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ELDER CARE: Caring for California's Aging Population : From the Heart: The Joys and Trials of Caring for Dad

May 20, 1990

Fading sun from an overhead skylight lit the kitchen table where Linda sat with a glass of wine.

She says the wine relaxes her. She had spent the day cleaning two houses, doing laundry and yard work and wrestling with a pile of her father's medical bills.

There were tears in her eyes as she talked of how her father's health had declined since her mother's death five years ago after a lengthy bout with leukemia.

Her father, Edwin, 74, lives in a guest house less than 100 feet from the back door of her San Fernando Valley home. He moved into the house last year, reluctantly, after family prodding.

For Linda, 42, the work involved in caring for her father is like a third job--that of care giver--in addition to work in a medical office as nurse and manager and the job of mother and homemaker.

"Caring for a parent is something that comes from the heart out of love and concern," she said. "There is a fullment and sense of inner peace that comes from seeing my father smile or respond to a reassuring touch or hug. It makes me feel good.

"Still, there are times I just have to cry it out when it all gets too much."

Edwin suffers from emphysema, depression and aging.

"I just can't get enough air," he'll say after taking only a few steps.

"It's hard to think, like being in a fog," he'll respond to a question he is unable to answer.

Linda said that when her father retired in 1980, after 30 years with a thermostat manufacturer, he busied himself with gardening.

"Now he will only sit on his porch or stand at his window and look at the garden," she said.

Efforts to involve him in senior activities have been stubbornly refused. "I have everything I need right here," he will say.

She said that concern over her father's failing health spurred visits to several physicians, including an Alzheimer's specialist, but diagnoses are the same: aging and depression compounded by emphysema.

"I'm lucky I'm in the medical field," Linda said. "I have come to understand what it is like to deal with bill-spewing computers while trying to help patients in the office.

"Still, there are times it feels as if I'm being pushed from this responsibility to that. . . . "

Her thought was cut short. Joshua, her 13-year-old son, crashed upon the scene with the announcement that Grandfather's television had just stopped working.

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