Up All Night With An Elderly Parent (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Up All Night With An Elderly Parent

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
So for the doctors we just heard from, it's part of their job to take care of people in the wee small hours. But the woman we'll meet next has become somewhat of a nighttime caretaker, not professionally, but personally. And the person she's been caring for is her elderly father who has been suffering from dementia. Jane Beard got in touch with us through WAMU's Public Insight Network. It's a way for people to share their experiences with us and a way for us to reach out for input on stories we're working on.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:31
"Metro Connection's" Emily Friedman met Jane and handed over the microphone so she could record "Metro Connection's" first ever audio diary. Jane Beard recorded for a week, mostly during the middle of the night, inside her bedroom closet. And here's her story.

MS. JANE BEARD

00:00:47
My name is Jane Beard. I live in Silver Spring, Md. I have lived in this house with my husband and kids and also my father. He's 88 and he moved in about nine months ago. My dad was in World War II. He was in a unit of guys that were sent into Europe right before the Battle of the Bulge. And they were sent in with only their summer weight uniforms. And there was documentation of the fact that the military had to decide whether to send munitions or winter weight uniforms for these guys, and they sent munitions.

MS. JANE BEARD

00:01:24
So there they were in the trenches in snow in cold weather. He got taken out of the Battle of the Bulge, right before it started, with frozen feet and was in a military hospital for about 18 months afterwards. He has bad dreams many nights a week and they are bad dreams. He shouts out, he is moving in his dreams. He's disoriented when you go in afterwards. He will sometimes think I'm a nurse. He'll sometimes think I'm another patient. And the next morning, he never remembers that this stuff has happened.

MS. JANE BEARD

00:01:58
He isn't getting treated for PTSD, although he's on anti-anxiety medication. We have help here 12 hours a day. They bathe him. They do all the heavy lifting, for the most part. And so a lot of the times when I wake up hearing him, I just spend hours awake just trying to figure out why it's so hard. What's wrong with me that this is so hard?

MS. JANE BEARD

00:02:25
I can actually remember an exact spot by a tree in our backyard where I declared to both of my parents that if my father died, I would die and that so therefore, I would have to die before him. My definition of me comes from him. His companion of ten years was dying. He was really tanking and he said he needed another solution. So we offered him to come live with us for a week or ten days until we could introduce him to some assisted living places. I had five different places lined up for him to look at. And then he got here and he didn't want to go.

MS. JANE BEARD

00:03:06
So in the house right now, I live here with my husband, Jeffrey B. Davis. So Jeff, I just want to ask you, what is it like for you to have my father in our house?

MR. JEFFREY DAVIS

00:03:19
The main thing is basically it's okay for me. It's harder on you because it's your dad. At the same time, there are times when it's pretty challenging. You know, when we're alone with him and he gets -- starts having the messes and the like and I know that he needs my help so I'll go into the bathroom and deal with it. But it's like a part of me has to pull away because I just -- you know, I just don't actually want to be there with him while we're dealing with that stuff.

BEARD

00:03:51
Do you think it would be different if it was your dad?

DAVIS

00:03:54
I think that, you know, when it's your dad or mom, I guess, but when, you know, it's different from when it's your spouse's. And also, you know, you go, okay, I'm doing the right thing. I know we're doing the right thing, when you visited nursing homes.

BEARD

00:04:07
Yeah, we're doing the right thing.

DAVIS

00:04:08
We're doing the right thing. He's got space and he's got family around him and he's got a lot of attention and...

BEARD

00:04:14
His dog.

DAVIS

00:04:14
...he's got his dog, all these things. And so it's fine and I want it to be over.

BEARD

00:04:23
And then I think about, well, being over means he's dead. And I don't want to wish for that. I know that my dad is being a dad now in ways that I can't articulate. I'm learning from him. I am seeing myself and my whole family through new eyes. I love him. I really do love him, but just like things can be easy and hard, so is the way you can love somebody.

SHEIR

00:05:00
That was Jane Beard and her husband Jeffrey Davis of Silver Spring, Md. Their story was produced by Emily Friedman. For more information on our Public Insight Network, visit metroconnection.org/pen.
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