February 2011

This past weekend my dear friend Gail contacted me; her elderly father Frank had been taken into the emergency room and admitted to the hospital.  Frank’s health had been failing for some time, yet he refused to do anything about it.  Following his lead, Gail, her brother and sister had decided to “leave well enough alone,” by not upsetting their father, so they didn’t press him about taking better care of himself.

By the time Frank got to the ER he weighed only a scant 112 lbs.  “It was a real wake up call,” Gail said over the phone, “It hit me that I’ll have to be willing to upset my father if I’m going to keep him alive.”

Gail’s siblings—with whom she’d fought since childhood—traveled in to be with their father and make some tough decisions.  Their most important decision: to put aside their disagreements and varying opinions and present a unified front for their father’s sake.  Because of their combined stand, Frank went from refusing any and all of his doctor’s orders to agreeing to follow them.

The interesting thing was that Gail’s situation was not an isolated one; just two days earlier, David, a dear friend from college, contacted me about a similar situation.  David’s parents had always been active and healthy; they enjoyed wine tours and walking and always seemed to be planning their next cruise.  Over Thanksgiving, David’s mother caught pneumonia and had been in bed for weeks.  The more worrying element for David, now that his mother was recovering, was how much his father’s health had declined in the past two months.  “Dad suddenly became an old man,” David confided.  “It’s as if he doesn’t want to live without Mom; so as soon as she got sick, he started preparing for his own end.”

I wish I could say that Gail and David’s situations were unique, but more and more of us are dealing with aging parents, family, spouses, partners, and selves.

According to a USA Today/ABC News/Gallup Poll, it’s estimated that 34 million Americans serve as unpaid caregivers for other adults.  It’s not just “old people” who are unpaid caregivers; in an AARP-commissioned study, they found that the typical unpaid caregiver is a 46-year-old woman who works outside the home while taking care of a relative.

As I sat to write this February missive, my head initially filled with thoughts of Valentine’s Day and romantic love; after all, that’s what so many of us have grown to equate with the month.  How apropos, I thought, that the topic of love—for the purposes of this letter, at least—would shift to a broader context.  If we could expand our definition and concept of love to a larger, more all-encompassing one, I realized, then perhaps February really can be the month of love.

Wishing you heartfelt expressions and experiences of love in all its forms–

Joel J. Loquvam

Attorney At Law