Good home healthcare aides are a rarity. Phenomenal ones are on the extinction list. I have had the experience of working with both. This article is dedicated to a group of girls who got me through the hardest time in my life. The death of my father.
My dad and I were very close. He was one of my best friends, loved his family unconditionally and drove us absolutely crazy. Particularly near the end of his life.
Dad lived with colon cancer for seven years. I say lived because it’s exactly what he did. He had surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy. He had hospital stays and life-threatening infections. Somewhere in there, he also had a major heart attack.
At the same time he had cancer, he had two grandchildren he adored. He went to swim meets, baseball games, softball games, school concerts and never missed a birthday party. He lived with cancer.
As it does with many people living with cancer, there may come a point when the cancer is getting stronger than the person. It becomes clear you are at a point of no return.
To me, this point came for my father about four months prior to him passing away. I could just feel after every infection, every hospital stay, every exhausting treatment, he got weaker and weaker and didn’t recover to be strong enough for the next hurdle.
For the last year of Dad’s life, I had the three best aides I ever worked with. Not only were they phenomenal aides with me, they were phenomenal to my father and my family. These are three of the rare people in the world who go above and beyond without being asked. It’s just who they are.
My dad was a very big hearted, warm man. He was very easy to like. Even my mom, who is his ex-wife, will admit this. Everybody loved Frank.
He also drove me crazier than any human ever has or ever will. There is a picture of him on a mule in the dictionary next to the word “stubborn.” This genetic gift was never more flamboyant than when Dad had cancer.
The worse Dad’s cancer became, the worse his stubbornness became. Dad needed some home healthcare, and he adamantly refused. He did not expect or want his children to take care of him, either. He was going to take care of himself.
My aides were so great. I rented an apartment above my father, in his home. During the day, we started hearing a bang or a crash coming from downstairs. I’d call him on the phone to see if he was okay. He was fine… he had dropped something, or something fell off a shelf, blah blah blah.
We started becoming suspicious. If we heard a bang, my aide started running downstairs and be in my dad’s living room in three or four seconds. They started finding him on the floor because he had lost his balance.
Dad was sneaky. He had been falling down for a while. However, he counted on the time it took me to get downstairs via my elevator. In that time, he could get himself off the floor and onto his couch or his recliner.
Dad started falling a lot. He fell on a baseboard heater and had third-degree burns all over his back. He fell in the bathroom, split his head open and needed twelve stitches.
It became a routine. When we heard a bang upstairs, my aide would run downstairs and assess the situation. Then, they would come back upstairs and we would go downstairs together.
During the ride in the elevator, they’d filled me in on Dad’s situation. Sometimes I would call 911 while I was still in the elevator, and sometimes I would have a look at him first. There were times he was lucky I was paralyzed because I wanted to strangle him.
We had family interventions with him. We talked with him one on one. We cried, we begged, we pleaded with him to allow us to hire some help. He let us say our piece, let us go on and on and on and at the end, say nothing. Just give us the bland look we had seen all our lives and we knew what it meant.
We had one thing on our side. He loved my three aides. Cameron, Leah and Joanie. He had known them for a while, so they were not strangers invading his home.
The three girls just casually aided Dad during their shifts with whatever he needed. Dad and I started eating dinner together every night instead of our usual twice a week, so he didn’t have to cook. They would bring a sandwich downstairs with salad or soup for lunch because I happened to have extra.
When Dad fell, they picked him up. When he needed to go to the hospital, they would get his pill list and his favorite sweater. They did so many things my heart wanted to do but my hands could not.
When Dad was in the hospital, they drove me everyday to visit him. Regardless driving me was part of their job, they wanted to see him as much as I did. And vice versa.
Dad came home five days before he passed away. The girls helped me decorate his room, clean the house and plant extra flowers. It was late September and the mums were stunning.
The girls sat with Dad and talked to him, even when he was no longer awake. When he left us, they cooked, they cleaned and at times, held me upright.
When Dad started needing help, my family and I repeatedly told the girls taking care of Dad was not part of their job. It didn’t matter; they kept doing what they were doing. We made sure they were compensated for it, but as Joanie said, “This is just a bonus.”
They went above and beyond out of love, out of caring. I could not have made it through my dad’s illness and leaving us if it not for those three beautiful souls. Thank you, girls. You have my love and gratitude forever.