. He’s at the end of his life, she’s beginning hers. I will be sad to see them both go and I’ll also be left with time to contemplate:
where’s the place for people in the middle of life, like me.

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