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What I Really Know About Tough Choices: Stepping In

Dad is a self-made man. He worked hard all his life to be able to retire comfortably and fulfill his dreams of traveling and helping others. Unfortunately, at age 70, he suffered a massive stroke that kept him in care facilities for months. He returned home partially paralyzed and unable to care for himself. His wife cared for him for a time. But when she died, she left my dad’s care and finances to a friend.

Before a year was up, that “friend” had moved out, and Dad was left alone most of the time. Finally, Dad asked for my help. He wanted to move closer to his children, he told me. He didn’t want to spend the rest of his life alone. I had a decision to make.

My husband, Roy, and I sat down one evening to talk through the situation. I didn’t take lightly the fact that my father had helped give me life and supported me for 18 years. After much discussion, Roy and I made a choice that we knew would totally change our lives: For his remaining years, Dad would be our first priority.

At the time, I was working 50 hours a week with two part-time jobs. One of my bosses agreed I could cut my hours from 30 to 20. But that wasn’t really doable, so I quit that job, giving up that income and health insurance.

Dad is now doing quite well. He lives three miles from us, and we have breakfast and lunch together most days. My siblings rotate having dinner with him each night. He attends a writing group at the church and keeps up with friends and family on Facebook. His greatest joy is time spent with his children and great-grandchildren.

Caring for Dad, his house, and his medical and financial affairs is almost a full-time job. The choice that I made was hard and frightening. As any caregiver can tell you, it’s a choice made again every day, especially on those days when things aren’t going as you’d like. It is a huge responsibility to be in charge of another adult’s life. But the opportunity to spend time with my dad and get to know him has been priceless.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The AARP Bulletin’s What I Really Know column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Anne E. Palmer is a reader from Gridley, Calif.

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