One of the Hardest Decisions Any Child Can Make And How I Struggled With It
In my work, I represent people whose loved ones have suffered at the hands of unscrupulous long-term care facilities. I’ve handled cases involving all types of conduct from negligence to outright abuse. As you can imagine, that experience has led to heightened skepticism with regard to elder care facilities. However, there are times when a care facility is the best option for your loved one. Imagine my surprise when I found myself in this exact situation.
My father, Pat, has dementia. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to watch a loved one deal with a degenerative memory issue, but anyone who’s been through it will tell you it’s brutal. Watching someone close to you lose their sense of self is excruciating. To make matters worse, there inevitably comes a time when you’re no longer capable of providing the care your loved one needs.
Coming to that realization and electing to put a loved one in care is one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever have to make, and that difficulty is doubled if your loved one happens to be a parent. We’re taught to be deferential to our parents, and we always want to respect their wishes — it’s human nature. But when you’re dealing with a progressive condition like dementia, you begin to question if your parent is even capable of understanding what’s in their best interests.
In retrospect, I wish I had put my dad in care a lot sooner than I did. What stopped me? Well, for one, his incredible persistence. At first, Dad made clear in no uncertain terms that he wanted to continue living on his own in Naples. During the day, he’d be adamant that he was just fine. Then I would get a call during the night that he was scared or worried. Still, he’d chafe at the slightest mention of moving to a facility. Eventually we compromised, and he came to live with Faith and me.
That almost worked for a little while. The problem was, as Dad’s conditioned worsened, he needed around-the-clock care. The breaking point came when he told me that people from India had “saved” his computer. What really happened was that he was subject to a ransomware attack. Whether the hackers were actually in India or not, I have no idea. I do know that my dad paid them $1,000 to unlock a virus they had placed on his computer. After this event — and against the best wishes of many of the people in Dad’s life, especially his brothers — I made it clear that he’d be moving into a facility. There simply wasn’t another option.
Luckily our experience with the facility has been nothing short of excellent. I always say that the vast majority of care providers are in the business for the right reasons; only a few just see dollar signs. It’s been a relief to see this play out in my personal life. Perhaps the greatest validation that we made the right call happened at a cousin’s wedding. Dad was able to attend, but he couldn’t speak, and I had to cut his food for him. One of his brothers pulled me aside and said he was wrong to balk at my decision. I don’t blame him for it either. Like I said earlier, it’s one hell of a tough choice.
Does the fact that my dad is in good care mean I’ll stop going after facilities that have no business caring for the elderly and infirm? Absolutely not! To be honest, it makes me more irate at the bad providers because they’re creating a stigma that mars even the most reputable of senior living facilities. We need to hold the bad guys accountable and let the good guys help those in need of care.