Sadly, last year we had the caregiving dilemma for both my father and my father-in-law at the same time. I'm not saying it was easy, but here's how we handled the situation. First, we realized that we would be soon facing an end of an era and vowed that their last days on Earth would be to demonstrate to them the values and principles they both taught us throughout our lives: to cherish family, help them even when it's inconvenient, and to respect their wishes.
My father was more difficult than my father-in-law. As one of 14 children, he always grew up with women to cater to his needs. In the beginning, my sister and I split days. Growing tired of my sister's cooking, he fired her. Luckily, he had long term care insurance. We hired a caregiver and I would give her a break two days a week. My sister handled his doctor appointments and communication with the all things medical related. My brother, who lives about two hours away, would visit as often as possible, and call several times a week. Yes, he could be exasperating, especially when he tried to cheat at cards, but I reminded myself daily that he didn't ask to be ill. So, we played cards together and I would razz him about his "house rules".
My father-in-law took his cancer illness in stride. Didn't want a fuss, didn't want medication or treatment, and certainly didn't want strangers in his home caring for him. So the family got together and made a schedule. We went three times a week to bring dinner, make sure the shopping was done, do a load of laundry, and visit. My brother-in-law did the same three days a week. One of the grandchildren took the remaining day of the week. One thing that really helped was to have a three-ring binder to leave notes to each other. Just a quick note such as doing better today, won't drink his Ensure, losing more weight, groceries that need to be bought, that kind of thing. His two remaining sisters visited about once a week during the day, and his neighbor did as well.
With both fathers, we talked about everything from sports, to family happenings, to their walk with the Lord. We laughed together, played together, and prayed together. We lost both of them last year within 4 months of each other. It truly feels like the end of an era and we miss them both greatly. As difficult as all this was, I wouldn't trade a moment of time spent with them. It's funny how I hadn't even thought of all the stress and harried times we endured last year until I wrote this letter. I choose to remember the hug, the twinkling eyes, or the laughter instead. As an added benefit, through His grace and their graciousness, I learned (again) how much I love my husband, and how special these two people were that gave us our roots.