The Reluctant Caregiver

My name is Lida Caraway and I am one the therapists at that The Shepherd’s Staff Counseling Center. As I attempt to carry on my normal life as a therapist and wife and mom and person in the world, my eighty-seven-year-old father lives with me and seems to encroach on that normality at every given moment. I continue to be struck by how many of my clients are in somewhat of the same situation; care-taking for a family member in some capacity that significantly effects them.
I have found that voicing some of my frustrations through humor and writing have lifted the sometimes dreary care-taking fog that I can live in. I’m sharing these pieces in hopes that a little “laugh” might be just the therapy that someone needs today.

The Father, whose nickname is Mouse, has recently made his “personal rights” to nap at any time of day on our sofa that is in the square middle of our public, living area. In this open living space, He cares less whether Gregg and I are fighting, whether I’m having a important conversation or whether our children are entertaining friends. He just lays down at 10:30am or 1:30pm or 4:00pm and goes to sleep for two hours and snores.

I have attempted to remedy the situation by stating, “You can’t nap in our public living area. You snore and it doesn’t work for us. You have a nice room, a room that I have worked hard to make pleasant just for you. It is a perfect place for you to take a nap and not disturb several people. Make sense?”

He responds, “Yes.”

On Friday he was sitting in his usual purple-chair-perch, and I was on the phone with American Express. I observed him hobbling over to the sofa that is in the square middle of our public, living area. Having lost all social graces and behaving as Lamont, from ‘Sanford and Son’, I yelled while on the phone, “Stop! You can’t sleep there! I’ve told you, you snore! Go back to your room!”

He responded, “No.”

I was flabbergasted. I realized in my flabbergastedness that the American Express representative  was laughing at me. Like getting a kick out of listening to Sanford and Son. So, rather than pulling back and controlling myself, I walked into the kitchen and to get some free therapy from American Express. I continued, “Oh my gosh! My FATHER just laid down to nap in the square middle of our public, living area! Can you believe that? I mean, is that not the rudest? And I’ve asked him not to and you heard him, right? You heard him say, ‘No!’” He more or less just giggled probably picturing two fools in a junkyard.

I had emailed my sister two days before stating Mouse’s progress, how he was attending physical therapy routinely and that he wasn’t depressed, even though we were right in the middle of long winter days.

Two hours later, I woke him up from his public nap. I inquired as to why he refused to go sleep where I had asked.

“I’m depressed.”

“Because…..?”

There was a probably a minute-long pause here.

“What’s gonna happen to me?”

“What do you mean, ‘happen to you?’”

“I mean, at physical therapy. What are they gonna do with me when they say they’ve done all they can do for me?”

“Well, you’re gonna go to a gym where I’m gonna hire a personal trainer to keep you exercising and you’ll go there just like you go to physical therapy. Got it?”

Silence, he stared at his toes.

“Listen, no one is going to put you out like a useless old tire. We are going to keep you working on your health and stamina. But you still have to take naps in your bedroom when others are around. Got it?”

“Yeah.”

“Ha.”

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