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Prepare Physically and Mentally Before You Become a Caregiver

Updated on June 9, 2017
elayne001 profile image

Ruth, a.k.a. Elayne Kongaika, was raised in the orchard town of Orem, Utah. She married a Polynesian and has had amazing travel experiences.

My father as a baby with his parents.
My father as a baby with his parents.

My mother passed away in 2007. That left my father without anyone else living in the home he physically built. Robert had built his home brick by brick and he had done it for mom. He was very sad when she died unexpectedly from heart failure in her 70s.

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My family with my sisters and parents. Personal photo REK
My family with my sisters and parents. Personal photo REK

My father was generally pretty healthy until he was put on oxygen 24/7. My brother (who is a doctor) lived very close by and checked on him often. When my brother volunteered to serve a medical mission for 18 months with his wife, he asked me to stay with Dad and look after him.

My husband and I had taken my father to Scotland (where my father's ancestors are from) and also Egypt because our son (named after my father) was serving in the military there. So, we had spent quite a bit of time together with him.

My husband and I moved in with my dad to keep track of him. We fixed his meals and cleaned the house. My husband and I kept the yard groomed and grew a garden in the back. Things went pretty well, but my father became weaker and his back and legs were hurting him quite a bit. He had steroid shots that didn't help too much.

My siblings and I put on a 90th birthday party for Dad and many friends and relatives came. Dad's memory of the olden days was quite remarkable and he loved telling stories of his youth and service in the Air Corps in WWII. We lived in the basement of the four-level home and had some great times together, mostly reminiscing. My father longed to work in the garden, but couldn't be outside without his oxygen for long. Dad called us his babysitters.

My father longed to work in the garden, but couldn't be outside without his oxygen for very long. We had quite a bit of success with the garden and enjoyed eating corn, carrots, tomatoes, peas, onions and more. My dad would only put in his false teeth for the sweet corn we raised and to go to church.

I suggested that my father used his Veterans benefits and also senior medical services in the town, but he never wanted to. We did as much as we could to help him out, but unfortunately, I had two difficult medical emergencies that needed surgeries. My husband ended up filling in the gap and keeping everything going as well as taking care of me.

My siblings lived nearby, but they all still had their children with them and were working, so they couldn't help very much. It was a difficult time, knowing I was there to care for my father but was unable to. We stayed for one year with Dad.

After my second surgery, I decided it was better to move out and let my siblings help when they could until my brother returned. It really was actually a good thing in the end, because they organized themselves so their married and unmarried children could be with him occasionally and take him meals.

I think Dad enjoyed having the change and seeing his other children and grandchildren more often. My husband was a real trooper and continued to visit with my Dad whenever he could and check on things. My health has not been so good. I wish I could have completed the 18 months that we had all planned.

My Dad is doing about the same and my brother came back home. I feel that families should plan together and all share in the responsibilities, not let it be relegated to only one person or couple. I also feel that the person being cared for needs to be open minded to all organizations that are there to help them. Neighbors and other relatives can also be asked to help too.

I'm grateful for the opportunity we had to help my father as long as we did, but wish I had prepared better and stayed well enough to last to the end. There is so much to learn before and during the experience.

© 2017 Elayne


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