Stranded

Well!  I've gone missing (not that anyone necessarily noticed), because I took a quick train ride up to see my dad, who had recently gotten out of the hospital and who has a new caregiver.

She came with a sterling recommendation, my brother says.  She feeds my father super-healthy food and keeps him impeccably clean.  Soon after I arrived, this caregiver (an older Jamaican woman I will hereafter refer to as the Voodoo Priestess) handed him his sunglasses.  Frustrated, my dad tossed them on the floor, where they disappeared under a cabinet.  Before we could stop him, he got down on his hands and knees to look for them; and, of course, he couldn't get back up.  I ran to help him, while the caregiver stayed where she was and scolded him.  "What are you doing down there?  What are you thinking?  Don't do that again!"

Me: "Could give me a hand here?  He's stuck.  I need help lifting him."

VP: "He shouldn't be doing that!  Who does he think he is?  He is not to throw his sunglasses!"  She walked over to him and bent over, in order to berate him more effectively.  "Stop that!"

Me: "I think we need to pick him up.  You can yell at him later, okay?"

Yikes.

Later, referring to his birthday, I mentioned to her my dad's advanced age.  "Stop that!" the voodoo priestess yelled, at me this time.  "Time - it is a human construct.  It means NOTHING.  He is not old.  You are making him old.  It is all in his MIND."

As the weekend progressed, it turned out that a lot of things were all in his mind: his age, his spreading cancer, his allergies that were making his eyes swell and his nose run constantly - all constructs of the mind.  "Look," I told her.  "He needs antihistamines.  He has some here, so he must have taken them before."

She looked askance at the proffered bottle.  "These - these pills are POISON.  They are no good.  I can make him better.  These pills - they CANNOT."

Words fail me at describing the weekend.  The caregiver's arrogance, her bullying, her anger - and my brother sitting there, saying, "Yeah, but she cooks really well."  I left for the train home, sick at heart.  The voodoo priestess had no interest in learning who my father was - no interest in hearing that he was a Depression-era child, raised on a farm and - later - in Brooklyn; a young man drafted into the US Army to fight WWII; a soldier who helped liberate the camps that were full of his Old World relatives; a father who had lived in this same house for over 60 years, who worked hard to pay for it and to raise his children in it.  A man who used to have friends, friends that are all now long gone.

My father is a person stranded in time, left behind, as it were, an old man burdened with half a memory -- and a caregiver lacking even a modicum of humility in the face of a long life bravely lived.





[Fun fact - Jerry Garcia is playing steel guitar in this version of "Teach Your Children."]

Comments

  1. I am so, so sorry. This must be awful, for you and for your Dad. Can you do anything about this new so called caregiver?

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    1. Perhaps, in a few weeks...there isn't any immediate harm, as she takes good physical care of him. But I just think he deserves more than that.

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  2. That is awful. Leaving must have been miserable. She sounds too temperamental: she won't be a problem for long.

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  3. I'm so sorry. It sounds like a very difficult situation. In honor of your father I have read your last paragraph three times. He sounds like a man truly worthy to know.

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  4. Oh my God, is there any possibility of hiring someone else? I can't imagine how you felt leaving your dad there with her. That is frustrating to a degree that is sickening.

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  5. What everyone else said....I too read your last paragraph multiple times. Praying she doesn't last long (as caregiver, I mean)...
    Lisa G. in CT

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  6. Oh honey. I'm sorry. It's piling on, is what that is. All the hugs and love to you.

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  7. Yes, find someone who cares about your Dad.
    Nothing is worse than treating a person like a child.
    At this stage she will not mold him into a different person.
    We used Jewish Family services, is there one there?
    You do not have to be Jewish to use them.

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    1. Actually, she was recommended by a former client of my dad's, a man who is an Orthodox Jew and who knew the family she used to serve. All I can figure is that her former patient's son didn't mind how the Voodoo Priestess spoke to his mother, who had Alzheimers, just so long as she took impeccable physical care of her.

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  8. This post makes me so sad. I am so sorry this so-called caregiver is such an insensitive bully. Can we round up a posse? My father's 85, in good health, but all of his friends are dying and he lives far enough away that his visit last week might be the last time I see him.

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  9. Ouch. I'm so sorry. I have no other words.

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  10. So, so sad. I'm sorry. (Can you switch caregivers?)

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    1. I'm hoping I can convince my brother to do so!

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  11. My father-in-law lived with us for 6 months last year before he got sick and had to go to the hospital and then to rest home/rehabs for the last 2 months of his life. We came into contact with many people who had no care or concern for him...they were just clocking in and clocking out. But we also found some who seemed genuinely concerned with his well-being. This stage of life is so difficult for everyone involved. I pray that you find the right person to take care of your dad. He sounds like a lovely man.

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  12. Ugh that's horrible :( I'm guessing you can't bring him home with you for various reasons.

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    1. Right - that would be almost as cruel, as he would become terribly disoriented and stressed in a new environment.

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  13. I had a bad feeling when you started calling her Voodoo Priestess. How tough for all of you.

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  14. Oh my gosh, what a terrible caregiver she is. I hope you can replace her soon. He deserves much better and so do you and your family.

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  15. He definitely deserves better and I hope it will be possible to get some one else.

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  16. I'm just now catching up with missed posts and I am horrified at the way VP treats your dad! He sounds like an incredible person with a truly moving personal history, and I'm near tears reading this post.

    There ARE good places and good caregivers out there. I hope and pray your family can find one for your dad.

    My dad moved to a different assisted living facility in the past year and while I didn't think the last one was bad at all, I could see (on our trip there last month) and hear (on the phone with him) the positive difference in his new place. And even though my dad describes the small alarm the staff had to attach to the back of his shirt and wheelchair (that goes off if he tries to get up without assistance) as "punishment", I know they had to do it for his safety... he kept being stubborn, trying to do everything for himself as if Parkinson's wasn't changing his abilities, but he was injuring himself.

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  17. What? No. I do not have a good feeling about this woman. Hoping and praying your brother will find someone else! And I'm so sorry.

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