Love My Friends, Here’s My Number, Call Me Maybe?
An aspect of elder caregiving I didn’t plan on was dramas involving my parent’s friends. Most crises come in the form of phone calls. One friend, let’s call him Mr. B, is in a care facility. He calls at any hour day and night. He’s oblivious to time. I set Dad’s phone to “sleep hours” so the phone won’t ring at three AM. Some mornings Dad’s received five missed calls during the night.
Mr. B also sends gifts by mail. For example, he sent a package of twenty pairs of reading glasses, tags still on, after my dad said he needed stronger reading glasses. The guy also sends gifts of cans of smoked oysters, clams, sardines and the like because my dad told him I don’t like the smell of them so he doesn’t eat them anymore. They are thoughtful, kind gestures, well-meant, but I still find it–well strange. Not the gifts, but the volume of gifts. I can’t help wondering if he’s hoarding at our house because he can’t in the facility. Thankfully, our caregiver serves Dad the canned seafood for lunch when I’m not in the room. I honestly can’t stand the smell of them.
Dad once got a call from “George” who said he was dying. George was on his way to the hospital, was going to have surgery and didn’t expect to live. My dad tried and tried to call George back. He was so upset he couldn’t reach him. He assumed his friend died. He mourned him, only to have George call him several weeks later from a new care facility. He was calling from the facility’s office phone as someone “had taken” his phone away. There was no mention of his hospitalization, surgery, or any talk of dying. I have no idea even now what happened. The only thing I know is that he moved to a different care center.
Of course some of their friends are confused when they call and the conversations get interesting. There’s a lot of crosstalk. Neither understands what the other is saying. They are talking about different subjects and no one seems to know the difference, or care. I hear juicy tidbits of information you will never hear on the news and political commentary that would rival any talk show in outlandishness. The news would be lucky to have these people as commentators. Their ratings would soar.
We get callers who are upset because they can’t reach a mutual friend or relative. Mary calls saying Susie’s phone is disconnected, has something happened to her? Or, I called Mary several times and no one answers. When we look into these disturbing events, we find the elder misdialed and got the wrong number or the friend couldn’t hear the phone and hasn’t set-up their voice mail. So far, not once have the feared outcomes happened, thank goodness.
These issues are real and distressing to the elderly. Friends are important. They lose friends every year. I would never laugh at them in the situation. When I am alone, though, I can’t help seeing the funny side of it. I hope I’m able to laugh at myself when I am in my 90’s. I think I’ll start laughing at myself today, in case I don’t reach 90.