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 Living Legacies

Lately, I have been writing a lot about loss:  two weeks ago, about the second anniversary of the loss of a young lady who was extremely important to me, from an accident involving a distracted driver; last week about my friend’s recent suicide; and today, it would be quite easy to continue the conversation about loss since this marks the 20th anniversary of my dad’s passing. Yet, I do not want to talk about loss or sadness today. There is enough of that to go around for all of us.

Today, I want to talk about the impact Dad still has on me and my family. Although I miss him each and every day, I am comforted by still being able to hear his voice in my head. Sometimes, when I hear myself repeat words he had said to me so many times during my life, I smile. I am pleasantly surprised at the times when I look in the mirror and recognize his features on my own face. I think he would be proud of his granddaughters, both of whom are excelling as people and in their chosen fields. And, although he passed three years before the first issue of Today’s Caregiver magazine rolled off the presses, I know he would be delighted to see that his family is working together in a business that came about due to watching how lovingly my mom cared for him and my grandparents into their final days.

Twenty years ago tonight, Dad was in the hospital due to complications from his advanced multiple myeloma. That evening was particularly rough as he slipped in and out of consciousness, talking of events and times long past as if he were living through them once again. My mom and I grew concerned as he began to shake rapidly, but were repeatedly assured that “this was normal” by the nurse on duty as she dodged our requests to call his doctor.  She would come in and give him a shot, ignoring our concerns, and then return to her desk down the hall. Shortly after one of these perfunctory medical administrations, his shaking grew uncontrollable and the nurse suddenly ran back into his room with a crash team on her heels. Before long, she returned to tell us that Dad had not survived their efforts to revive him.

Our family review of that evening convinced us of two things. One, that in any medical expert’s opinion, no one could have expected any different outcome in his case. Two, while the outcome could not have been changed, I truly believe that if our concerns had been taken more seriously, his last evening would have been more comfortable for him and more compassionate for us.

Many years have gone by since that evening in a South Florida hospital and I know that there is now a greater understanding within the healthcare system of the valuable role that family caregivers play on their loved one’s healthcare team. Yet, more can still be done by all. We caregivers need to learn to exercise our rights as our loved one’s advocates, and the professional members of their care team must learn to take advantage of our expertise in caring for our loved ones who are also their patients.

If our efforts are playing any role in the increased support for family caregivers within the healthcare system, I know that Dad would consider that to also be a great legacy.

Robert M. Barg
May 12, 1929 – October 4, 1991

Actually, knowing how outgoing Dad was, he would have loved to hear stories about caring for your own dad.

My caring for Dad story

Gary Barg

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