Several years ago my brother, my sister and I gradually, without our even realizing it, began taking on small tasks to help make our mother's life a little easier and safer for her. We agreed on most things and were a great team when it came to sharing the responsibilities in helping her. We all lived within a few miles of one another and found these extra tasks very minor and non-intrusive whatsoever in our lives.
At first we took turns tending to her needs. When she needed some extra help with housekeeping, bathing, taking care of her precious companion, her dog, it soon became apparent that it was not safe for her to drive any longer and we had the very difficult task of informing her of this decision. She did not hand her keys over to us and continued to put herself and others at risk, on the road. It was a tremendous battle and athough we eventually "won" we later realized that we robbed her of her independence. We were not aware of how much her heart and her spirit were wounded by this one choice that we had to make. We were alone in making this decision and did not have anyone to guide us in handling this situation in a more educated and well thought-out manner.
Eventually, our mother became bed-bound and needed oxygen at home. We accepted full responsiblity now, of grocery shopping, housecleaning, cooking, laundry, bathing, ordering and managing her medications, scheduling and keeping track of her numerous medical appointments as well as driving her to and attending these appointments, monitoring and ordering her oxygen supplies, paying her bills, tending to her little dog with all of her medical and grooming needs. It became extremely demanding of our time and our energy and we were becoming resentful. We had our own families' needs and wants to consider as well as those of our employers. We had no one else to go to for support or guidance.
Because things were becoming more and more tense for all of us, we decided that we needed some outside help and chose an agency to offer caregiving servies to handle some of the tasks. However, the agency was not reputable and many times the caregiver would not show up. We chose another agency but again there were many days that the caregiver did not show up. We just did not have anyone to provide oversight for us in these areas.
As time went on, we felt that we had no choice but to relocate our mother to an assisted living facility. Our mother had to downsize tremendously and once again, her spirit was so hurt when she had to let go of so many of her treasured possessions, most of all her little dog. If only we had known what to look for when choosing a facility. Although this particular assisted living facility was very good, it was not right for her. We later realized that we would have benefitted tremendously if we had had some guidance.
In time, our mother was taken to our sister's home, to spend her last two days. We were really at a loss now, not knowing what was available to us, to offer our mother as much comfort as possible. Hospice was brought on board but we were completely unfamiliar with their role as well as our own, and emotions were flying high.
All the while, throughout this three year span of caring for our mother, I kept wondering why there wasn't someone, someone to consult with, something out there to guide those caring for their parents, or spouse, or themselves? Why are people left to make decisions on their own (often incorrect decisions) that subject their loved one to trial and error care...care on an experimental level? Why does all of this have to be so stressful? Why does their loved one have to endure receiving less than optimal care?
Since that time I went back to college, earned my BA Degree, minoring in Gerontology. I have worked in this field with two other Geriatric Care Management companies for a total of four years. I look forward to many years of working with this incredible population of seniors and hope to help make their lives and their family's lives full of beautiful and cherished memories. Because now...you won't be alone in making your decisions.