Dirty Laundry: Taking care of fathers complicates family roles

Aisha Sultan

Amy Goyer left her home in Washington two years ago to care for her aging parents in Phoenix. Her mother had suffered a stroke two decades earlier, and her father was beginning to show signs of dementia.

Goyer works at AARP as a family expert and has walked hundreds of caregivers through this same process. But even for her, the shifting familial roles have brought challenges and unexpected emotions.

Her parents’ house had always been her safe place, like childhood homes are for so many adults who move away for education and work and build their lives elsewhere. It was where she went to be taken care of by the people from whom it comes most instinctively. Now, she handles their doctors’ appointments, keeps a journal of their medications and instructions, manages their finances and makes sure their daily needs are met.

Her father is 87, and her mother is 84. Goyer’s goal is to keep them living in their home, as independently as possible, for as long as possible.

“I didn’t expect how difficult it would be letting go of a piece of who they were,” she said. “There is a loss of who they were to you. It is a loss of the world as it was,” she said.

For daughters, it can be especially startling to see a father fade —