This is another post in the series of “growing old is not for sissies.” The twists and turns of aging require frequent adjustments. For Dad, the last 6-8 months have involved many. Hospital, then rehab, then relocation to a new assisted living community, adjustments to new people at the new place, adjustments to his new apartment, the daily routine, a birthday, how to get mail, and the (horrible) new phone system. It is overwhelming for those of us who help him to get through these things – but he has to live them. And, I don’t know how we would do all of this to help him without an army of people helping along the way. This includes paid workers who work for the assisted living community – the nurses, CNAs, administrators, and more. It includes paid workers whom we hire to help manage his care or to transport him to see Mom. It involves “volunteers” – friends who keep in touch with him by phone or visiting. It involves family, including my brothers, our spouses, and our families who manage his affairs. Fortunately, we’ve divided responsibilities in an effort to balance the load, but all told, it is an army of people with their jobs and their own lives to balance. We are thankful to be able to work as a team to ensure Dad’s and Mom’s quality of life is as good as possible, all things considered.
David’s comments about all of the people involved in his parents’ care is another example of the phenomenon known as “it takes a village.” In the case of frail, elderly parents, it is difficult for many families to assume a care giving role, particularly if family members live out of town, are employed, and/or have other care giving responsibilities, such as parenting young children. Although David’s parents are financially stable and thus, fortunate to be able to live in nice, expensive long term care facilities, it still takes an inordinate amount of time to ensure their needs are being met. David mentioned the horrible new phone system at his dad’s assisted living facility. Despite the complaints of numerous residents, it took David’s repeated insistence for the facility to correct the problems that were being experienced by his dad and, as it turns out, all of the other residents of the assisted living facility. Taking care of this one, relatively minor, problem consumed many hours, over several weeks, of David’s time and involved several emails and phone calls with various members of the facility’s staff. This is just one example of what those of us who care for our loved ones go through on a regular basis, often receiving nothing in the way of thanks from our incapacitated family member(s). Luckily for David, he has two brothers upon whom he can depend to help him provide everything their parents need. In many families, care giving is often left to one person, with other family members preferring not to get involved. David and I have been in a care giver role previously, requiring us to spend vast sums of money to support my mother in every way imaginable, and although it is a relief not to have any financial responsibilities for David’s parents, it is nonetheless a constant struggle to ensure they have everything they need. We are eternally grateful to the “Team Herman” members for helping out with their love and friendship.