Ever since Jane Beard invited her elderly father to move in with her nine months ago, she’s been up almost every night caring for him.
It was two decades ago, but Jane Beard, of Silver Spring, still remembers hearing her kids wake up in the middle of the night. She'd go to their bedroom, bring them a glass of water, and tell them that everything was going to be all right. But now, her kids are grown up, and it's not them keeping Jane up at night—it's her father.
Beard invited her father, Bruce to come live with her and her family roughly nine months ago, and she’s been up almost every night since.
“A big difference between when you have kids in the house and when you have someone really old is when you have kids, you expect to get up in the middle of the night,” Beard explains. “Part of you that's tuned to listen for what they need or what they're going to need.”
Beard’s father has dementia and what she refers to as untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He wakes her up at night, shouting, moving, and often speaks to her as if she were a nurse at an army hospital. “It's just completely bizarre,” she says.
Beard says the dreams trace back to his time as a soldier in World War II. He was in a unit that was sent into the Battle of the Bulge without adequately warm uniforms. After weeks in the trenches in snow and cold wind, Beard’s father was hospitalized with ‘frozen feet,’ and remained in the hospital for a year-and-a-half afterward.
Beard says even with professional caretakers 12 hours a day, having her father in the house is stressful and emotionally straining. Yet, there are positive lessons she’s learning.
“I know my dad is being a dad in ways that I can't articulate,” she says.
Beard says she’s learning lessons from him, and through the experience, she now sees herself and her family through new eyes.
“I love him, I really do love him,” she says, “But, just like things can be easy and hard, so is the way you can love somebody.”
Emily Friedman learned about Jane Beard, and the struggles she’s had caring for her father, 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. Visit this link for more information.
[Music: "Sock on Ears" by Michael Andrews from the Original Score of the film Me, You, and Everyone We Know]