Are you feeling alone and stressed in the challenges of caring for an elderly parent? KQED/Forum panel presents solutions.
Yes, it was stressful to care for my 85-year-old mother for the last years of her life, which turned out to be five good (and not-so-good) ones.
Yes, it was also joyful since, upon my arrival, she was still healthy, buoyant and alert—merely falling unpredictably. The fear of what a broken hip would mean to the care I was able to provide scared me, but I should have been more worried about the other cognitive disease beginning to show warning signs—onset dementia would be the way her story would end.
And in the end, it was my privilege to help her through the final stage of her life with dignity, LOVE, and peace between us. Storybook? Hardly.
Initially, what she needed was help around the house. What the house needed was a gut job. The job that awaited for me at this, my childhood home, left my jaw hanging open for the entire five years I spent searching for and sleuthing through eighty-five boxes of financial statements and records that I had collected from under beds and mail tucked into shoeboxes lining bookshelves.
Better to have done the hard labor here myself rather than hire it out from a clean sweep company because I found assets that a stranger would never have recognized.
Yes, managing the health of a senior, and their decades old home is stressful. But you will be grateful you did the work knowing you were able to provide the end of life quality your parent wanted. I was lucky in that my job was not beyond what I could learn—and through some deep breathing exercises—not beyond my stress levels. (I teach 7th grade for a living, so I have had many, many years to practice cool, calm, and collected under pressure!). What if you’re not so lucky?
The pleasure was all mine this week when I appeared on Michael Krasny’s Forum with two other guests providing views on how family caregivers can find support for themselves. These are two more resources I wish I had known about when I took on the role of caring for my elderly mother. For a LIVE listen of the show, here is the podcast KQED/Forum with Michael Krasny.
Here are the support numbers you need if you are feeling alone and stressed in the role of caregiving for a family member.
Family Caregiver Alliance was established to be of support to the relative who is providing the care. If you feel frustrated, tired, or you need a break for the weekend, their counselors and volunteers will come to your aid— Family Caregiver Alliance services.
I was so tired. It never occurred to me that caring for a plus-one exponentially compounds your busy-ness not by 2, but what feels more like 200! Let’s say all you need is someone to take Mom to another doctor appointment, the kind you might not be required to attend, but how will she get there without you because she doesn’t drive? Make this call to Family Caregiver Alliance.
Maybe all you need is someone to do meal prep, laundry, and clean the house while you lay sick in bed with the flu. Make this call. Their time is free to the family caregiver, graciously funded through a foundational grant.
If, indeed, you have the worst suspicions about the lack of care a senior is receiving in their own home because they are being subjected to cruelty, hostility by a family member who is not cut out for the role of “loving, patient caregiver” then there is another number to call. This one is for APS, not unlike CPS, this is for Adults who are being abused verbally, financially, sexually, or allowed to live in their filth and waste, or being denied their medications. This is not the time when you should hesitate.
We advocate for our children. We need to advocate for the care of our seniors as well— Adult Protective Services contact. Hopefully, you will never come across a reason to make this call. But, surprisingly, violence and abuse against elders mostly occurs from the family caregiver in charge of their well-being. Statistics are staggering. The job is daunting. If you have bitten off more than you can chew, or the health of a parent or loved one has declined beyond what is manageable, there is no shame in saying this role is bigger than me. Get support. Make the call.
Finally, there were two listeners whose stories still resonate with me.
Amanda, was trying to figure out how she could give the best care for her father who sustained a traumatic brain injury. She was hoping to keep him at home where he wanted to be, but the scope of all the care required was beyond her skill set. Family Caregiver Alliance can counsel her about options available in her area. She can continue guilt-free knowing she did everything she could—the best help she can provide now is changing to a professional care facility.
The last listener sent an email—a dramatic and very sad, yet common theme—read just as the show was wrapping up.
Charlie wrote that he cared for his mother even when his siblings were cruel to him and not present for her. He misses his mother very much and the loss of relationship with his siblings compounds his grief.
I so wanted to empathize with Charlie, but alas, the show was over. Charlie, please know you are not alone. Many families suffer the unraveling when death and money are at play—even families that do not have fractured dynamics to begin with.
Email me if I can be of any support. My condolences to you. Grief takes the time it takes to heal—and hospices nurses say it takes even longer for the one who was on the front lines in their caregiving role.