Standing at the edge of the grave on a beautiful June day, looking down at his father’s casket, Larry Gerard was more angry than sad. His father Dave had paid the ultimate price for his stubbornness. His death left a void in the family. He was the last of his generation and had a gift for bringing the old family stories alive. Larry felt he had died too soon and unnecessarily.
Dave Gerard was a retired County Roads employee. He lived at the end of a dirt road in between the neighbor’s potato field and wooded foothills. His home of fifteen years was a two-story farmhouse that had been in the family for a hundred years. He lived alone after his wife Alma died three years ago. In May a year ago, he was up on a ladder trying to unstick a painted-over second-story window. He fell and broke his leg. It never healed right and would give way without warning. When walking around the house, he moved slowly from his easy chair to the desk, then along the back of the sofa so he could get to the kitchen without falling. Stairs were hard. He used the banister to pull himself up or stop from falling forward on the way down.
Larry knew his father wasn’t as safe as he could be. He offered to build a ramp for the back steps. Dave said he did not need it. He refused to use a cane, refused to wear an alert, and refused to carry a phone. Larry increased his visits. He was an electrician for a prospering company and worked more overtime than he wanted. Even so, he arranged with his boss to take off the second Saturday and Sunday each month. That way he could make the three-hour drive to see his father, help with chores, and visit. The other weekends he called on Sunday afternoons to check in.
On his last visit Larry wanted to help his father move his things from the second story bedroom to the first-floor guest room, which had an adjoining bathroom. Upstairs he had to walk down the hall for the bathroom. Downstairs, he would not have so far to go for the bathroom or bother with the stairs at all. Dave refused to move. “I like the view from the second story,” he said.
A week later, Dave fell down the stairs in the early morning on his way to the bathroom. The accident paralyzed him from the waist down. He could no longer walk and needed a great deal of care every day – too much for Larry to manage. Dave had to move to a nursing home. He died six months after his fall. He never returned to the family home.
- Certified Care Managers National Directory: Aging Life Care Association (Aginglifecare.org)
Susan M. Graham just published a book entitled “Can Lawyers Always Save the Day for Seniors? – True Retirement Stories”. She wrote this to share stories of common problems for elders that can be avoided or minimized if they just took time to plan and seek help.
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