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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Elder Care and Parenting

How will you react when you are faced with decisions on elder care before you are ready to tackle them? A parent’s perspective on taking care of his elderly father.

I’ve been writing over the past few weeks about Sandy and the after effects of this super storm on people. Sandy left me an unwanted gift and responsibility as well, I realized my elderly father was in need of an intervention as he was in poor shape physically and mentally. He is 84 years old and has lived alone for years.

My dad chose to hide his deteriorating condition from me and others. After being told by his caring neighbors as I picked him up during the power failure in his building and Spending 3 to 4 days with him while we were “power less”  revealed to me his true state of being. It was sad.  I did not expect to be thrust into the forefront as a primary caregiver for elder care so quickly. I always saw my father as the man who was so independent, strong, stoic and wanted to be alone and he would never need my help. Yet it was painfully obvious over the days I spent with him, he had deteriorated to the point where he could no longer take care of himself.

What I realized also was that I had ignored the danger signs because, of my selfish prejudices on what I thought of my father. I allowed my personal feelings to get in the way of responsibility and I guess this is the guilt speaking, but I’m sure many children who are thrust unwillingly into this role may feel the same way.

When life returned to some resemblance of normalcy I did what I had to gain control of his life. Even as he resented, my intrusion into his personal life, I had to gain control of his affairs. Every part of his personal life was a mess from where and how he lived to his mental state. A lesson to be learned here is that the few steps that I took to gain control of his financial and his medical life will now enable me to at least be able to take care of him on his terms.

I quickly realized how ill he was and took him to a doctor (which he had not done so for years!). The new doctor, quickly advised me to admit him to the local hospital via the emergency room. He’s been in the hospital for over 8 days now with his mental state in tatters with dementia and his physical state now being a shell of what I knew of him over the years.

A man who could balance his bankbook, penny to penny is now not able to walk, feed himself and has no idea why he is in the hospital. Of course his stubborn nature doesn’t help his outlook.. A man who was always independent now has to rely on everyone else to take care of him.. I can imagine how that feels.

I have empathy for my father, even as I was never really emotionally close to him and neither is he the most loving father anyone could have. I quickly realized all my old wounds had to heal quickly and my forgiveness and being able to go above and beyond as his son, was key to helping him. For me being helping him in his time of need, was never a priority and now my only priority is making him comfortable as his primary caregiver.

I do want to share with you with you a few thoughts for each of you to think about when what YOU must think about elder care.

  • If you have an elderly parent, YOU MUST have “The Talk” with your elder parents: This involves financial and medical power of attorney. I got lucky, only due to my instincts and my wife’s ability to push me to get things done.
  • Make sure you and your family is prepared to make one person the “in charge” of all financial and medical matters related to the elderly relative. If you can’t do this, split the responsibilities between family members. Everyone should contribute and support the individual (to keep him/her sane). In my case, my wife and kids have stepped up and given me the critical support during this difficult time.
  • Be prepared to dig into financial records that you had no clue that existed. I had to dig through mounds of paper at my dad’s house to figure out his finances. Shockingly, even with his ongoing dementia state, his finances were in perfect order!
  • Make sure you have full access to the medical history of your elderly parent. Without this, doctors will not even recognize you.
  • Make sure you have in writing, signed and notorized your elderly parent’s wishes in case of any final health care of end-of-life care decisions have to be made. There are many sites on the internet that allow you. I found this site and everyone should visit the site fivewishes and fill in/print out the forms that this site will create for you for FREE. If I knew of this site, I would have been in better shape than I am now. I am preparing my fivewishes ASAP and getting them witnessed and notorized. New Jersey is one state that accepts these five wishes as a legal document.
  • Talk to your parents. Keep the lines of communications open. Don’t allow them to be reclusive and isolate themselves. If I had paid more careful attention to my father’s deteriorating condition, I’m almost certain that we would not be in the situation we are currently in.
  • When your elderly parent needs care, make sure you balance your life with the need to take care of your parent. I’m finding that the more I dedicate to my dad’s care, the less I’m taking care of my emotional and physical health.
  • Keep things in perspective in a daily basis. As the days progress, treat each day as a new day and wish for the best. Each day will be different as I see with my dad in the hospital. There is no guarantees when it comes to an elderly person being in a hospital, and you have to take everyday as a “moment in time”.
  • Make sure you tell your employer of the work-life balance you are facing. Many employers today will be very considerate and give you plenty of leeway to do what yo u need to do.

I could ramble on and on beyond this point (which everyone who knows me, will agree that I’m very good at), but I think I’ve put on paper, my thoughts as I progress through the minefield that is known as elder care. I like to call it when a parent takes care of parent..

As I proceed down the path to taking care of my father, I now realize that every day is an adventure in to the abyss of the unknown. Yet I can peek into the abyss of darkness, if I prepare myself and do the research and use my natural given ability to dig into details. I guess old habits just follow you around..

I’ve linked some articles below on elder care, I

Difficult People

Are you a difficult Person? Or as I say “Welcome to My World”!

In my line of work, I work with a dynamic team and many of these people have their unique personalities. Some are introverted, some are extroverted, some are passive/aggressive and many of them are good team players. This blog entry is not about the team players. It’s about the difficult people in your life and how to deal with them.

I was reading one of my favorite blogs Dumb little man – Tips for life and came across a great article that everyone should read. The blog posting hits it on the nail on the types of difficult people and how to deal with them.

In my daily life, my own family has stated many times, that Dad is indeed one of those difficult people both at work and at home.. Initially I didn’t want to admit it, but as I get older I realize that my DNA and tendencies to tend to swing towards the sarcastic and the difficult side. I tend to have rather sharp sense of humor which can be construed as being difficult, but most of the time, being direct can also be construed as being difficult. I guess that in a nutshell wraps up my personality.

I personally think that you are a product of your environment be it from your childhood (a huge factor in my case) as well as the levels of dysfunction that surrounds you.

In retrospective, if I didn’t utilize my unique brand of humor, I’m certain that:

  • I’d be in a insane asylum – Many think that I belong there anyway
  • I’d be totally introverted – Actually growing up, I was introverted, but after my teenage years and after I graduated from college, this introverted nature took a back seat to me just “going with the flow and enjoying msyelf”.  Many don’t believe how really introverted I was as most of my current life is as a leader and prolific communicator both at work and at home.
  • My defense mechanisms would be totally shot and I’d be in years and years of deep psychotherapy – Trusty me, I’ve already gone down this road mildly over the past few years!
  • I’d be single and never be married with great kids and be referred to as Dad’s Taxi!

My question to each one you is, what makes a person difficult? DNA or environment or just self preservation? Personally I think it’s a percentage of both. In my case I can say that it’s all of these 3 for certain!

As I read the article that I linked to below, one thing that struck me is that you have to understand the following factors of acknowledging difficult people:

  • Recognize Difficult People – this is tough..Do you know your personal type and are you aware of what is your personality type? Are you passive or are you aggressive. Are you in synch with your own personality and what are your tendencies to handle confrontation? What’s your tendency? “Fight or Flight?”Many difficult also people hide be thin veils of armor that are not apparent till you really get to know them. Some are easily seen after a few encounters, and of course some are readily visible after the first meeting.
  • Communications– What is your style of communications? Are you direct, opaque or do you communicate with a clarity? What is your tone and body language when you deal with a difficult. I know for me.. My tone of voice can be construed as being difficult a majority of times when I’m dealing with what I define as others being difficult. Is that convoluted enough for you? Do you believe in building relationships or alliances even with the most obstinent person? From what I’ve seen, you need to walk the fine line an and find out what exactly makes this person tick. What is their motivation?Consider how you can communicate verbally and through body language in the most effective way with these different types of people to build rapport and make them feel understood. I find that many difficult people just are so opaque and cannot communicate with clarity, because of the fear they have of being understood for what they really are.. difficult!
  • Triggers – Be proactive once we know who we have conflict with on a regular basis. What this means is if you know you are dealing with a difficult person, don’t be receptacle to their angst emotional upheaval. Think about this.. I guess this equates to “Talk to the hand theory” of problem solving.
  • Focus on Strengths and Positives–  I find that if I try to find the good in a person, the most difficult person can be a great ally in the long-term. Of course the initial displeasure this person brings to the table has to be dealt with first before you as the recipient can “accentuate the positive, to eliminate the negative”.  I find that if I give compliments and recognize them with genuine accolades to a difficult person, they are more likely to let their guard down and build a positive relationship with you. So basically, here I’m advising to build a persons worth instead going full nuclear on a negative person, is a much easier strategy for dealing with a difficult person.   Doing this also allows both of you to exert a positive influence on each other via your interaction.As I write this, I’m thinking: Even if you use the tips that I read about, there is no guarantee that a “difficult person” in your life will be any easier to deal with. I think that applying the ideas above, it will make it easy for you to exist and exude some control and rationality in your life!

One of the most important things that I’m learning every day is that I cannot “control my environment” but I can control my own behavior and I try to take baby steps in this direction every day.. I may not succeed every day, but I do move in that direction!

One of the post important lessons I learned was when I watched the 2006 DVD “the Secret”. This DVD taught me that for every ounce of positive energy you exude, the universe will give you back the same dosage and more!

How do you deal with difficult people? I’d like to know as I continue on the path of road of life and figure out myself how to deal with the cards that I work with every day!