I was successful as an attorney, too. I entered the ranks of partnership. I was entrusted with establishing and running the firm’s only branch office. But then that “been there, done that” feeling started creeping in.
So, at age 49, after remarrying, I took early retirement …
incurring the undying envy of my partners saddled with hefty private school tuition payments. (You see, there are some upsides to not having kids!) I am now 8 years into recovery from an all-encompassing, workaholic, 23-year stint as a litigator in private practice.
But, what to do with the rest of my life? Retirement brought more soul searching and identity adjustment than I had counted on. And clearly my Type “A” personality did not lend itself to eating bonbons and watching soap operas while reclining comfortably on the couch.
Caring for My Aging Dad … Why I do What I do Today.The answer came quite unexpectedly … When my Mom died suddenly, my Dad, who was living in an apartment in New York City, became quite depressed and isolated. I got the brilliant idea that I could move this 82-year old man into some sort of assisted living facility close to me in Southern California. As I attempted the surprisingly difficult chore of navigating through the elder care options and services, I had an epiphany — Gerontology would be my second act!
Shortly after he moved into the assisted living facility, my Dad was diagnosed with vascular dementia. This was a direct result of his misguided decision to discontinue his medication to treat his high blood pressure. Guess what? Old people have the prerogative of making bad decisions, too. I watched and grieved as my Dad sunk deeper into a confused, forgetful state over the next decade.
I share stories of my dad
in hopes that it will help others get more prepared. I am a firm believer of the “knowledge is power” mantra. If we know what to expect as we age, then we can make prudent lifestyle choices and informed choices for the future.
I have been the point person for my dad’s care since none of my siblings live nearby. The juggling act of caring for my Dad and addressing his ever-changing needs while practicing law eventually sent me running to a shrink to get permission to act as less than my Dad’s best friend, caregiver, daughter, mother and gofer.
While watching someone slide into dementia is certainly not an experience I would recommend, I’ve been able to find a silver lining in the disease. Lucky for me, my Dad went through a personality transformation. His abrasive, cantankerous personality receded and he magically transformed into a relatively pleasant person. However, this new-found agreeableness hasn’t quite made up for the scare created by a suicide note he sent to me (and then disavowed) when he first realized he was “losing his mind.”