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Romance or Friendship? At 91, it’s both

 

My father is a social butterfly. Between church, family and friends, he and Mom led a lively life. So when my mother died in 2001, Dad was adrift. Then Caroline entered the picture.

She was the church piano player who had been widowed for years. She was living on a ranch and, understandably, very lonely. As my father says, they became friends. And maybe I should just leave it at that. But now that I have your attention, you want to know more, right?

Caroline eventually moved into town, which put her closer to Dad who lived about a mile outside of his rural community. Together they created a new social circle with their shared church relationships, friends and family.

In earlier years, the two of them enjoyed outings and card game nights in the community. They ate lunch together each day and oftentimes dinner as well. They were an active part of their church scene for years. Dad’s social circle accepted Caroline and vice versa. Our families got along too. And, for the past 14+ years, we’ve shared most of the major holidays and observances.

Mom and Dad were married 53 years before my mother passed away, quite suddenly. I have to be honest—it was hard, at first, seeing Dad with someone else a year after Mom was gone. But gradually Caroline filled a void for our entire family.

She was a female presence who brought a smile to my father’s face again. They never lived together, they never married. But she was and still is an important part of our family.

Like Dad, though, I tell most people that Caroline is his friend. I tried “girlfriend” or “lady friend,” but the reaction from many people made me mad. I’ve heard giggles and guffaws. Shock and amazement. Comments such as “Isn’t that cute.” “You’re kidding!” “Oh, how sweet.”

True, it can be difficult to define an older adult relationship. But, really, why should it be any different than a connection between two 21-year-olds or a couple in their 30s or 40s? Aren’t friendship and romance and love ageless goals? More important, don’t we all want them to be? Perhaps the idea of romance between two seniors seems awkward.

So you may wonder if it is romance or friendship when it comes to Dad and his “friend.” From watching the two of them, it’s obvious that it’s a little of both. My father told me once that he wouldn’t still be here, at 91, if it wasn’t for Caroline. It does not diminish the love he had for my mother. It’s simply that companionship is just so important.

The company I’ve worked for nearly 20 years, Home Instead Senior Care, is founded on the idea that companionship is one of the most important services you can provide a senior. And now, I’ve seen it played out in my own family. Companionship is a life-or-death deal. At least my father says it was for him.

Today, Dad and Caroline are closer than ever. As a matter of fact, she has moved into his care community where he lives in independent living on the top floor and she has a room in assisted living on the ground floor.

They still enjoy two meals a day together and, when the weather is nice and they are feeling up to it, they go for afternoon drives in the country. They play bingo, make popcorn balls and listen to visiting polka and western bands. As they grow increasingly frail, I know they worry about something happening to each other. They know any new day could bring a development neither would want.

It’s ironic how death-and-life circumstances can separate some, like my mom and dad, and bring others together, like Dad and Caroline.

But isn’t it great to think that friendship and romance survive it all?

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. February 22, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Posted by Lacey

    In may of 2016 my daddy my best friend had a basil ganglia stroke which caused vascular dementia and epilepsy he was released and I took him home with me two weeks later I noticed a decline blank stare etc i was concerned it was a Tia I called 911 he was brought to the local hospital where a Ct was done no one would listen to me I know my daddy he was released with higher blood pressure on discharge than Arrival 3 days later MRI was done indeed 2 more strokes then my parents flooded so did many here in the great flood of Louisiana 2016the lastest stroke was in December last week got the news he has bladder cancer and he has copd I''m so upset confused I am 36 years old my daddy is my best friend his Dementia has progressed I'm both he and my mother POA my mom was recently in the hospital and has to see oncology Ive always been the strong one in my family i just need someone to help me with resources anything

    Reply

    • February 24, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Posted by Home Instead

      Hi Lacey, It sounds like you're dealing with a lot of stress right now as you care for your father, which is not uncommon. You've come to the right place for resources to deal with caregiver stress. You could take a look at the Family Caregiver Stress Relief section: http://www.caregiverstress.com/stress-management/family-caregiver-stress/ or visit our sister sight for those caring for loved ones with dementia, HelpForAlzheimersFamilies.com. We also encourage you to consider looking into professional services that could help take the burden off of you. Visit your area agency on aging to learn more about resources in your area. There are professional care services, caregiver support groups, counselors, and a number of other resources that might be helpful to you. Home Instead Senior Care provides in-home care services that could help give you a break and provide your father with quality, capable care as his dementia progresses. Call 1-800-640-3914 or visit homeinstead.com for more information. Take care!

      Reply

  2. March 18, 2016 at 10:13 am | Posted by Mona moyer

    I dif

    Reply

  3. March 18, 2016 at 10:12 am | Posted by Mona moyer

    My husband has Alzheimer's and is facing amputation of one leg I would like to bring him home, but not sure if it the right thing to do. My children are very very supportive, but they have families, lives too.

    Reply

    • March 21, 2016 at 10:22 am | Posted by Georgene Lahm

      It sounds like you are doing the best you can do, Mona. Just being there with him when you can will mean a lot. Take care of yourself.

      Reply

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