"We Just Have to Help Him"


"We Just Have to Help Him"

Last year, I shared with my dad that I was worried about about some memory problems he seems to be having. He and my mom listened, pushed back a bit but agreed to talk about it during my dad's next doctor's appointment.

That didn't happen.

I try to share my concerns and then allow my parents' choices about how they mange those concerns. I also let my siblings know about important conversations and how our parents respond. I want everyone to be on the same page.

This past January, my dad had a kidney stone in his only kidney. The stone positioned itself so that it blocked his urine output. Unfortunately, I was out of town but my parents managed the situation. My dad called his kidney doctor as soon as he realized there was a problem and my mom called 911. My siblings managed the hospitalization until I returned two days later. Interestingly enough, my dad was amazing during his hospitalization and completely on top of everything -- his nurse's names, his conversations with doctors, his treatment options.

I later said to my brother that I wondered if the stress of living in the apartment with my mom wears him out. Perhaps his fatigue affects his memory. (My parents lived in a retirement community for about eight months in 2015 to 2016 after both of them had medical crises. My mom hated the retirement community so they moved across the street to their own apartment. My dad loved living in the retirement community because he didn't have to take care of meals and shopping. Now, he does with some help from my mom. They do have a cleaning service and have ordered groceries for delivery at times. I had suggested a meal delivery service this winter but they declined.)

On Sunday, we gathered for lunch with my niece, my sister and her daughter. When we arrived, my dad introduced my sister to a friend sitting at the restaurant bar. As we readied to leave, my dad to my sister, "I want to introduce you to my friend at the bar." My sister replied he had introduced them when she first arrived.

My dad dropped his head, as if feeling an awful combination of defeat and embarrassment. We continued on our way, taking note of what happened without talking out what happened.

My dad met his friend at the bar when my parents lived in the retirement community. Yes, his friend at the bar lives at the retirement community. My dad maintains friendships at the community because he walks over to enjoy activities and meetings at the community every week. The community organizes nice events for the residents, like attending a local minor league baseball game, which my dad is always welcome to attend.

On Wednesday, my mom called, sounding a bit flustered. "Your dad just got home from his meeting," she said. "He got the date of the baseball game wrong and he's upset. The baseball game is tomorrow night. Can we meet for dinner tomorrow?" Of course, I replied.

For me, my dad getting the day wrong isn't as much of a concern as how upset he was. It seems he knows he's having difficulties.

Yesterday, after I wrote Wishing for Worse to Get Better, I called my oldest brother who is also a POA. (I'm a POA for one parent, he for the other.) I shared the two incidences -- the one on Sunday at the restaurant and the one about the baseball game.

Immediately, my bother said, "Okay, then we'll just have to help him remember. Maybe he won't be able to use the calendar in his phone but we can buy him a small pocket calendar he can carry."

Honest to goodness, as soon as he said that, I felt like I could take a breath. Of course! This is just what we'll do. His response also helps me when I suggest my dad talk about his memory concerns with his doctor. I can assure him that if we know what's happening we can help him. It's worse when we don't know because then we won't know how to help. I know this -- I've written about it. It's just helpful when someone else reminds me. (Read "I Don't Need a Diagnosis to Know She Forgets.")

My dad went to the baseball game last night while my niece and I met my mom for dinner. After dinner, my niece asked my mom about her trinkets, dishes and knick knacks. She made a list as my mom shared who can get what and the story behind the possession. I mentioned how much I love a tea pot set, below, so my mom sent me home with it. (I appreciate this sounds a little self-serving but I'm still going to keep the tea pot set.) The conversation about my mom's things allowed us to tell her how much we love what she has and for her to see that she will continue after she dies. She also heard us tell her that we love how she has lived.

Yesterday was a good day.

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Isn't it nice to have someone else to call and run things by? I'm so glad your brother is sharing the responsibilities with you. It really helps!