“Senile Dementia, Uncomplicated”
No shit, if was really uncomplicated, then that would be an accurate diagnosis of my grandfathers visit to the hospital.
It’s very complicated, for him, myself, my family and our lives. I’m grandpa’s next of kin. I’m not just his next of kin, I am it. I am a one man band in the shit show that is being the caretaker of a 91 year old with rapidly worsening dementia.
Up until I called 911 on him for being super out of it, he lived alone, drove and went to the gym. The fucking gym! He’s 91 years old! Last time I drove past a Gym was to get some Chipotle for the love of god!
Now he can’t remember what day it is most of the time, figure out how to write a check to pay the water bill, or how the TV works for that matter.
So I did what I had to do. I moved in.
Keep in mind we have a home of our own, we have dogs and furniture and stuff that lives there. So, Kate stays there at that house. I can’t go to work, fortunately I can work from his house some, when I’m not busy trying to make sure he doesn’t fall down, or fry ham in a skillet and fall asleep during the process (It’s happened more than once). The stress on Kate, myself and our relationship is tremendous. It’s trying at best and devastating at worst. I miss my own bed, my dogs, the love of my life, my home and my life. It’s causing us to lose income, our health, hope and maybe our home. It is everything but “uncomplicated”.
As a large bald man I never thought I would be a caretaker for an elderly person, men don’t do that. The society I was raised in, as a Gen X kid, still teaching us that it was a thing women did. That men aren’t compassionate caretakers, we aren’t the nurturers and have patience with those that are weak. We shouldn’t feel the need to put our lives on hold to make the last remaining time of our loved ones lives easier. At least that’s what I thought until recently.
I read a piece that states around 54 million american men are caregivers to an ill or disabled family member. That’s a pretty large chunk of dudes doing that thing they do for their loved ones.
According to the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA), while the majority of the caretaking is still primarily done by women, it’s a small difference. Their poll shows that 44% of men are the caregiver in any situation, be it to their spouse, child, parent, or grandparent.
And with our strong women having a slight advantage of there simply being more of them than us, that 6% difference seems a little smaller actually.
So what does that really mean? It means we step up when we are needed. Even when we are helping our family members eat, feed themselves, clothe and bathe them, take them to the toilet, dose out their medication or any myriad of tasks. Something that used to be “women’s work” (I fucking hate that term) is something men today are willing to take on. Men don’t protect their loved ones; like women, children, and the elderly because they are weak, we do it because they are important.
I take care of my grandpa because it’s important.
No one can convince me that my time would be more wisely spent pursuing my career or going to a concert or some other horse shit. We do what we have to do for our families. No matter what the cost.
Now, I’m not saying as caretakers we shouldn’t take care of ourselves too. Take a walk, meditate, eat a good meal, or smoke a joint if you have to. We need just a little bit of time for ourselves everyday as well. Because without self care for both men and women caretakers we will, to put it bluntly, fucking die from stress.
So I try to balance, Kate or our mothers help out so I can go love on my dogs (and that asshole cat too I suppose). Similarly, they are here so I can do some shopping, take some quiet time, get away for a few hours. Without them I would probably need my own damn caretaker sooner than later.
Men can be gentle, men can be kind and giving. Don’t discount the reward that comes with the heartache of caring for your loved ones. Tell them you love them. If they are dying, tell them you will miss them and wish you could make it all just not true. Show your emotions gentleman …and ladies too.
Being there for your family is masculine, and feminine, but mostly human.
It is love