Is It 4:30? A Caretaking Dilemma


really hope I had pressed the “mute” button like I thought I had.

If not, my new boss and coworker heard a side of me that does not make me proud.

You see, I had scheduled a conference call at 3:30 p.m. last week, knowing that I needed to be completely wrapped up by 4:30 because I leave the house every day like clockwork to take my 85-year-old father-in-law to the bar.

I am happy to take him to the bar at 4:30 every day, knowing how much he values time spent with his buddies.

What I am not happy about is the fact that “his” 4:30 is wildly more erratic than mine due at least in part to the cognitive changes related to his strokes and other medical issues. This is my caretaking dilemma.

Back to the conference call day: Even though we had discussed the “4:30 plan” (as we do every day) before I went into my home office and closed the door to take the call, there he was at 4:00 pushing on the door (against which I had placed a heavy object to keep the cats out). I excused myself from my coworkers, (hopefully!) pressed the mute button, and asked what he needed.

HIM: “Are you ready to go to the bar?”

ME: “No, it’s not 4:30.”

HIM: “You said 4:00.”

ME: “No, I didn’t. I said 4:30.” (not uttered in my most patient tone of voice)

HIM: [insert angry harrumphing]

ME: [insert slamming of door]

I am not proud that I was so abrupt in how I said “I said 4:30.” I am not proud of slamming the door. I am not happy that my train of thought was disrupted from the conversation I was holding with my co-workers and as a new employee, I am a bit worried about what they think.

The “4:30 skirmish” plays out almost daily.

I know compared to many caretakers with whom I am acquainted, this is a small battle compared to many all-out wars they face. We don’t have to cover the mirrors yet so he isn’t alarmed by “that man in the mirror.” He can still take care of his basic self-care needs independently.

But I suspect the “4:30 skirmish” is a prelude to more daunting hurdles.

Our family is among 42 million Americans for whom the roles have changed. Children are parenting parents and bewilderment abounds. Like this family, convincing a depressed 85-year old to eat presents as big a challenge as does a finicky five-year-old:

During National Family Caregivers Month, I have hope because I have discovered resources for education and support at this site from AARP.

I wish I had read Prepare to Care (a Caregiving Planning Guide for Families) before we became primary caretakers five months ago:

Fortunately, I know there are many other helpful resources at the site, and I am going to be digging in.

But not at 4:30. I have a commitment ….

“I’m pleased to partner with Midlife Boulevard to bring you this important public service information about National Family Caregivers Month.”


14 thoughts on “Is It 4:30? A Caretaking Dilemma

  1. Sending you a big virtual hug! I don’t have your exact “parenting parent” situation (yet) but I can truly sympathize with you.

    • Thank you for your comment, Rob. Wow, a decade …. I have to admit there are days when my thinking is along the lines of “if it feels this way after five months what will five years be like?”. But I suppose as with anything I have to take it one step at a time and try to use all the resources available to me.

  2. Paula, thank you for the reference. I cared for my grandmother a bit, but she wasn’t combative at all. I fear the same will not be for the three remaining parents. I think about this conundrum often. Perhaps Jesus or the Dali Lama has fortitude to handle the confusion/anger/attitude from the changing parent, but I do not know that I do. I wish for that calmness now and it does not manifest. I try to not anticipate those frustrations in the future. I pray that I will not have to be “caregiven”. I hate the thought of being a burden. I don’t mean it in an unkind way, but once I am not “myself”, I hope I go.

    • Hi Jenn, another great comment that I missed (sorry). I am not sure what the answer is except supporting one another and taking advantages of the sources that are out there. It seems a lot like childrearing to me — that you feel like you’ve mastered one stage and then something else pops up that completely flummoxes you.

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