Dear Gentle Reader,
I imagine you are holding this book today for one of two reasons. Either you have been ignoring that nagging question of what will happen when Mom or Dad can no longer care for themselves. Or you are already at the front of it, or in the middle of it with one or both of your parents. If you have no idea what to expect, this is the book you need now. The guideposts herein will prepare you for what’s ahead. They are the nine realities every adult child should expect when coming home to care for an elderly parent until the very end.
If you are at the front, I am so sorry for the pain you are experiencing now and the pain and fear your beloved parent is experiencing too. I am just so sorry. It is quite unnatural for humans to be made to look on while the person you love, who always fixed things for you as a child, is looking at you now helplessly waiting as his or her life unravels.
This will be a gut-wrenching experience for you. I was in your shoes, but I didn’t know it. I only knew my mom was falling a lot, but she always managed to pick herself up, dust herself off, and keep her sense of humor intact. We were not on speaking terms when I got her phone call asking if I would come for a visit. I hadn’t seen her in several years, but by the time I finished that first weekend at her house, I knew she could no longer be alone and that I would be the one to fulfill her wish that she die in her own home whenever the time came.
My mind began racing with questions: How will I purge a home filled with decades of clutter while preserving childhood memories? How can I make her money last, and where are all of her assets? What is this filing system of hers that keeps mail tucked under beds and stuffed into shoeboxes on shelves? What legal documents are still not in place? Is she simply being forgetful, or are we dealing with the warning signs of something worse? What are her wishes to be carried out after her death? What will make her happiest today?
And much later I would be asking other questions. How can I make her comfortable? How much time do we have? How can I possibly say goodbye?
I wish someone had prepared me for what I experienced in this undertaking. I would have still said yes to the job, but I would have had a better idea of what the job entailed. Nobody says yes to firefighting, or nursing, or the FBI, or the army without asking a few questions upfront about what a typical day at work is like. Yes, it was stressful. Yes, it was also joyful. Yes, it was scary, and hard– absolutely the hardest bullet point I can now list under “work experience” on my resume. Yes, it was my privilege. Yes, I did it because I knew no one else could or would, and because I believed my father would have wanted to know his beloved wife of fifty-four years was not going to have to go it alone.
At the time, I had only the capacity of mind to imagine my mother and I would have fun every day until she would go to sleep one night with a smile on her face and simply not wake up the next morning. I could not conceive of it any other way. She was mobile, and alert, and I had never known her to be sick or hospitalized in my forty years. Within five years of my arrival home, she would die at my side.
Now that you are ready to go through it and you want a look–a gritty look–at the realities of caring for an elderly parent, this book will help you. Its nine chapters deal with the early topics like how to keep your parent safe in their own home to middle chapters revolving around waiting for death and the important role bowel movements and bedsores will play in the end. The final third of the book deals with the aftermath, including funeral arrangements that are predesigned, and managing as the executor trustee of the estate. Grief counseling for the adult orphan is the last chapter.
Designed to be an indispensable guide for all decision makers in your family, consider sharing this book with them so you will all be on the same page.
A wise man once told me this would be a thankless job. No truer words were spoken.
Email me if you need moral support.
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