‘Your dad’s been waiting for you.’ I cried like a child. I should’ve been there.’: Man finds ways to assist aging parents after medical emergency

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“I moved out of our hometown when I started college. Since then, I only see my parents during the holiday breaks. But those holiday visits lessened when I got busy with my business, and I had my own family.

I convinced my parents to set up WIFI at their house so we can communicate online and do video calls. I taught them how to use social media, too, so they can follow updates from my wife, Sarah. I know it’s not ideal, but I try to make it work. I am an only child, and no one else is available to stay with my parents to care for them.

Grandparents smiling at each other
Courtesy of Stan Clark

So, when my dad had a heart attack while fixing the garage. I took the earliest possible flight back to my hometown. I stayed at my parent’s house for a week while Sarah took care of the kids at home.

When I saw my dad resting on the hospital bed, my heart shattered, and my eyes welled up. I should’ve been there to take care of them, or I should’ve looked for a care service to assist them in housework to avoid instances like this.

I apologized to my mom for not getting there sooner. But she just hugged me tightly and whispered, ‘Your dad has been waiting for you.’

I sat by my father’s hospital bed and held his hand until he woke up. I was relieved when I saw him looking at me. Although all he could say was ‘Son,’ I cried like a child and started apologizing for my shortcomings. Mom soothed me while dad weakly patted my head like I was a little boy again.

I realized how much my parents needed me. I called Sarah and discussed how I want to rethink my parents’ living situation. She suggested that my parents move into an apartment near our house to be closer to us.

I thought it was a perfect idea. So after dad recovered, I talked to mom about getting an estate advisor and selling or renting out their house. I proposed that they can stay with Sarah and me in the city.

But she gently declined and explained I have nothing to worry about. She’s fine taking care of dad.

Though my mom assured me that they would call if anything happens, I can’t bear the thought of any one of them having another health incident.

So, I talked to Dr. Johnson, a geriatrician recommended by a friend, and asked about my options for taking care of my parents while I am in the city.

First, he helped me evaluate my parents’ needs and what I can do to help them even if I’m away.

He asked me questions if my parents need assistance on:

Meal preparation
Medical attention
Cognitive health
Financial help

I discussed my father’s heart condition and his recent heart attack. I also mentioned my mom’s occasional vertigo cases. But I reiterated that my mom is still strong enough to work around the house. They are both retired, and their primary source of money is their pension. I brought up that my mom insisted that they stay in their home.

Assessing our living situation, Dr. Johnson suggested that I hire a caregiver I can trust to assist my mom in taking care of my dad. Before I decided on anything, I went back to my parents’ house to have a family meeting. I wanted to consult them about my plans for them.

My mom greeted me warmly while my dad, though he had not yet regained his full strength, slowly walked up to me and hugged me. ‘I’ve got great news!’ I told them. My parents earnestly listened as I discussed my proposal. My dad spoke first. ‘We can still take care of ourselves,’ he said.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy getting them on board. Mom looked at me appreciatively and tapped my shoulder. Even though I felt disappointed, I insisted that they think about it. Mom gave me a reassuring smile.

I went home that day feeling defeated. Sarah suggested not to force anything my parents don’t want to do. I know she’s right, but I’m still worried. She also told me to try asking what my parents want instead of persistently telling them what I think they need.

That hit me differently. I felt selfish for not considering my parents’ wishes and what they were comfortable with.

When I contacted my mom to check up on them, I apologized for intruding and explained that I was just distraught. Mom said she understood and that they are glad that I was thinking about them. I told her about arranging a weekend trip with Sarah and the kids. She was elated to hear about the kids and eagerly agreed.

Once we got there, I saw how my dad’s spirit lit up at the sight of the kids running towards him. Meanwhile, Mom rushed to hug Sarah and me. We spent the day playing in the backyard, where I used to play catch with dad while mom made the best lemonade. I saw the door in the kitchen where mom used to measure my height. I also noticed the battered swing porch where dad and I used to fix anything and everything, including the environmental sensor he inherited from his father when they had a farm.

Overwhelming joy filled my heart as I recalled all the good things that happened in this house. I realized why my parents didn’t want to move. They didn’t want to abandon our memories.

As I tuck my kids to bed that night, I imagined the day they would grow up and eventually move out of the house. I held my breath to stop myself from getting emotional.

Sarah told me how nice it would be to do weekends like this more often. I agreed and decided to make time for monthly visits to my parents’ house with the kids.

During breakfast, Sarah and I talked to my parents again about the assistance I am offering. But this time, I asked dad what help do they need and what would make them happy. As expected, he wanted to bond with the kids more often. When we told him about the scheduled visits in the future, we could hear the excitement in his responses.

But his smile slowly vanished when he remembered something. He hesitantly told me that mom needed rest and I should talk to her. When I approached mom, she was putting away the dishes. I insisted on helping her, and she gladly allowed me. I brought up what dad said about her needing rest. She jokingly complained dad was such a tattletale and told me about when she was in bed all day due to her vertigo, and how dad had a hard time looking after her. She added that they had to ask Loren from next door to help them in the house.

As I listened, I felt mad at my mom for not calling me, but the anger was overtaken by sadness. My face fell flat and my mom looked at me silently. I asked her to reconsider my offer of hiring a caregiver. I also assured her that we’d find a plan that they will be comfortable with. Mom paused for a while and let out a sigh before agreeing with me.

My heart was relieved when I heard her say, ‘Alright.’ Mom clarified that she only wanted someone they can call anytime they needed help. Mom explained that she can still do housework most days, while dad is recovering every day.

I immediately called Dr. Johnson to inquire about the plans they offer. I told her what my mom wanted, and he gave me Mrs. Corey’s contact number. Mrs. Corey is a middle-aged geriatric nurse who lives 15 minutes away only from my parents’ house. She works full-time at Dr. Johnson’s nursing home. I arranged an interview with Mrs. Corey and my parents.

We stated my parents’ conditions and agreed on Mrs. Corey’s compensation. I insisted on paying for Mrs. Corey’s fee because it was my idea to call her. After a long discussion with my parents, they finally agreed. We settled that Mrs. Corey will be visiting my parents once a week to check their physical and mental health status. If any emergencies happen, Mrs. Corey will stay and take care of my parents.

At that moment, I felt that the heaviness in my heart somehow became lighter. I was pleased that my parents finally have someone nearby who can assist them in times of difficulties. After preparing my parents’ care plan, I went back to the city. I make it a point to call them every day for at least 30 minutes to an hour.

According to Dr. Johnson, constant communication assures my parents I am always available for them. I practiced being more patient because my parents are going through a significant change in their lives where they may feel a lot of uncertainty and anxiety.

I learned that they are most happy when they see the kids. So, I make sure that the kids talk to their grandparents twice a week.

Distance shouldn’t be a reason to neglect the people who gave their lives to support, protect, and love you.”

Grandparents wearing hats hugging
Courtesy of Stan Clark

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stanley Clark. You can follow him on Twitter. Submit your own story hereand be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories by Stanley:

‘Your son got into trouble.’ I tried to stay calm.’: Dad shares how to parent an ’emotionally troubled child’

‘Crying was NOT associated with boys. ‘It looks like you’re depressed.’ I had to be ‘man’ of the house.’: Man advocates for mental health, ‘I finally felt SEEN’

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