Thirty-four years ago this past Saturday, November 11, 1989, Kate’s father had a massive stroke. It had been preceded by several TIAs, but his stroke had a major impact on his life and the lives of his family.
Until that time, Kate and I hadn’t given much thought to caregiving for our parents. We were empty nesters focusing on making the most of our time together while completing the remaining years before retirement. We never stopped doing that; however, we took on a new role as caregivers.
It began with her father’s stroke. He died four months later. During and after that, we found that her mother also needed care. Several years later, she experienced a stroke as well and developed vascular dementia. Ultimately, we brought her to live with us for 5 ½ years with 24/7 in-home care before she died in 2005.
In the mid-90s, my parents moved to live near us. I didn’t know at the time, but my mother had an undiagnosed form of dementia. She died in 2002, but my father had a significant other who developed vascular dementia. We helped him take care of her until her death in 2009. That same year, my father had a stroke, and in 2011, Kate was diagnosed with Alzheimers.
My father died in 2013. Since then, I have been able to give my full attention to Kate who is in the last stage of Alzheimer’s.
Caregiving always comes with a variety of challenges, but it can also have its rewards. The most important reward for me has been the opportunity to walk with loved ones through the last chapter of their lives. They did a lot for me, it has been rewarding to be able to do something in return.