My Dad's Caregiver is a Former Stripper and I'm Okay with It

Melinda Crow by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

There are issues that arise with some dementia patients that most of us either don’t know about or don’t talk about. My previous knowledge of dementia was limited to a stepmother who suffered from Parkinson's dementia for more than seven years. She was as docile as a lamb. She lost her ability to speak, so she sat in a wheelchair smiling at everyone for the majority of those years.

My dad was a saint through those years. He cared for her at home with minimal help from an outside caregiver. When asked why he never even utilized a respite care option where she could have stayed in a nursing home for a few days so that he could rest, he always replied, "I never even put my dog in a kennel, why would I leave my wife somewhere like that for a weekend?"

That was then; this is now

What no one talks much about are the dementia patients that become belligerent and behave in ways far outside what is socially acceptable. I've shared my dad's anger before. To a certain extent, I understand his behavior. He doesn't understand what is happening to his mind, but most days he knows something is terribly wrong.

Then there are the days when he can neither accept that his brain doesn't work properly, nor can he filter what comes out of his mouth.

Getting assistance

My dad burned through most of his assets during the seven years he cared for my stepmother. It was the only way he could continue to keep her at home. All he had left after she died was their home. He sold that and moved to my property, where he has a small apartment of his own. The money from the house has been gone a long time, so he easily qualified for Medicaid.

More than a year ago, after my dad threatened to "blow his head off" when talking about my husband, his primary care doctor suggested he would be better off in a nursing home. But his words about not putting his dog in a kennel echoed in my mind. I decided to wait.

Then 2020 arrived with all its pandemic issues. One of those issues is that families like mine with an elderly person not quite ready for nursing home care in March of 2020 were left struggling with the horrific choice of putting their parents in homes where they might easily die from COVID, not to mention the restrictions on visitation the pandemic caused.

When he fell and broke his arm, I started the application for a home care assistant from the state. Basically, it's a program that aims to keep Medicaid patients at home longer. It took months of red tape, but the help finally came through. He qualified for 34 hours of help with daily household, non-nursing help per week.

The parade of caregivers began

The first woman sent by the agency working through the state program lasted four days. In her defense, she was physically disabled and far less capable of taking care of my dad than she should have been. He didn't like her and she didn’t like him.

The second young woman was very kind and my dad fell in love with her right away. And when I say "fell in love" I mean that quite literally. It's a dementia thing. She lasted about a month. I didn't have a clue why she departed. He claimed not to know either. She simply quit showing up, so I called the agency for a replacement.

The third woman violated the agency's policies and probably even state laws by accepting gifts from my dad. First, it was a vacuum cleaner, then a box of stuff she cleaned off a shelf for him. Seriously? Who in their right mind thinks that a dementia patient has the capacity to decide what they should or should not give away? That's kind of the reason for the policy, no? She brought the things back after we asked for them.

That's about the time we installed the security cameras outside over the door.

The fourth girl was sweet but refused to cook the way he wanted her to. She often came to work with bruises. She said her boyfriend didn't really want her to work. At some point, she simply stopped showing up also. No explanation was given.

The fifth woman called in to say she wouldn't be coming to work one day because she had to bail her son out of jail. He was charged with burglary of a residence. Again.

That's when we installed the digital lock with codes that can be turned off and on, and a history showing when each code has been used.

And then I dared leave town

My husband and I had an opportunity to visit his mother and sisters, along with our nieces and nephews in a near-by town. At that point in time, Dad had a decent weekend caregiver, so we thought it would be okay.

When the agency supervisor called on Saturday, I knew it wasn't good.

I was standing in the bare shell of my niece's new home under construction when the supervisor hit me with a gut punch.

"Sandy will not be there to care for your father tomorrow. She said he asked her to show him her breasts."

There was nowhere to sit, except on the cold dusty concrete. It was hard to catch my breath. Was this why some of the other girls had left? When I asked the supervisor that question, she demurred a bit, then confirmed that was her suspicion too. She said Sandy would not be filing charges, but was not comfortable caring for my dad any longer.

She also said that the information would now be in his file, and all future potential caregivers would have to be warned about his behavior before they began. "It could potentially make finding caregivers more challenging."

Well, duh.

The sixth woman is the former stripper

My dad doesn't know about her past, but she shared it with me. I think it was so I would know she was tough enough to tolerate and brush off any repeat scenarios. She has also worked with dementia patients extensively and knows they often don’t' have filters, plus she promised not to give him any peep shows.

And to top things off, she is the best cook and housekeeper we've had yet. This woman has been through quite a bit of drama since she began caring for my dad but weathered all of it with grace. Because she has been the only one to see through the dementia to the person my dad used to be, I hope she will last.

My dad doesn't do well with her drama, but he loves her deeply (yes, really) and "wouldn't trade her for the moon."

Me neither, Daddy.

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Available as an accomplice to your capers. Let's break out of our chains together. Writing about #travel, #business, #writing, #publishing, and #life.

Waco, TX

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