Loss of a Parent and emotions

After the passing of a parent, I realized that I’m now a middle aged orphan!

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Last week, I lost my father to the complications of dementia and other medical ailments, after Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey. Actually posting this entry today is ironic in that today is the 100 day anniversary of Hurricane Sandy and it was right after Sandy that his downward spiral was noticed by me.

For years he hid his dementia from me and his family by being what they call a “functional dementia patient”. He could get basic tasks done as long you did not disrupt his established routine. I won’t go through his last three months, as the pain of seeing him suffer still continues to numb my senses.

 

He was 84 years old and he fought bravely for 3+ months through hospitalization/rehab/assisted living. So now that leaves me and my brother as “middle aged orphans”.  For the past week, my brother and I have reached such a tremendous outpouring of love and affection from our friends and family that we are at a loss to define our gratitude. I realize that many times, when I write Dad’s taxi, it’s with my personal brand of humor, but this time, I’m writing to put my feelings into words so I can look back on these words and get a true understanding of my emotions at this time. I guess that is the best I can do at this time.

I didn’t think it would be this difficult at the passing of our father, as much as a sense of loss I felt when I lost my mother 13 years ago, but when you lose your parent (regardless of how you felt towards them when they were alive), many emotions come flooding to you. For me the feeling of emptiness, relief and just a sense of numbness all collided simultaneously. I wanted to cry, but tears would not come. All I felt was a feeling of solitude with my inner child and knowing that I’d never be able to see my dad and that after this life event, I’d no longer have any parent who would give me the unconditional love every child craves for from his/her parent.

Luckily I had my family and friends surrounding me to help me balance my emotions on my dad’s passing. The support I received from my inner circle of family and friends from  all over the world helped me understand the impact my father had on others and how to celebrate his life. This helped me to reconcile my emotions which had continued to collide on a daily basis during his life and his death.

As my brother and I continued to wrap up the memorial services and financial matters, we both gained strength from each other and just talking. Even as my brother is a few years younger than me and much more logical, his range of emotions allowed me to understand and grasp the loss in the proper context.

When you lose both your parents, the void left cannot be measured by words. The emptiness that you no longer have a mother or father who loved you unconditionally is a difficult concept for  any child to grasp. My relationship with my father for most of his life was strained to say the least. Yet during his last 3 months of his life, I gained closure on a my emotions as I took care of him and saw him deteriorate into a state of despair as he realized that he would never “go home”.

Everyday as I talked to him in his state of dementia, I realized that I no longer had any rights to feel the anger that I felt for most of my life. Now was a time for forgiveness and understanding. This allowed me to move on and take care of the necessary tasks a son has to do when he is taking care of his father. Yes, I may sound cold and heartless when I say these words but everyday I spent with him chipped away at every ounce of the residue of anger which I carried in my heart every day of his life for the way he treated his children and his wife when he was of sound mind. His toughness and independence was a staple of his existence of 84 years and I realized that if live to his age, I may not be able match his courage and dignity he showed till the day he passed.

When my dad left us, he left under his terms (peacefully) and with grace. He left telling the nurses “He would not be in the hospital after Today (January 29th, 2013)”. And as in his life, he kept to his word. He fought till the to get out of the bed that had imprisoned him.

At his memorial service, I spoke from my heart when I eulogized him and it enabled me to let go of all the emotions had kept pent-up inside for years. His fierce independence, his sense of right and wrong, and above all his wanting not to interfere in the lives of his children.

Yes as I normally do, I ramble on and on..

Dad, I hope you rest in peace and your soul finds rest wherever you are!

 

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Welcome to my New Life-decisions and chaos

When you are suddenly thrust in to a role as care giver for an elderly parent, your life is turned upside down. Here’s my story..

Take care of Elderly ParentsOver the past 6 weeks after Super Storm Sandy, it would be an understatement to say that my life has spiraled into a life of daily chaos and additional stress. With my elderly father’s ongoing battle with his health and his mental faculties being so impaired, let’s just say.. “the hits keep coming”.

I’ve decided selfishlessley that this blog will be my outlet for all the frustrations I’m currently facing. As many of my readers know that I usually laugh at most of the things that happen around me.. Now I’m laughing (or crying)  at the things that happen TO ME directly.

It’s like the heavens have opened up and blessed me with multiple challenges and decisions that I need to make on the fly.. I hate making decisions on the fly.. I’m into organization and planned decisions. If you look up the definition of what the personal traits of a Saggitarian you would see my traits. We don’t like surprises and are quite inflexible when it comes to surprises. I’m one of those classic Saggitatians. We want the world to be perfect (as we are) and get bent out of shape when the the world does not live up to our expectations. That’s me in a nutshell. I’m sure my family and friends would agree on this statementYet I also know that that’s all in a perfect world, and I live in the most imperfect of worlds.

eldersAfter Superstorm Sandy, I realized that my elderly father was in need of medical help and as the “good son” and only son in NJ, I’d have to take the burden of caring for my father. Let me start of by saying that my relationship with my father has never been (to put it mildly) a relationship based on mutual love  and respect. Yet the one gift that my father did give me over the past 10 years is the gift of raising my family without his distractions and worrying about his welfare. Pretty selfish statement, but in reality, he gifted this to both me and my sibling who happens to live in Texas.. Yes I’ve written about my visits to Texas!

My dad was admitted to the hospital about 6 weeks ago in a state of anemia, pneumonia and a state of dementia. Of course all conditions developed over time (especially the dementia), but because my dad was living alone, he was able to hide these symptoms from me for a few years.

Over the past 6 weeks, it’s been trips to the hospital (daily) and rehab (where he currently is) and planning on HIS future after rehab. At the same time, of course my daily chaos with my home life is (as Barney says on “Big Bang Theory” —> LEGENDARY). ongoing.

How I’ve managed to maintain my sanity, I really don’t know, I guess being numb during chaos and just reacting is a great way to maintain your sanity. The future looks bleak for my father as he will need 24×7 care after he leaves rehab and our great medical system “draws down all his finances, so Medicaid can take over”. He will never regain his independence and will never be able to constantly remind me that my inheritance (now none) is what he will leave for me.

As luck would have it, my employer has been totally understanding of the choas in my life and has been unconditionally supportive and allowed me take time off to address my dad’s illness. I do not know what I would have done, if this was not the case

My brother came to NJ from Texas for a week and we researched and educated ourselves on the assisted living and nursing homes. We quickly realized that the our current situation with our father was payment for being allowed to raise our families in peace over the past 10 years without having major home issues because of the possible influence of our father in our life. 

I walk around in a state of total exhaustion both mentally and physically as I now realize that every day puts forward a new challenge on my ability to reason with the events that are going around me. Sound pretty pathetic, but when I say the “hits keep coming”, that is the truth.

Examples:

  • Super Storm Sandy and loss of Power
  • Elder care and illness of parent daily issues
  • Work related stress
  • Tennis injuries (don’t get me started with this one)
  • Car Repairs (I guess you really do need brakes to stop a car)
  • Holiday cheer (I’d call it more holiday depression)
  • Differences, benefits of Medicare and Medicaid
  • Self forgiveness and letting go of the guilt.
  • Putting things in perspective.

Yet the whole experience over the past 2 months has been humbling. To see a man who all his life was a miser and self-centered, become totally dependent on others for his daily care. He’s actually mellowed out in his “state of confusion” to where we get along better now then we have ever gotten along when he was NOT in his delusional state. Each day, I spend time with him and realize that his ongoing battles with sanity have enable me to forgive him as well as myself for our inability to have a good relationship.

I see myself through  his eyes and in his wheelchair in another 20 or 30 years I see myself struggling to maintain cohesiveness and losing my freedom and become dependent on others to take care of me. If these thoughts are not humbling, I really don’t know what is.

I’ve now learned to take each day “one day at a time” and instead of feeling sorry for myself, just accept the situation and deal with it in my unique way.. Using sarcasm, humor and plain self understanding is the way to come out of this unscathed.

I’ve become educated about:

  • Elder care and its financial impacts on families.
  • What it takes to take full health and financial responsibility for another human being who cannot take care of himself. Specifically the legalities of the healthcare system in our country
  • What the words “draw down the assets mean”.
  • Showing empathy when in reality, you are struggling with your internal strife and emotions.
  • Being able to adjust to change, when inherently your nature precludes change.
  • Finding outlets for the stress that are both healthy and self-contained.
  • How to become organized and make decisions that are outside your comfort zone.
  • How expensive elder care is in this country for those with assets.
  • How important it is to have a healthcare directive and a Power of Attorney (POA)!
  • what’s the difference between Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

I could go on and on.. but you can see that the past 2 months have been so difficult that my senses have become numb that the only way to I can adjust to my “New reality of my life” is to write about it..

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