2 months ago we landed in Brisbane after 6 months of traveling and house sitting around New Zealand. They were glory days, of the kind that we’ll value and reflect upon forever. Salad days. Honeymoon days. Except for the earthquake days, they were a bit unnerving. But oh so wonderful every day.
Then mid December we hit home with a massive thud. Dave’s dad Sam had been showing signs of not coping well living on his own in his retirement village. While we were away we’d been getting reports of Sam behaving out of character and seeming generally unwell and with a worrisome skin infection on his leg.
Straight away when we visited Sam we realised how his condition had deteriorated since we saw him last. We quickly understood that he could no longer live alone, he was unable to manage his own day to day affairs. He needed help. So we brought him to stay with us in the home we were house sitting, with the gracious blessings of the home owners. There we nurtured and cared for Sam, cooked nourishing meals for him, tended to his infected leg and spent time talking with him and listening to his stories.
One of Sam’s greatest joys was the dear little dog we were looking after, Tilly the Miniature Pinscher. Tilly brightened every moment of Sam’s waking hours. It was a mutual love affair and a delight for us to see.
To get really close and personal with someone in a profoundly intimate way allows a special opportunity to truly be a part of that person. If we thought those New Zealand months were wondrous, then the weeks of having Sam with us 24/7 surpass those times, and will always stand out as the most surprisingly fabulous days for us.
For Dave, having a fully functioning father for 62 years and then witnessing his decline has been difficult and quite sad. For me, I’ve had 20 years of admiring a strong, witty, opinionated, intelligent man and I really don’t imagine that changing. Then for Dave, enacting his Enduring Power of Attorney for Sam across multiple institutions has been arduous, time consuming and heart breaking. For both of us, we’re making our way through getting to know this new phase of Sam.
And yet, through all that, we’ve laughed and cried with and for Sam. He’s a lovely, happy man and he appears content in his new digs at the aged care home. Actually I liken it to a resort. They serve breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and then supper. And if you don’t feel like going to the dining room they’ll bring it to you. Washing and ironing(?) is taken care of, he has his own ensuite bathroom and even a bar fridge in his room. He has his beloved bassoon and sheet music that he plays freely and without constraint (or complaint).
Sam has a seemingly constant stream of visitors and the lounge room at the end of the hall serves round the clock tea, coffee and home made cakes, biscuits and fresh fruit for all. Visitors are encouraged to bring along their pets, because who doesn’t love animals? And the bit that gets me really excited is Happy Hour. Once a week – unlimited wine, beer and party pies. Winning! (though to be honest I’d be pushing for daily happy hour….just saying)
I’ve learned so much over this time about aged care assessments, aged care homes, government (or mostly non) services, and one thing I reckon is that we may all find our final years in an aged care home, and most certainly if we end up with dementia – that’s a lottery in itself. And I have to say that’s not all so bad, as long as we have loving and caring people around us to facilitate the transition and to stay in close. To be each others’ advocates. Oh, and choosing the right person/s to be Power of Attorney is one of life’s most important decisions. I can’t emphasise that enough. I hadn’t fully understood that until now. Don’t put it off, do it now and consult carefully.
As I write this, we’re about to board a 747-400 that will take us to South America for 3 months. We had these plans made a long time ago and we have to follow through. Sam is in the best place for his continuing care and safety, the rest of the family will be there for him and we’ll regularly stay in touch.
I plan to have French bubbles for breakfast in the Qantas lounge, and then sleep for several hours en-route. And fit in practicing some Spanish and Portuguese because I haven’t yet figured out how to order wine.
We’ve been so busy with everything, we are the worst prepared for an overseas trip than we’ve ever been, so fingers crossed and bon voyage to us. See you on the other side.