The trick is not to feel the cycles can be changed. Rather, we have to recognize where in the cycle we are and deal with it. A bad day? Re-direct Dad's attention, and if the feeling becomes too intensely aggressive, leave early. An okay day? Enjoy the good moments and cut the visit short so fatigue won't turn the visit ugly. A good day? Enjoy, provide honest information, and keep a close eye to Dad's energy level.
"I can't see all that well, and I'm not strong enough to take care of you."
"The pneumonia knocked you back, and it wouldn't be safe to have you come home now."
"Your memory's not so good now. You forget a lot."
"A lot of people ninety-three years old can't take care of themselves."
Dad even comes up with statements like this himself. "Ninety-three's pretty old."
The process now is to recognize the particular part of the cycle and then to work with the reality of the day, whether it's a rant, sleep, memory loss, or intelligent conversation. Then, of course, all may be experienced within an hour's visit.
Mom is still grieving the loss of the cycle in her life when she lived with Dad rather than conducted visits. She--through repetition--is getting better at telling Dad she can't take care of him.
The sons are better at re-directing: "Oh, we can't ask the doctor to take you home today. It's the weekend, and decisions like that aren't made on the weekends," which works well until his roommate says, "Oh, I went home once on a weekend."
I've gotten used to making strong statements. "Dad will never come home." " You have to care for him like a nurse first and like a wife next." "He just wants what he wants, like a child."
We can always hope but must act on realistic assessment.
The result of six months of caregiving, paperwork, and teaching is that I am coming home back to Iowa. I'll be back to see Mom, Dad, and my brother in six weeks or so if all goes well, but my efforts to create a sustainable environment are at this time successful.
I've been the best son and brother I could be. Now I'll go home and be the best husband, father, and grandfather I can be. And somewhere in all this, I'll also try to be good to myself.
Copyright 2013 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved