In my November 18th post: The Plan, Katie’s Story Part Six, I recounted that when Sam decided to pursue the idea of bringing Katie home I e-mailed the social services director at Aging with the request that she facilitate the agency process. She told me that she was retiring in a few months, and that the nurse (who I really wanted to do the assessment) was leaving the agency in a couple of weeks, but that she would do what she could to help. Because she followed through with her commitment and got the ball rolling at the agency, everything fell into place as I have reported throughout Katie’s Story.
I recently invited this lady to join me for a visit to see Katie. I wanted her to be able to witness how “The Plan” was working (which none of us expected to come to fruition) and how her efforts contributed to the dramatic improvement in Katie’s living condition and outlook on life. She was duly impressed.
I’m betting that what she saw will be a highlight for her whenever she thinks about those last days winding up her career.
At the top of my TO DO list I have added:
Well, Katie may have had the date wrong—but the concept was right. KATIE IS GOING HOME on Monday, December 15th.
The Provider met with the nursing home staff this week to compile a specific and detailed plan for Katie’s care. I was invited to attend the meeting, and I asked Judene to accompany me because she always provides good perspective and moral support.
When Judene and I arrived, it was immediately evident that KATIE IS EMERGING!
When the Provider began checking down the list–
- The medical bed, air mattress and Hoyer lift will be delivered Friday.
- The Home Health Agency will start on Tuesday. They will provide a nurse and therapists.
- Your caregiver, “Gloria” is very anxious to get started. She is moving in on Friday.
Katie began slapping her leg. “This is how I clap,” she said. And we all clapped with her.
We talked about meals: Gloria cooks very healthy food. What do you like for breakfast?
We talked about treatment and therapy: Gloria can tend to your wounds. She can help you with your stretching exercises.
We talked about visitors: Gloria will be glad to have your church group over to sing hymns.
Everyone is doing what they can to facilitate the transition home and to make the plan work.
- Katie is required to see her family doctor within 5 days—he has offered to make a house call.
- Sam purchased a wheelchair van at auction. It will provide her with more opportunities–many, many more.
- Family and friends have made commitments of support.
Sam and Katie’s home will be hectic for a while. But I believe the plan will succeed because…
I often hear caregivers express different perspectives about their own children’s involvement in the caregiving situation. If we are embroiled in a difficult experience, of course we don’t want a like-burden for our kids. But is it really a good idea to shelter them from all responsibility?
As I said in What to Do about Mama? “Baby boomers are on the precipice—getting ready to fall off and land firmly on the backs of our children’s generation. And they are so young! They are, after all, our children!” (WTDAM p.1)
I think I can safely say that none of us wants to be our children’s
Some folks see caring for parents as a given:
- “I’m not really sure what I thought about caregiving in the beginning other than it was what needed to be done, and as their children, this is what we do for our parents.” (WTDAM p.86)
But, in spite of any stated “willingness” to assume caregiving responsibilities, we are resolute in our desire to not saddle our own children with like-obligation.
- “I know I don’t want the roles to be reversed and hope I never to get to that point.” (WTDAM p. 115)
- “Given my experiences, I just hope I will have saved enough money so I can hire help, too, should the need arise. I certainly don’t want my kids to end up with this much responsibility for my later care.” (WTDAM p.120)
- “We want to minimize the impact on our daughter, who is five hours away with a very busy young family.” (WTDAM p.187)
Yet others point out their perception that caregiving was a positive example for their children, expressing the hope that the experience would contribute to their children’s personal growth.
- “I feel it taught my children many valuable lessons as well.” (WTDAM p.57)
- “I think it was wonderful for my two children to witness how we cared for their grandmother. We always gave her respect and showed gratitude for all that she had done for us. She needed us, and we were there for her. Although my children (young adults) were involved in the process, I probably would have involved them even more.” (WTDAM p.196)
Some were pleased with the contributions their children made.
- “Each of our adult children had an area in which they were able to offer help and advice; each offered to do what he or she could do from a distance. Our family has drawn together as we helped each other through this.” (WTDAM p.146)
Others were not.
- “I was disappointed that my children did not develop a more loving relationship with their grandmother.” (WTDAM p.171)
- “My family had difficulty coping with the time I spent on my mother’s demands. They felt resentful at times. My children have their own lives now; they support me, but not my mom; they visit only at my request.” (WTDAM p. 219)
Some children expressed gratefulness to their parents for taking care of their grandparents.
- “I know from a personal perspective (and one of NOT being a full-time caregiver) that I enjoyed having my grandparents living with my mom. I didn’t worry about them being alone or having to care for themselves as they got older. Plus, it was enjoyable for me having the whole family together under one roof when I visited. As far as my grandparents were concerned, it was a very pleasant experience for me.” (WTDAM p. 139)
- “My daughter said, ‘Thank you, Mom, for taking care of my Grandma and being such a good example for me.’” (WTDAM p. 28)
In my own caregiving experience the greatest amount of support that we received for immediate and unplanned caregiving needs was from our son and two daughters. They involved their grandmother in all their family functions, brought their children frequently for visits, picked her up from the senior center when needed so that I could attend support group, and sometimes either visited or took her to their homes when we had no other coverage. The girls sometimes shopped for her when she needed clothing items or OTC medication, and returned and exchanged the items if they weren’t “exactly” right. Their support for their grandmother went well beyond what we had expected.
It fulfills me to know that my husband and I were good role models for our grown children. Keeping their interest in mind, I saw caregiving as an opportunity for a “teaching moment,” (well, actually more than a moment), where they would learn and internalize the real meaning of family commitment (and never did our children disappoint).”
We are glad that our grandchildren were able to know and love their great grandma, and that we gave my husband’s mother the gift of our children and grandchildren. We are proud of the love, support, and appreciation they showed her.
- “Most importantly, at least from my perspective, was that she was central to the active life we were blessed to have with our family—three of her grandchildren and eight of her great grandchildren. She was always concerned about whether the little ones would remember her after she died. A short while ago the oldest said to me proudly, ‘I was the last great grandchild to talk to Great Grandma.’ She would be pleased.” p. 206
So, no matter the perspective, ultimately our children will experience pain related to our decline and our passing. They will discover that they cannot control the process of dying. And although we cannot, nor should we, protect them from the responsibility that lies before them, maybe we can at least prepare well enough that their road will be a little smoother to travel than ours has been.
An interview with the authors of “What to Do about Mama?: A Guide to Caring for Aging Family Members”Posted: May 30, 2014
In response to Joy Johnson’s post (See below): 5 required skills for the toughest job in the world / LinkedIn
I was primary caregiver for my mother-in-law. After my responsibility ended, I wrote a book about caregiving: “What to Do about Mama?” by Barbara G. Matthews and Barbara Trainin Blank. As stated in Chapter Ten:
We are addressing here the characteristics and abilities of a good caregiver, under the premise that if you are a caregiver, these are qualities you may well already embody. And, if indeed, you feel you are lacking in some of them, we recommend that you work on developing them. They are attributes that not only facilitate performing your caregiving responsibilities but also can potentially enrich all your relationships.
1. Love, care, and compassion: First of all, and perhaps most importantly, caregivers have the ability to love, to care, and to have compassion. If you lacked these qualities, you probably wouldn’t be in the position of caregiving.
2. Commitment to family: Beyond the ability to love, caregivers have a strong commitment to family—and that family may include not only the nuclear family, but also extended family and in-laws.
3. Problem-solving: It’s important to know how to identify a problem, consider solutions, develop a plan of action, and put that plan into practice with determination and a “can-do” attitude. If they don’t have the knowledge needed, caregivers do not hesitate to research and discover how to solve problems.
4. Application of knowledge and skills: Caregivers often have a good base of knowledge from their professional or volunteer experiences in various caregiving or human services fields. Caregivers use what they know or learn to be better caregivers. They secure needed goods and services and advocate with healthcare professionals and institutions.
5. Strong work ethic: Caregivers wear many hats in executing their caregiving duties. They accomplish this vast array of tasks by being focused, consistent, and willing to carry through with their commitments.
6. Understand how much they can handle. Look beyond the current situation and anticipate how the demands of caregiving will increase as the care receiver becomes more debilitated. Make sure you consider your ability to handle future burdens. Caregivers must know how to set boundaries and request support whenever they find they are unable to deal with a situation or challenge on their own.
7. Effective communication. Caregivers communicate honestly and openly with all who are involved in the caregiving arrangement.
8. Ability to empower and facilitate. Caregivers respect the care receiver’s abilities and encourage independence. They provide the support needed for the care receiver to participate in life activities as fully as possible.
I’ve been writing some articles on the LinkedIn platform. When I was brainstorming content ideas, it struck me how many common workplace skills are needed when serving as a family caregiver. Of course, there are many more new skills that you will be required to learn on the fly! In my LinkedIn piece, I highlight five skills I found invaluable while serving as a family caregiver and patient advocate.
You can check out my piece here:
What skills do you find most helpful as you carry out your caregiving duties? What new skills were the most difficult to learn in order to be a successful caregiver?