How to Help the Aged (and Aging)

A little help?

A little help?

If you follow this blog, you may wonder what happened between March and July of 2013 when no stories were posted.

Short answer: my dad.

Long answer: my dad.

He’ll frown when he reads this, so I’d better explain quickly. My father, who recently turned 93, moved in with us in November 2012. His health is declining. So my wife and I have become his primary caregivers while he has gone from walking with a walker to being bed and wheelchair-ridden. I wrote about him after his arrival in a post about a memorable car trip to the coast of Argentina, and before that of his capacity to outrun my children and how he couldn’t get my son to hand over the TV controls so he could watch tennis.

But I would be fooling others and myself if I said it’s been easy to take care of my dad these past few months.

My wife and I fill drug prescriptions, fetch medical supplies and make him breakfast, lunch and dinner. We also make sure that his laptop doesn’t explode after he’s opened 157 windows.

We do all this while also raising three children, being a couple and working.

Suffice to say, many days we feel that we need time, we need help and we need a break.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve enjoyed caring for my father. There are funny stories to tell. My father is the grandmaster of making my wife and I – or anybody – gas out loud and then cringe and want to crawl under a rock at how he could say or do such a thing, all within minutes. My four brothers and sisters and my mother will know this feeling all too well.

I like to think of the good times, at least now while writing. The times on the coast this summer when he cheered on my youngest daughter as she learned how to ride a bicycle. His confession of being a cheese lover after polishing off a second heaping plateful and asking for thirds. Then there was the time when we went to a churchy event at Luna Park, a boxing/music arena in Buenos Aires. In the run-up to asking for alms, a priest told the congregation of how suffering brings growth. My father, sitting glumly in his wheelchair in the front row, started to stir. He hadn’t come to hear a sermon. He’d paid to listen to a man who said he’d heard the Virgin Mary speak. The opening act and message of suffering didn’t amuse him. “How long must we suffer listening to his imbecile,” my father said out loud. “What a nightmare. Tell him to go!”

I smiled and my father put his head down for a snooze only to wake up when the priest finished.

“He’s gone!” he said loudly. “We’ve got to applaud that he’s gone!”

These are good memories, but there also have been times of stress and ordeal. The times of cleaning and changing him when the nurse didn’t show, and his near-death fevers and the late night visits by paramedics. There was the time waiting all morning at the public health provider’s offices to get an authorization for medicine only to leave two hours later because my number was still a day or so away from being called. There was the time of taking him to the emergency room in an ambulance after he’d fallen, getting him checked out and then sent home three hours later in a cab that drove down the cobblestone streets on which each bump wrested squeals of pain from my bruised father.

My youngest daughter must have seen my concerns, my worries, my tiredness, and those of my wife.

The five-year-old came with me to stock up on medical supplies at the pharmacy and said, “Wait!”

She ran down the aisle and came back with a pack of band-aids.

“Here!”

“Thanks,” I said. “Granddad will like these.”

“Yeah,” she said. “They’re for Granddad… and for you and Mummy.”

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