Spending time with the elderly

I am currently in Ohio spending time with my Dad.  He is now 88 years old.  My Mom passed away in 2009 and he has been by himself ever since.  He lives in the home that I was born in, and refuses to leave.  We would love to have him come to Texas and live with us, and be surrounded by Family, but he refuses.  Every three months I return to Ohio to spend time with him and check on his condition.

 

Many of us are dealing with aging parents and other elderly folks.  Sometimes we get frustrated and overly concerned.  Over the past 7 years of dealing with my Dad I have learned a  couple of  things.

 

The first is that he wants control.  He does not want to be dependent on anyone.  He wants to set his own schedule and do what he wants to do.  He continually refers to his “routine”.  He can recount in great detail what he does for his AM routine (clean up, make his bed, do his exercises, then have breakfast).   Saturday he lays out his medicine for the entire week in a large pillbox.  His calendar reflects precisely scheduled appointments, etc.

 

He resists any idea that he would relinquish any control over his daily activities.  It has become part of his identity.  I have realized that my attempts to tell him what to do, or to schedule activities for him, simply frustrates both he and I.  I am very conscious about not “stepping on his toes”.   I let him be in control.

 

The second major thing I learned is that he wants to protect his legacy.  That’s why he tells the same story, over and over.  It is not so much that he forgets what he has already said, but rather that he wants to reemphasize the point made in the story.  It is important to him that he continues to contribute.

 

So, I have learned to enjoy the stories and react like it is the first time I have ever heard it.  Telling him that he has already told that story deflates him and is hurtful.   When I come back to Ohio, we “walk down memory lane” together.  We visit his childhood homes, his schools, and other places that are important to him.

 

So, the visits back to Ohio become less stressful for both he and I.  We are able to enjoy the time together.  Neither one of us know how much longer we have together, so we make it a point to enjoy the moment.

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