Each member of Sound Generations’ Caregiver Support Program is or has been a caregiver to an older adult or adult child, creating a valuable shared experience among Advocates and those who seek their assistance. In this ongoing series—The Heart of Caregiving—our staff, volunteers and others share their personal caregiving stories and the insights learned along the way. Our first story, “Betty Grable’s Legs”, comes from staff member Daria Sawochka.
Recently, I flew cross country to spend some time with my dad. At 87, he has survived open heart surgery and suffers from aching arthiritis in his lower back. Still, he continues to follow world news and events with more attention to the details than I do. He had voiced a goal last fall that he hoped he would be around to vote for one more president. He cast his first presidential vote for Dwight Eisenhower back in ’52 after returning from the Korean War, having served as a marine. He said he couldn’t vote for Truman as he wanted to disband the Marine Corp.
Dad is much slower now, and has a terrible time lifting his legs into the car. He will use a cane sometimes, but he’s mostly reluctant to use a walker. I think it just doesn’t fit into his belief of who he is. He falls asleep pretty regularly throughout the day, taking what look like little cat naps. Then he wakes up, just in time to watch the gunfight in whatever western he’d been watching. Ah, the good guys win again.
My role at this point in both of our lives is to be the one to bring available resources/options to his attention; housecleaning services, options for moving closer to me, alternative modes of transportation, Meals on Wheels, etc. His role, as a competent adult, is to decide which services he wants to try…if any. I know in my daughter’s heart which suggestions I would want him to utilize, but I equally know, it is not my decision.
I see him giving life his very best–much like he always has. He modifies his life when it is demanded. Example: Recently, after having taken his daily shower, he was sitting on the closed toilet seat shaving. He says he can’t stand for very long these days. He went on to say the room spun around twice and he passed out. When he came to, he was lying half in the shower and half on the bathroom floor. Instead of deciding to grow a beard, he now sits on the living room couch to shave. He said that this way, if it happens again, he will simply land on his favorite soft spot, where he’s taken countless naps over his lifetime.
His lower legs and feet now regularly swell due to edema. I asked him when his next doctor’s appointment was and he had said it was four weeks out. I asked him if he would like me to see about getting one sooner and he flatly said, “No.” He went on to say he wakes up every morning with legs as beautiful as Betty Grable’s. Then, due to gravity, fluid runs downhill and puffiness ensues. His sweet sparkling eyes and charming smile swept away most of my worries once more. How can I argue with such gentleness?
Dad’s doing life his way. He has an extraordinary way of taking it as it comes. Good with bad. Joys along with challenges. He clearly knows what he will and will not do. And I will keep checking in, offering my latest finds of help and support.
For more information or to talk further about your own unique situation and explore possible ways to help, contact Pathways Information & Assistance at 206.448.3110 or toll free at 1-888-435-3377. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.