Donna from Kentucky

I helped care for my dad (Troy) from 1988 until his death in 1999. Dad was retired from the federal government and had a monthly pension as well as VA disability checks which helped cover the cost of his long-term care. When my mother died in 1982, I was the only child still living in Kentucky near Dad. My brothers lived in Florida, and loved Dad, but because of distance they were of little help when Dad required care.

Dad lived independently until he contracted pneumonia. He lost a lung during the Normandy Invasion during World War II. To further complicate his condition, he suffered from emphysema and asthma. So, pneumonia on top of all these lung conditions was certainly serious. He remained in the hospital for 16 days, much of the time in intensive care on a ventilator. When he finally recovered and was released from the hospital, he was never the same. Because of lack of oxygen during his illness, dementia ensued. He regained his physical strength but needed supervision because of the mental instability. For 5 years we employed a woman to live in six days a week. She was a practical nurse and helped during Dad's several minor surgical procedures in that period. Sundays were always "my" days. I spent every Sunday with Dad at his home or in mine. However, after a period of time, I began to mistrust this woman. Since she wasn't caring for Dad properly, we had to let her go.

Because I had teen-age sons at home and was teaching full time, I began looking for a new source of help with Dad. I found a wonderful lady at Caretenders who would come a few days a week. Dad's next door neighbor also agreed to stay with him a couple of days also. These ladies were great and not only cared in loving ways for Dad but also helped me occasionally with grocery shopping and house cleaning. They were there 5-6 days a week until Dad went to bed at night. Sundays and some Saturdays continued to be my days with Dad.

In November of 1998 Dad received a diagnosis of cancer. Two rounds of chemo treatments were unsuccessful. Because of the danger of him "bleeding out," he could not be alone at any time. To meet this need my husband slept at Dad's house for 5 months until I was out of school in May. Then I moved in and stayed nights until Dad passed away three months later. Dad was always most comfortable at his home, and his wish was to remain there until the end. It was my personal goal to see that wish granted. Finding reliable people to come to his house was not always an easy task, and, of course, I covered any vacancies myself by taking personal and sick days from my job. Luckily, Dad's pension and savings lasted long enough to cover the salaries of these helpers as well as groceries.

My husband, sons, and I took care of everything else. We bought his clothes, cleaned his house, and did all necessary household repairs. We raked leaves in the fall and shoveled snow in the winter. We escorted Dad to all doctor's and dentist's appointments and dispensed daily medicine. As POA I paid the household bills, filed his taxes, and stretched his income as far as it would go. As a family we made sure that special occasions like birthdays, Father's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc. were celebrated together with meals and gifts.

The most difficult part of this care-taking time was feeling torn between my children, husband, and job. . .and Dad's needs. There were times I resented having all this dropped in my lap, but Dad needed me. I could not let him be alone or suffer when he needed help. I can't say that I did every task with a good heart, but I never failed to provide what Dad needed. I was never too tired or too busy to help. Even with ladies hired to assist, I was on call 24 hours a day. Whenever anything went wrong, I got the call. The responsibility was a heavy one.

However, the best part of this 10 year period was having time with Dad. Prior to my mother's death, Dad and I had a falling out which kept us distant from one another. The years I spent as caretaker gave us the chance to "mend those fences" and renew our relationship. I had time to thank him for his years of hard work to provide for his family. I told him how much I appreciated my college education and his support when problems arose. He talked about his war years - something he'd never done before - and his experiences growing up. I did a lot of praying during this time, asking for courage and strength, and shed many tears. Been a good man. When Dad passed away, I was sad and certainly miss him. Guilt often accompanies the loss of a loved one. . .but not in this case. With the help of my family we insured that Dad remained in his home and made his last years as comfortable and pleasant as they could be.

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