The Variable

Simple math…that’s all we needed to solve our problem.  Employ some subtraction, use addition and hopefully my sister, Tami, and I would solve for the unknown. The unknown represented by D as in Dad. Could my dad continue to live independently in his apartment?

The Problem

When my fit, active 88-year-old father had a fall and a bout with pneumonia we saw him decline physically and mentally. Our eyes opened to a situation we had not recognized. His daily nutrition may have been lacking. Plus, his daily walks to “the club” often cause him to return home in the dark. Factor in his occasional visits to the winery, his coordination is likely compromised before his walk home.  In all actuality, his cognitive functions probably declined before the fall.

“We have grave concerns about your father living alone.” The professionals at Sugarcreek Station warned us before releasing Dad into our care.  He’d had an extended hospital stay followed by ten days in the rehabilitation facility.  We were determined to see for ourselves whether my father could still live independently.

On the day of his release from Sugarcreek Station, Tami drove him to Batavia, New York, a halfway point to my place, where I met them and Dad continued on with me.  Our plan was to have my father continue his rehab at my house for the next ten days. I would get a first-hand view of his strengths and needs.

Dad put 100% effort into his therapy sessions each day. We walked the roads and he used his weights. He was determined to resume his daily routine at home, which consists of the following. He takes a morning walk around town. In the afternoon he walks two blocks to the local Elks Club. “I only have two drinks,” he insists. I’ve been told he is the father-figure of all the younger Elks members.  He walks home to eat. At least four nights of seven he walks back downtown to the local wine bar and if a band plays, he dances. My dad’s picture is on the winery website, he’s such a regular.

The rehab therapist, who admitted he had more stamina than she, expressed dire concerns over signs of dementia. At first, I feared the professionals concluded correctly. However, with each day at my place Dad grew stronger and more aware. Once we established a routine here, he gradually showed signs of his old self. By the end of the week, I decided to return to Franklin with my dad and assist him in returning to his daily schedule.

Applied Algebra

Tami and I applied our equation. We added constants. We sorted his new medication into a daily pill dispenser. We arranged for Meals-on-Wheels three times a week. I set up a white board near his pills to remind him of the day and tasks to be performed. His landlords installed a safety-bar in the bath. We subscribed to an alert button he wears in case he should fall. We fitted him with a cane and taught him how to use it. For the week I stayed with him, we walked to and from the Elks together, taking a longer, but safer route.

Next, we subtracted. Sadly, the activities that motivated him to recover would probably be part of the subtraction algorithm. His physician had already revoked his driver’s license, so we removed the keys. We picked up all the loose rugs around the apartment. This year we skipped all the porch plants except for the Mandeville that had been a gift. His new medication does not mix with alcohol. So Tami contacted Dad’s buddies at the Elks and explained that his alcohol consumption must be limited. The Elks bartenders agreed to water down his drinks with half shots.

When he and I drove by the winery one afternoon I said, “Dad, the winery is out now. It’s not a good idea for you to be walking home after dark.” Plus, I feared he might take a spill on the dance floor.

“I suppose you’re right,” he replied.

He did a solo trip to the Elks and back the final day of my stay. As part of the family check-in schedule, I would call him every morning around 9:00 and every evening around 8:00. During the evening call I would be sure he took his nightly pill and coach him in filling in his white board for the next day.

I returned home. The next evening I dialed his number for my first check-in call.  No answer. I waited and redialed. I waited ten minutes then redialed. Still no answer. In the meantime my cell phone rang. Tami asked, “Have you talked to dad?”

“No answer at his place.” I replied.

She had been trying to call him as well. “I’ll run down to check on him.”

I waited by the phone. My husband, Paul, and I made eye contact, neither of us speaking our similar thoughts aloud. In just about ten minutes my phone rang.

“Well, I’m at the winery having a glass of wine with Dad,” Tami laughed. She knew exactly where to find him. I looked over at Paul and nodded my head to affirm his unspoken suspicions. No matter how we move the constants, simplify the expression, or eliminate the co-efficient, my dad is a huge variable.

After all, my dad’s destinations house people who look after him and care for him. Tami receives frequent texts from Elks members who report when he arrives, when he leaves, whether he’s heading home or to the winery. If it rains, any number of guys will provide a ride. The other night, the winery proprietress fixed him a light supper before he left for the evening.

A Scalene Triangle

Algebra won’t solve this problem but geometry will. My dad’s daily movements create a scalene triangle. The family and everyone in town can monitor his movement from point A, his apartment, to point B, the club, to point C, the winery, returning to point A. Within that triangle he has at least three restaurants, his barber shop, his dentist, and my sister’s place of employment. Plus, the police station, two banks, and a pharmacy.

Just yesterday a Findlan nephew texted me, “I saw your dad at the winery last night. He looks good.”

As long he stays within the triangle, my dad can maintain his independence and we have some peace of mind.




5 thoughts on “The Variable

  1. Beautiful story! So glad he was able to keep his independence for now. It’s not easy figuring out what your elderly parents need.


  2. Now that I know his routine, I will keep my eyes open for him on my daily rounds. It takes a village to raise our children and to care for our independent golden-agers. Rest easy……Franklin loves him❤️❤️❤️❤️.


    1. Thanks. Nancy sent a report and I told her she was part of the “all-points reporting team.” You are an official deputy. Hope to see you in September when the girls are back in school.


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