Tom C. expected to become a caregiver someday, when Paul, his active, inquisitive father, began to need more help.
But when Paul had a stroke at 75, Tom was thrust into the role with little warning. At first, his caregiver duties were light: his dad completed therapy at the hospital and Tom checked his mailbox. Paul’s care team thought he would be able to safely return home.
He did, but within weeks, Tom realized his dad was sleeping in until noon and not eating, letting bills pile up, and was too forgetful to safely drive.
Tom and his siblings coordinated different days for individual check-ins and took away Paul’s keys. But bills were another problem.
It took hours for Tom to review Paul’s bills, write the checks, seal the envelopes and fill out the addresses. Tom knew this manner of paying bills was inefficient and would likely result in lost or missed payments and late fees. But without his father’s permission, he couldn’t take over the process.
One day, while Tom was visiting his dad, he overheard an angry phone exchange. Paul became flustered and hung up. “The gas company is shutting me off,” he yelled. “They say I’m three months behind, but I know I sent in the money!”
Time to talk
Tom walked to his father’s desk and looked through the piles of mail. There, buried with other bills, were three unopened envelopes from the gas company. Tom showed them to his dad and gently explained that it was time for him to take over Paul’s bookkeeping.
“That was one of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had with my father,” Tom says. “But he needed that nudge to admit he needed help. I’m just glad he was able to let me step in and help.”