I've decided that is my job title these days. While my Dad is the caregiver to Mom, I am the caregiver to my Dad. I am the one he comes to when he is frustrated and can't take it anymore. I am thrilled that my Dad confides in me. He doesn't have many (if ANY) confidants other than my Mom. She was always his best friend in everything. And he is grieving big time because he can't go to her and talk the way they have for the past 45 or so years.
It took a very long time for my Dad to confide in me. I think I even discussed it in a previous post. It was around this time last summer (only a year ago). I think that was the point that he had gotten past that first denial phase. Where he finally accepted that something was wrong with Mom. He's really worried about upsetting me when he tells me what he's going through. I don't mind at all, in fact I feel better knowing what is going on over there, even if it's bad stuff.
I'm having a little bit of a tough time with the way he is handling some things. But it's really not fair to say that I would do anything any better if I were in his shoes. In fact, I know I probably would have either left the country or jumped off a bridge from all the stress. So I admire him immensely for having the patience and strength to do this.
What in particular is bugging me? He has developed this routine of "packing his bags and walking out" on Mom when their arguments come to an impasse. This may sound like no big deal to people who are used to having a spouse get hissy and "leave" to make a point. But he is not that kind of guy. And geeze, you can't argue a point to a person with Alzheimers. You will NEVER win. Plus, it has got to scare the heck out of Mom, even though she acts as if it's no big deal. When I ask him why he has to do this, he says it's the only thing that "works". I disagree. He's done it a few times by now, and I think it's starting to lose it's effect. Plus, he never follows through on his threats. Now I'm not saying I want him to REALLY walk out. There has to be a better way.
I know that the grief and denial must be overwhelming for him, as it is for any spouse. I think us kids can move through the phases a little easier. But I wish he would let me help to guide him. Maybe I am, but I feel like I am just harping on him all the time to DO something. I try to take a soft, loving approach. It's so hard to hear him talk about his frustrations, and then have him back down about getting respite help with her. He's so afraid about her being mad or unhappy. He's always been a pleaser, so I can't blame him. But I don't think he realizes all the backing down might be worse for her than doing something.
If HE'S not healthy and sane, then he's not going to be able to take care of her. It's as simple as that. But he wants nothing the best for her, that's why he's taking this on himself. But how can he give his best, when he doesn't put taking care of his own needs up there on the priority list too?
I should stop for a minute and acknowledge that he HAS made some baby steps. He loves to golf. At the beginning of the season he was not golfing, or backing down when she asked him not to. Now he golfs regularly. At least 2-3 times a week. And he gets involved in some other activities, like at church with a foundation that he's a part of. I am thrilled to see him doing this. He knows it will make her unhappy when he does these things, but if he doesn't she STILL will find something to get angry about anyway, and he ends up more stressed because he feels like he can't enjoy his favorite activites.
He's also taken the step to get some help through his Doctor. His Doctor suggested some medication to help him cope months ago, and he avoided it, saying "I'm not the one who is sick here, so why should I take it." I was happy that he ultimately decided to take the step to talk to his Doctor about it and get help.
Each day is a new challenge, for all of us involved. For Mom, who has to learn to live in this strange new world of hers that she will never be able to escape. For Dad, who has to learn how to let go of the love of his life for over 45 years, and to take care of himself so he can ensure she gets the best care possible. And for me, who has to learn how to support Mom in her new world, and help keep Dad in THIS one.