“You’re a little bit crazy, you know that?” my father-in-law said.
It wasn’t the first time he’d accused me of being crazy and it sure as hell wasn’t the last. Despite the fact that he’d suffered from mental illness long before age-related dementia set in he was convinced he could take care of himself and I was out of my mind to think otherwise.
Sometimes I agreed with him. About the crazy part anyway. Isn’t it considered crazy to keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result?
By that definition we were both nuts.
He figured if he took every opportunity to take off down the hall without his walker whenever my back was turned he’d convince everyone he didn’t need it. After all, he’d only fallen once and it didn’t kill him. I hoped if I kept catching him and leading him back to safety he’d begin to accept the walker and use it without prompting.
When he developed Dysphagia and could no longer swallow regular food and drink, I prepared fresh purees for him every day while doing everything I could to make them healthy and tasty. I learned that a lot of his favorite foods could be prepared that way. It was worth spending a bit of extra time so he could enjoy his own version of whatever meal we were having. Pureed hot dogs and potato salad on the 4th of July. Pureed turkey and dressing for Thanksgiving worked very well. So did the pureed pasta with homemade spaghetti sauce. I’m still proud of the pureed tuna and tomato sandwich and pureed cupcake he often had for lunch. Was I crazy to go to all that extra work instead of ordering prepared purees for him? Hormel makes a line of foods for people with Dysphagia and I did order some of them. But, I didn’t want to rely on them. Eating was one of the few pleasures he had left and I wanted him to experience the flavor of his favorites. He was convinced I was crazy to think food could be dangerous.
“Something’s wrong with her. Food goes in your stomach not your lungs. You can’t get pneumonia from eating,” he’d tell the doctor at every visit. Eventually the doctors tuned him out, not bothering to explain again why he couldn’t have a sandwich or big juicy orange.
Sometimes I couldn’t help but wonder, was I crazy to become a caregiver? Was I crazy to lie awake at night trying to figure out new ways to get through to him? Was I crazy to keep fighting for him and with him when it became clear that no matter what I did or how hard I tried he would continue to fail?
Maybe. But sometimes crazy is what it takes to get the job done and maybe my crazy was just what his crazy needed. I hope so.
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