Moving Day

Sending Dad From Home to a Home

There’s nothing easy about watching one’s father drift out of his own life. Alzheimer’s, old age, senility—whatever you call it—it’s painful and distressing for everyone.

Since my mother passed away five years ago, my father has lived with one or another of his daughters and their families. Most of the time he was with my sister Mary and her husband, Tom, in New Hampshire, but he also spent a year with us here in India. As he got older and his memory became more impaired, it grew increasingly difficult to care for him. He was frequently incontinent (the number-one reason the elderly are placed in nursing homes) and often belligerent, and could no longer be left alone even for short periods. When we made the decision to move my father into an assisted-living center, I think we all felt sad, disappointed with ourselves, and guilty. My parents had taken people in all their lives. We grew up with three of our grandparents living with us and an almost endless parade of strays—an elderly man whose house had burned down; a pregnant teen; a suicidal young woman; a friend of Mom’s who had no other family to live with when she grew too old to care for herself. We saw our parents make room for everyone, and yet here we were sending Dad off.

The day I got my sister’s e-mail that a place had opened for Dad at the assisted-living center we had chosen, I lost it. My father in a nursing home? No! I had an appointment that morning to which I had to drive, and I remember...

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About the Author

Jo McGowan, a Commonweal columnist, writes from Deradoon, India.