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Caregiving for a Parent

When my mother, who was in her mid-seventies, had to battle pneumonia and shingles in the same year, I knew the time had finally come for my mother to let go of her home in South Carolina and move up here to Charlotte with me. Mom needed assistance with her daily activities, as well as her doctors’ visits.  She wanted the companionship and support of someone to help her overcome a feeling of isolation and depression to one of optimism. As many parents do, my mother resisted help from me as she didn’t want to be a burden in my life. However, when Mom’s doctor informed her that she had cancer my mother finally agreed to come live with me in my new house.

Now with a sense that I had limited time left with my mom, I feverously tried to get my home ready so she would feel welcome and wanted. The first couple of weeks after she arrived it all seemed like a terrible mistake. I realized that not having her in familiar settings and her feeling like a guest in my house was quite an adjustment. So, I decided to involve her in decorating our new home. Mom scrutinized dozens of magazines to help pull together a design theme. Feeling more involved a wonder thing happened; a sparkle came back in her beautiful blue eyes that I had not seen for a long while. I realized being involved in her children’s lives again eased her mind and made her feel needed again.

There are lots of issues that caring for a family member involve. Some examples of this may include getting assistance for your loved so they can continue to live in their own home, moving them to a new residence like an assisted living facility or skilled nursing home, safety concerns, nutritional issues, legal matters, more medical treatments and obtaining proper medical equipment and supplies.

If siblings are involved there can be disagreements amongst each other. One person is likely to feel that they are carrying the load of being the primary caregiver. In most cases it is one person who does most of the caregiving. Other siblings should offer assistance at regular intervals or contribute financially for respite care to give the primary caregiver a break. To make a family members feel secure while they are going through these transitions everyone involved in their care must be willing to accept change both in their loved one life and their own.  Fortunately, my family members supported me with mom’s care and we got through it with minimal anxiety.

Combined with the quality care of a local Hospice organization, the final months of my mother’s life were filled with joy and the loving companionship of all her children. Although this journey of love was at times overwhelming, filled with emotions of sorrow and feelings of being burdened, it was also a journey full of many blessings. My family found peace caring for the one who took care of us. For me, it was a wonderful experience of getting to know my mother again. I learned to appreciate the gifts that she gave to me that I would in turn give to my child.

There are many people today facing the same dilemma of how to care for an aging family member.  For each person the situation is unique. Some of them are caring for a spouse whose health is declining while they are facing their own challenges.  Many are faced with debilitating chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or Heart Conditions.  It takes patience, understanding and stamina to be a caregiver. The journey can be brief or last for years but thousands of us baby boomers have or will be facing this journey.

You don’t have to do this all on your own! There are resources in our community for caregivers and seniors:

  • Senior Centers provide activities and classes for seniors.
  • Elder Law Attorneys help with financial planning.
  • Geriatric Care Consultants help with care planning.
  • Home Health Agencies provide skilled nursing, physical and occupational therapy.
  • Medical Supplies can be prescribed by a physician and then delivered to the home.
  • Non-Medical Home Care Agencies can provide respite to full-time in-home care.
  • Assisted Living Facilities provide specialized memory care for Alzheimer’s and advanced dementia persons.
  • Hospice and Palliative organizations offer end-of-life care.
  • Transportation: You can apply for transportation to a nutrition site, for homebound meal delivery, to a medical facility, or any other location by contacting Mecklenburg Transportation System Referral Line (704-336-3000).

The National Alliance for Caregiving is dedicated to providing support to family caregivers, and to the professionals who help them by increasing public awareness of issues facing family caregivers. Information and resources can be found on the website: www.caregiving.org .

Now when I reflect back on the last months of my mother’s life, I count my blessings. Although I couldn’t prevent Mom from making her final transition, I had the opportunity to give back a tiny portion of the love and support that she so willingly gave me.

Tracy Landrum is CMO of Eldercare Resources Charlotte and the former director of a local homecare agency.

Elder Care Albany

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Elder Care Resources is dedicated to empowering area seniors, their caregivers and healthcare professionals to obtain the knowledge and resources needed to provide quality care for an aging relative, friend or patient.

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