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Contented, Though Demented

The last two years of my father’s life were interesting. Our previous roles were reversed: Dad was now the child, and I the adult. I moved him to a new city and state, getting him close enough to keep an eye on him. He was already suffering from dementia, a realization I came to after he had forty thousand dollars stolen from him.

That’s right. Forty thousand dollars.

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Double Take

Sauntering into the dark hospital room, I was dazzled by my patient’s radiant smile. It spanned her face and crinkled her eyes; her crooked teeth peeked through her lips, making her seem approachable and kind.

“Hi, Ms. Radha, I’m a third-year medical student,” I said. “Is this an okay time to chat? I’m here on behalf of the psychiatry department.”

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What Do You Want Your Life to Look Like?

In the first months of medical school, we’re taught that patient autonomy should be one of a physician’s guiding tenets. The doctor provides diagnoses, prognoses and treatment plans, but ultimately it’s up to patients to make decisions about their own care.

As a family doctor, I often tell patients: “Only you can know what the right decision is for you. I’m here to provide information and recommendations and then to support your decision.”

But over the past year, as my father’s memory deteriorated and

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Father and Son

When I met Mr. Rosenbaum, age ninety, I’d been a physical therapist at the hospital for all of three months.

The nurse had propped up his scabbed foot on several pillows. Cushioned on them like a precious jewel, it extended over the bed’s end.

I introduced myself and asked if he’d like help adjusting his yarmulke, which was entangled in the nasal breathing tube slung around his left ear. He smiled at me, one eye

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Wreckage

It must have come in a hurry
on a ship of pain, breaching
the weak seawall of her lungs.
The tumor, split from its moorings, set adrift.

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Bedtime Ritual

I had planned to take care of my dad at the end of his life.

In 2009, Dad retired at seventy-five because of Parkinson’s disease. Over the next couple of years, he lived in his own home. My younger brother Mark, who lived nearby, faced the first difficult milestones brought on by Dad’s declining health. Mark was the one to tell Dad that he could no longer drive. And after Dad moved out, Mark took

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The Caregiver’s Mantra

Patricia Williams ~

If one more person tells me to be sure to take care of myself, I’m going to bury my face in a pillow and scream.

“Go for a walk, take a vacation,” they advise. I know they’re trying to help, but really? Giving me one more thing to do? Oh well, they’re just doing the best they can.

I moved my folks across the country, from Florida to Washington

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Mom at Home

Arlen Gargagliano ~

Aisha is lurking in the kitchen just outside my home-office door. I hear her rattling dishes and speaking to herself in Twi, a language of her native Ghana. I know that she wants my attention, but I’ve told her that I need time to work. I try to focus on grading my college students’ papers, but I’m distracted.

Aisha is one of my mother’s aides. My mother requires care twenty-four/seven,

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Letting the Tears Fall

 
In terms of size, I am a big man. But when I visited my dad in the hospital recently, I felt a “little boy” inside of me, resisting something I wasn’t ready for.

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What’s Wrong, Dad ?

 
When I walked into my father’s hospital room, he began to sob. I didn’t cope well with his tears. I experienced them as a reaction to his seeing me and started to beat myself up, to think to myself, What have I done?

A voice at the back of my mind said, This is his illness–you can’t take it personally. But even so, I felt hurt by his crying.

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Crazy

Ginny Hoyle

I walked through my mother’s madness
in a coat of hungry colors.
Her eyes did not take me in. I was a child.
To win her, I hung by my knees from low branches

of the family tree, voicing nursery rhymes
from the hallowed text of her delusions.
And failed.

When they took her away,
I was older, careful. I hid my heart

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Standing Up by Speaking Up

My parents immigrated to the U.S. from Korea when I was two, in 1972. We were lucky we left when we did, or my father, a pro-democracy professor at Korea University during Park Chung-Hee’s regime, might have been jailed. We were also lucky my mother was a pharmacist, as the U.S. was accepting pharmacists and nurses then. We moved to Seattle and made our home there.
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