BY SHAWNA WASKO, M.OLP
CSI Office on Aging
The holidays were upon us and for many caregivers the main hope we had was to cope and survive the onslaught of more duties during this time. I have been coping lately by daydreaming. My daydream consists of staying at a 5-star hotel in Puerto Rico, and lying on the beach sipping my drink (a drink with a little umbrella in it) that Jose just delivered me; did I mention Jose was wearing a Speedo?
Before my mom’s death, Dad was not doing well, and now he barely functions because of the complication of grief. Many of you know I have facilitated widowed support groups for 41 years. What I see Dad experiencing is normal grief behavior, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t pure hell for the griever and the caregiver of the bereaved.
Grievers get lost, misplace items, can’t sleep, forget to eat or never stop eating, cry, forget tons of stuff while fixating on the circumstances of the death. Most importantly, they must come to the realization that the only way to survive grief is to “go through it.” Talk, cry, reminisce about the loved one, cry some more, talk about the death, and endure the crazy life they live now. Eventually, we assimilate the loss, but this can take one or two years. We don’t grieve constantly, but we are adjusting to the loss, for the most part for a few years. We will NEVER get over the loss, but we will assimilate the loss, and for most find a new life without the one we lost.
So, Dad is in grief, weighs 104 pounds, and is at end-stage COPD. He has dementia, which complicates every facet of his and my life. The other night Dad called me at 9 p.m. and said, “What are you doing?” I told him I was in my pajamas and was going to bed, and he said, “You need to go get me a six-pack of Pepsi because it helps me sleep!” My 19-year-old grandson lives with me now; he was living in Oregon but came here to Idaho to go to college. He noticed that I was very agitated and told me he would take Grandpa a six-pack of Pepsi. There truly is a God in Heaven.
Then Dad lost his Medicare card. A few days before that he drove over and gave me two bags of papers and items he wanted me to keep at my house. Then last Saturday he called and was mad at me for keeping the two bags of stuff that he had brought to my house and was certain I had taken his Medicare card at the same time. So, I said to Dad, “Dad, when I was widowed, I searched for a paper I needed to take to the attorney for hours and hours. I finally sat in a chair and started to cry and looked down at my right hand; in my right hand was the paper.” So goes the crazy days of widowhood. I explained that to Dad, and said please just check your wallet again, very carefully. He later called and said the Medicare card was in his wallet. He did, however, come over and take the two bags of his stuff home and told me he couldn’t believe I kept them from him.
So, Dad’s eyesight is bad, and he can no longer drive at night. He decided to go at 4:30 p.m. to the eye doctor to get new glasses (he recently lost his glasses, which is a long story I will not get into now). I had worked late and had gone to the grocery store because apparently teenage boys like to eat. The store was busy and when I finally got out and was headed home, my phone rang. It, of course, was Dad, who yelled at me and said, “Where the hell are you? You and the boy need to come get me at the eye doctor because it is too dark for me to drive!” Riyle, my grandson, was working at Sportsman’s Warehouse and didn’t get off for a half hour. But eventually we got Dad and his car home.
The point is caregiving is difficult at best, and is exhausting. Your life is hijacked, and even though Dad cannot run his life, he refuses to go to a facility to live. He simply wants me to give up my life to manage his. And he is angry at the world, especially me right now. I am trying my best to get him what he needs and be kind to him, even on the tough days.
I recently have been talking with a man who was recently widowed. He called our office to learn more about the widowed support group I facilitate. This man is very kind and misses his “bride… he dearly loved.” He has a deep faith in God and is grieving. As we talked, I told him my mother died in September and explained the situation with my father.
After a long weekend with “daddy issues,” this kind person emailed me out of the blue and said, “Praying for your dad, that his heart would be softened, and thankfulness would fill his heart and soul.” It was so kind, and every once in a while we need others to just say the right thing. I just would like to thank that person for those kind, caring words.
If you are having trouble with caregiving, need to place a loved one in a facility, need home-delivered meals, please call the CSI Office on Aging for advice or information. And if times get tough, find your own daydream. It does not have to include Jose.
Take care and I hope you had a blessed Christmas and sincerely wish you a wonderful 2022.