Something I will probably talk about frequently on my personal blog here is Parent Care. What I define Parent Care as is the caretaking of your parent who is unable to financially (or perhaps physically, or both) take care of themselves. The burden lies on the children, and we sort of migrate back to a pre-1950’s era where parents become an extension of family and even pre-1900’s era where families grew up on the family farm in large network in order to support and work the farm.
I’m so there, guys.
A little backstory:
I’ve been the sole caretaker of my father since 2003, so around 23 years old. The catalyst for that situation was my fathers doctor telling him that due to the phlebitis and destroyed veins in his leg, and the high risk of unhealing wounds due to lack of oxygen from this destroyed veins. We’ve dealt with these unhealing ulcers on his leg for almost 2 decades now, and some of them will last for 2 years. Imagine having a wound that won’t heal for years at a time. Dad’s leg is constantly purple due to the lack of oxygen, and he has to be careful not to get a cut or wound on it.
Going further back, the reason dad has destroyed veins is from the mid-80’s when he fell off a roof when I was a little girl. The hospital at the time had put a heating pad on his leg and forgot about it and it burned his leg so bad that his veins were destroyed.
Now, my father did concrete work for 40 years, so his workload was highly risky for his condition. The day the doctor told him if he did not stop doing work, he would lose his leg, he immediately quit.
Insert panic mode for me.
At the time I was working as a veterinary technician for $8/hour, and now all of a sudden I was supporting two adults. Dad qualified for disability, but it would take 6 months before this would kick in and the hilarity that anyone could live on disability easily is a reality. So for 6 months we lived off my $8/hour, which was almost just as laughable.
Fast forward 5 years.
Parent care is not easy for anyone. Around 2008 when I was 28 years old making about $35k/year while still supporting 2 adults, I was hit with an eviction notice after our landlord died and left no will. The estate felt they could get more money for our property than I was willing to pay (or could afford to pay). We had 30 days to get out and this was around June so we had just put in our food garden for the year, had all kinds of livestock and about 30 years worth of memories and crap from the homestead.
Luckily I was tenacious enough that we moved out in 28 days, plowed up the garden, took all the livestock to auction, put everything else in storage, and lived out of a suitcase for 2 months while I figured out what to do.
Folks kept telling me to get an apartment, it’s cheaper, easier etc. Problem is, if I were to put my dad in apartment, a man who has been a 4th generation farmer every single day of his life, who has always had a garden or owned animals or some sort of wilderness to feel at place in, I’d literally be changing his entire way of life.
At this point, we’re already scared, unsure, and out of place with nowhere to go. I wasn’t going to settle for the remainder of my dad’s life staying that way. I was determined to put him somewhere he could settle and create a sense of familiarity.
So I bought a house on an acre and a quarter with a stream, room for chickens and a garden and beautiful woods in our back yard. I made it work.
Fast forward to now.
Marrying Donald has been a blessing for me in helping to maintain a sense of stability here at home. After doing this by myself for 12 years and Donald being the supportive husband he is, we’ve been able to maintain a comfortable environment for dad in his aging years.
It’s not easy though.
There are some things during the process of Parent Care that you expect. Patience, Understanding, Support, and Routine being the core of those. You do not get a break from this and there’s no vacation. It can wear on you though, and I’ve learned that you have to develop an outlet for yourself, especially when you’re as involved in as many things as I am. If I’m not working on my business, goals, or projects, I am managing the house. I do not get vacations, I do not get a break, I do not have moments for myself. I need to work on that, though. It frays my nerves sometimes, and I’ve noticed in the last year or so I’ve become a little more bitchy than I want to be. I sometimes feel it’s necessary in order to maintain order, but I still feel bad about it when I get short with dad or Donald. I don’t always have the time or luxury to maintain the same patience as I did before, and sometimes the only way for me to get through one thing in order to make it to the next is to be short, curt, or quick.
Here’s a list of some of the unrealized things I have to deal with on a regular basis:
- I have to accept and deal with incontinence issues for dad. I am responsible for cleaning up after these and making sure my house stays in order
- At the same time, I need to make sure dad has some independent responsibilities too, such as doing his own laundry and paying his own bills. The latter may change eventually if his mind starts to decline (his father died from Alzheimers, so I’ve been mentally preparing for the possibility that he may end up the same way, though he’s pretty stout).
- Dad gets bored and sometimes doesn’t realize the boundaries I need at home. Working from home compounds this a great deal, and I’ve had to develop methods for maintaining my sanity, quiet space, and place to work. Luckily having my office upstairs helps because dad does not do stairs well so he never goes upstairs.
- To expand on the boredom, dad also gets into things I don’t want him to which usually involves destroying something I own in order to create something he wants. I’ve had to designate an area that is off-limits so he stops using things I’ve bought for his pet projects.
- Dad grew up in a different era where you didn’t throw anything away. I have to process this in two ways. One being I have to allow him a few things that he can hold on to, but the other is that I need to stay firm in processing the things that need to go behind his back for my own sanity. I also have to be patient with him because he didn’t grow up in a home where everything had to look nice and clean. He grew up in a farm house where everything was either functional or hoarded for the unknown. I try to stay reasonable about this as much as I can.
- Dad is a “knife on the edge of the sink” type guy. Basically he doesn’t put things away, which is a remnant of the previous point of things are meant to be functional, not pretty. Another item that I deal with that is a large point of contention, as minor as it is, is the fact that he doesn’t use plates for sandwiches. He’ll make a sandwich on the counter, leave the crumbs, carry it into the living room and eat it on the arm of his chair. This creates a strain for me because I have plates and I have to argue with dad about the necessity of not creating this scenario (roaches anyone?).
- Dad being a diabetic means I have to follow two schedules. He has to have a strict eating schedule to help regulate his blood sugar, but he also has different hours than Donald and I. Because of this, dad eats dinner around 4pm, which is too early for Donald and I (we prefer around 6pm). My husband working midnight shift right now also makes it difficult to maintain some sanity on homemade meals.
The list can go on, but for the most part the point is that it’s a part-time job on top of everything else. It can be a physical drain and an emotional drain as dad’s health starts to decline. There’s really no support for parental care situations, that I’ve seen anyway. You can’t put your parents on your health insurance, they’re required to pay for their own and expensive prescriptions out of money that most of them don’t have.
Essentially, the best conclusion I’ve come to in incorporating parental care into this stage of life is looking at it more like a partnership or team. Maybe even a tribe, if you’re looking at heathen terms. It’s something that needs a give and take that allows the parent to be independent but also feel secure in a place in the family. That’s what I am trying to accomplish, anyway.
My brain dump for today.