Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Journey Begins

My mother-in-law died in 1999. My father-in-law's care fell to his daughter, Lois, at that time, which she willingly accepted. Papa shared a home with Lois and her family in the Fraser Valley of B.C. however most of the care was in her hands. Plus she worked part time.

Papa loved to putter in the yard and go for walks. He often took the dog for walks. Lois cooked the main meal, drove him to appointments after he gave up driving, and played table games with him. He was still able to manage most of his day independently, but as the dementia escalated walking the neighborhood became an exercise in getting home, which increasingly needed the assistance of strangers or the police.

By 2003, Lois became overwhelmed with the care giving responsibilities and it was decided Papa would come to live with us, his son and I, in Calgary, AB. for 4 months during the spring and summer, giving Lois some much needed respite.

Papa has a very gentle spirit and did not pose significant challenges that summer. He loved to go walking and though he insisted he could do so on his own, he often got lost. The new home proved challenging at first because he couldn't remember which was his room and occasionally walked into someone else's room. We posted a notice on his door saying, "This is Rudy's Room" with a picture of him when he was considerably younger. That helped most of the time.

Once while eating in a restaurant he needed the bathroom, so I pointed to where they were and then watched in horror as he promptly walked into the women's bathroom. I rushed after him and directed him to the men's room, realizing that more specific guidance would be necessary in future. Fortunately noone had been in the women's bathroom so no harm done.

In June of 2004, Lois brought him for a 2 week visit, with the specific goal of discussing and deciding Papa's future. Would he come and live with us full time from here on or would he be placed in a Seniors care centre? None of us wanted to put him in a care facility so I quite my job and in September, my husband rented a cargo van, drove to B.C. to get his dad and some of Papa's basic belongings, things that were familiar to him and would hopefully make the adjustment to our home a little easier.

There were many times Papa commented about 'his house' and that he wasn't living there. It caused him some distress. We attempted as best we could to explain that Lois could no longer care for him and that we wanted to care for him. Two of Lois' daughters plus some of my children lived in Calgary providing several more family members to assist from time to time.

And so our journey began. Papa had been diagnosed with dementia of the Alzheimer's type prior to his coming to live with us. Both Lois and ourselves had connected with the Alzheimer's Society for information and support. It has been invaluable. They have been very supportive and encouraging, always available with appropriate advice and encouragement as needs arose. Home Care has also been an incredible resource assisting in many ways as we have walked the road of caring for a loved one in our home.

This blog is the story of our journey. It may look different than others who travel the same road. May you find encouragement for your journey as you walk with us.

People have occasionally challenged us to consider putting Papa in a home because Life with Papa is definitely not easy. We do not presume to be heroic. We simply do what we believe to be the right thing to do for our loved one. Papa tenderly nursed his dying wife right to the very end of her life. Does he not also deserve similar treatment? We continue on with God's help.


  1. Thank you for sharing this with us. As you do I hope this brings insight and encouragement to others. I look forward to new entries as you have time. I agree that "Papa" deserves the best care available to him, which at this time is with you and your family. As I've said before you are a saint and a good example to others <3 I hope you realize I had to get a gmail account to reply to this....but it is worth it

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences on this difficult and beautiful journey. It will be a blessing, encouragement and strength for many, now and in the future, as well as for yourself to be able to look back and reflect upon the road you are traveling.

  3. Bravo for bringing your journey to life for others to share. I'm looking forward to further posts! Blessing to you and your. May He continue to guide and support you while you care for "Papa."

  4. It blesses me to see the love you have for your Papa. It is wonderful that he can spend his last days with people he loves and who love him in return.He loved his wife right to the end. Now you can do no less. Here we have it once again. What goes around comes around. Blessings Noreen Bryant