Our neighbor, Ed, will be 89 years old in March. He is a WWII naval veteran with many, many stories (that we hear very often). He is a confirmed bachelor; he has no children and his girlfriend passed away more than 25 years ago. He has three nephews, one niece and a few other family members still around, but none are in the local area. My husband and I, his neighbors, are his caregivers.
When we moved into our new home, Ed was our friendly neighbor. He helped us fix things, kept an extra key in case the kids forgot theirs after school, and let out the dogs if we were gone. He would sit in the garage and invite you over for a "cold one." He was always proud of himself, his home, his appearance and his car. Today, Ed sleeps a lot and doesn't shower often or change clothes. He and his cat take long naps. He reads the paper every morning and sleeps away the rest of the day until we call, wake him up and stop over for a visit. We do all of Ed's shopping, cleaning and errand running.
When he gets "cleaned up," my husband takes him to get a haircut. They always have to get breakfast (with 2 eggs shining like a sunrise), and spend the rest of the afternoon at the grocery store or Bass Pro Shop. The two of them have a special relationship. When my husband takes him out of the house, that's my cue to clean. Ed has gotten a little careless with himself and the house. He will make himself coffee and toast in the morning. He will have soup or a sandwich or fruit for lunch, and I prepare most of his dinners.
His family calls often, but isn't able to visit much. One nephew started to take care of his financials; the other nephew from Florida visits once or twice a year. We do the rest.
Ed is entertaining; he has many stories of the old days and the war. I think we have most of them memorized, particularly how he went to the South Pole with Admiral Byrd. He has an interesting history.
Is it difficult caring for Ed? Sometimes. He can drive you crazy. "Ed, please take a shower." "Ed, please do not drive." "Ed, do not clean your eavestroughs." "Ed, you need to throw your trash in the basket." Oops, I got the wrong cat food - he wants the one with the kitty on the bag - you gotta love him.
We do have medical power of attorney for Ed. We take him to the doctors at the local VA clinic. My sister works there, and we got the medical director to take him as a patient. Ed is not sick - just crabby. He is only on one medication for his WWII flashbacks/nightmares, and he takes a baby aspirin a day. As non-family caregivers, we sometimes wonder what our limitations are. His nephews are glad we help their Uncle Ed and appreciate what we do, but it can be exhausting. Tonight, I have a mountain of newspapers to take out for recycling. He will only let us do it on certain days of the month. We oblige to keep him happy.
He is a cute little guy, and we love him dearly. All of our parents have passed away. I don't know if it would be different if I were caring for family. I don't know if it would be harder or easier. At times it can be very frustrating dealing with Ed. You just want to yell at him, then he begins to cry like a child. He misses everyone that has gone before him and wants to be with them. He says he often dreams of floating in the rings of Saturn or sailing to his "one tree island."
I will miss him when he's gone, although he says he expects to live to be 125!
Story submitted for the Ohio Department of Aging's Family Caregiving Story Project.
For caregiver assistance, please call your area agency on aging at 1-866-243-5678.
Read more Boomerang...