Once an elder needs care, it is not so easy as having loving people come into the house and care for him or her.
No, you have given birth to a family unit, with individuals perhaps older than you. Your elder has new kids. No, this is not science fiction. This, THIS, is the new normal.
Dad has four aides — two share the 12-hour day shift and two share the night shift. Everything revolves around his care. Dad is a lovely man and three out of the four aides have become attached to him, and he to them. The fourth one does her job. And that is all we ask.
But in the fight over who is the favorite and who takes the best care of Dad, there is palace intrigue. They check up on each other and rat out each other. As if Dad is some power broker, rather than a jovial, yet clueless man.
So, these last 14 months, I have had to intervene, referee and speak with any number of supervisors in order to keep Dad’s routine the same. Because we, as a family, do not believe that a night aide who is competent, but not warm and fuzzy, should lose her job because she and Dad don’t “connect”. But there have been “cleanliness” issues and Dad is decidedly uncomfortable with her. Reasons enough to make changes but we resisted, out of respect for a person’s right to earn a living.
Now, there is a battle royale between the aide of whom Dad is most fond and the one of whom he is least fond. For those of you who are old enough to remember, think Linda Evans and Joan Collins in Dynasty.
You can imagine how little patience one can have for this when it is playing out in my life. Sometimes I wonder if I am on Jerry Springer, i.e., Shit Time in the Day Time. (Is he still around?)
In the end, we set out clearly both our priorities and must-haves with the agency. And what will make us go to another care provider.
I want everyone to keep their jobs. But Dad needs to be happy. And so I was forced to prioritize jobs and positions. In life, my parents have erred on the side of preserving peoples’ jobs, even if it meant less for our family. I followed suit in the Great Recession (some called me a schmuck, but I can look in the mirror and only worry about wrinkles).
The problems started almost at the beginning, and I needed to make a decision. If the internecine battles cannot be resolved, then I voted one off the island. (Or whatever, the reality TV lingo is; now you know the cerebral punishment that is worst than death.)
I am good with my decision. But I am sad about having to make it. But I will stand by it, especially face-to-face with the reassigned aide. Because I owe the aid that respect.
Maintaining Dad’s world is too important. But not without unintended consequences arising out of new situations and relationships.
Nothing in this life is easy. But the saving grace is that Dad doesn’t even have to know.
He can walk blithely on, happy and kibbitzing with his attendants during the day and sleep as well as possible in the night. And, at long last, after all Mom and he did for us, this is the least we can do for him.
But I didn’t know making this type of decisions in this economy was in the bargain.
Dad is fine; my soul is diminished in the process. This is the reality of caring for the elderly and the infirm. The new world that needs the brave (and the compassionate and the guilty).