Caregivers: Know Thyself
We work with 100%. That’s all we have. It’s the most we can give. It can’t be stretched—be it a 24-hour day or our energy.
If we understand what’s required of us and are pretty good at organizing, we can thoughtfully work out and adopt a routine–a balance–that integrates with the other parts of our life.
But what do we do when, as often happens over time, part of the equation changes? If it requires more of us, do we give more? Then do we give less to the remaining part of our life?
Simply put: we learned in high school math, how to balance an equation. Can we make that happen in our life?
Being caregivers for aging parents requires adjustments on our part as their needs change. When our responsibilities mount and more time is required, ideally we make commensurate changes in other parts of our life…
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Check lists always help keep me on covered, particularly during stressful times.
Checklists for: Aging Parents’ Legal, Financial, Health, PINs and Passwords etc. Where to find–ie. Valuables, Important Contacts, Housing, Respite
I’ve combined my September 3, 2010 checklist with several others, updated yearly, and deleted redundancies to produce the most comprehensive list I can.
To begin–a must: Know where legal documents are kept: power of attorney, health care proxy, living will and will. I give this no numerical # because having this information will save endless time and frustration as our parents age….it really is a must.
Also know: hospitals, for example, accept faxes of power of attorney and health care proxies so it’s wise to have extra copies handy in case of a health–or other– emergency. Sr. Advisor RHW, Esq. says parents, as well as their lawyer, should have these documents, if you’re unable to find them.
I was a far-away-living child so my parents’ documents were emailed…
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I have been knee-deep in getting my act together online. Sadly, this has taken me away from the one thing I truly love to do…write this blog! If, however, I am to keep my ship afloat, I have to at least try to live in the real world! So here’s what’s going on.
I am gradually moving this blog to my website of the same name: AgingAbundantly.com. As I may have mentioned in a previous post, there is no easy way for me to do this. So I ask your indulgence and cooperation. If you would like to continue to stay connected with me and with Aging Abundantly (and I hope you will!), please navigate to the website and register. I have great new things in the works that I’m pretty sure you’ll find interesting and/or helpful. Once you have registered you will be notified when a new…
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This is a post that first appeared on Laura Klein’s blog Edgy June Cleaver
I’m in San Antonio this week. I wish I were touring the Alamo and the missions, walking along the River, sampling BBQ at a Dive, Diner Drive-in type of place, dancing at a fiesta, or savoring a puffy taco at Los Barrios Mexican restaurant almost around the corner from the house my family lived in when I was born. It’s so pretty and green here now that the drought is over; it would be nice to take the drive me and Dad took last October when we went to the place I almost grew up. I would give just about anything to take another ride with him. Instead, I sit at his bedside, and direct him to leave his lines, oxygen and monitor leads alone; gently reminding him he is in the hospital and very ill.
I’m spending time with Dad but it’s at his bedside in a hospital. It’s weird being on the other side of the bed. This is the seventh time I’ve done this and it’s probably the second hardest (Beav in the Neonatal ICU was the hardest). It’s not just watching Dad as he succumbs to (my worst nightmare for a patient) a hospital induced delirium but it’s watching my fellow nurses struggle with a crumbling system and too many patients with overwhelming medical problems. I want to put on a pair of scrubs and help them tend to these souls because what this hospital is asking of these dedicated professionals–the patient nurse ratio–is criminal.
When I catch myself becoming angry about the situation on this unit I stop and breathe a minute in an effort to assess if this ire is an expression of my sadness over my father’s decline as he moves closer to the inevitable end of his life; or am I truly disgusted over this particular hospital’s blindness as they fail their extremely competent and compassionate nurses. They are burning out every single one of these strong, vital, smart and caring professionals. It’s shameful. It’s easy to lose myself to anger at something completely outside of my sphere rather than succumb to a well of grief which is like an early spring brook when you watch the fast current flowing and swirling just under a thin shield of ice.
I’m sure my steps must think I am cold and uncaring because I haven’t cried. I rarely cry about big things. I cry about the little things, always fully aware it’s the big things I’m really crying about when the Kleenex commercial tunes me up. But it’s not time to cry; I must do now. I must do all I can to help my father with his illness and help my loving step family understand what all this jargon that is my second language means and help translate it for them. I’ve known this language for over half my life. I can’t imagine how lost they must feel. It must be akin to people trying to talk math or mechanics or physics to me; but math, mechanics and physics don’t represent or explain the suffering of a loved one. I’m blessed to have this second language.
I’m equally blessed to have this step family. Sister and myself couldn’t do this alone. I’m morbidly thankful my own mother isn’t alive to shoulder these responsibilities. I don’t think she was strong enough. My stepmother is strong enough and unfortunately she has been through this with her own parents, a husband, and even a daughter. I wish this weren’t happening to her again. Not just because she is once again tending a sick bed as my father lays helpless but because they deserve a longer time together.
Yesterday as I was preparing to return for my night shift at Dad’s bedside, I noticed a picture of my dad I hadn’t seen before. He is wearing a flashy Hawaiian shirt and it was taken either just before or after they married a few years ago. I don’t think I had ever seen him with such a fully happy smile. He was too busy and serious raising us, giving us everything he didn’t have…blah blah…upper middle class dream…to be so resplendently happy. He has reason to be this happy now. I just hope his body lets him have a few more years of this joy and contentment.
My mother’s hands are the most beautiful hands in the world. Although they could never be confused with a hand model. You see, they are short, knobby, and rough. Her hand’s are that of a working woman. My mother’s hands show a lifetime of living and loving. Some people’s’ lives show in their faces.
My mother worked as a Nurses Aide for more than 18 years. She helped the elderly and invalid. My mother helped them bathe, washed their hair and brushed it, helped them dress. She did things that some would find degrading. She wouldn’t tell you she gave them some of their dignity back while taking care of them. That’s just how she is. She deeply cared about her patients, some of them were even like family. She has a caring heart and willing hands. She is always the first to offer help.
My mother’s hands are the most beautiful hands. Her hands have rocked me to sleep at night. Held me when I cried. Nursed me back to health. Caressed my hair and tickled my back. My mother’s hands were the first to touch my swollen belly and feel my son kicking for joy. My mother’s hands were the first to hold my newborn son. I still hold my mother’s hands and I feel how rough and calloused they are. Her hands bring me comfort.
My mom would tell you her hands are ugly because they are rough and calloused and short and knobby. The very reasons she would tell you they are ugly are the reasons I find them so beautiful. In her hands you can see her life. The hard-working nurses aide who washed her hands a zillion times or more. The mother and grandmother who has caressed with love the faces of her family. The friend who has held your hand through tough nights and during joy filled days. In my mother’s hands you can see the lifetime of living and loving she has experienced. My mother’s hands are truly the most beautiful hands in the world, at least to me her daughter.
~Lovingly written by Amber Westholder
I’m spending Mother’s Day with Mom, sitting beside her hospital bed. Three days ago she fell and broke her upper thigh bone, only a few short weeks after we moved her into the one room assisted living wing of the retirement community. She is frail and suffers mild dementia. Miraculously she has survived surgery, unlike my father who broke the same exact bone seven years ago only to die two hours after surgery.
For four days now I have been here, beside her, as she clings to life. I drip water into her mouth, moisturize her lips, and keep her oxygen tube in place. When she is alert enough to talk I laugh at the silly things she says. When she cries out in pain, I cry with her.
I am so grateful for my mother. As much as her contrary, mysterious ways have agitated and annoyed me over the years, I am a better person because she loved me…and loved life. As I gaze upon her ninety pound, five foot frame, I wonder how such a little woman could have had such a huge influence on me all these years.
Each day she takes one step forward and one step back in her recovery, the emotional roller coaster taking its toll on all of us.
As I prepare to leave her side and ready myself to return to home to North Carolina for a few days, I pass the torch to my sister. We hug goodbye, each silently struggling with “what’s next?”
It’s hard not to wonder why Mom has to suffer so much at this point in her life. There is no happy outcome. And yet, we have to move forward and make each decision as if she will recover.
But what does recovery look like for a woman of 97? She could barely walk before she fell, her bones soft, the pins uncertain – there cannot possibly be enough of a recovery for her to walk again. Or can there? We want to make the right choices in deciding her care. But what is the right choice? Should we minimize her suffering and not worry about rehabilitation? Or is that giving up? If we persist and act proactively could she have several years ahead of her? Or is it time?
In reality, it’s not our decision. It’s hers and it’s God’s – we can only walk beside her and hold her hand. She will do what she will do and we will love her to the end. We will take each step as if she will live forever, providing all the medical benefits available. She has not yet given up, so neither will we.
(Excerpt from “Caring for Mom”)