In the pursuit to do the sensible thing, I have bitten off a lot more than I expected.
In the journey to assist my aging parents, I quickly realized that I am no longer the assistant but the sole caregiver of their every simple to important needs.
Before my parents accepted my offer to move closer to me, I assumed they were managing their finances, health, medical and day-to-day life fine. I assumed they may need occasional ‘let me help you’ services from me. However, the reality of life is, when you are around people daily, you start to see everything clearly. They needed much more.
ASSISTANT TO CAREGIVER
I am concerned
It did not take me too long to see that my ‘independent’ parents were not really efficiently independent and they need more than meets the eye – expired medications, neglected bills, mental cloudiness, nutritional and medical concerns.
History: When my parents finally made the decision to move from their residence and state in which they lived for over 20 years, siblings questioned whether that was the right thing.
To be honest, they had good reasons to be concerned; however, the siblings did not see the tiny cracks that I had noticed. Even though it has been a few weeks since their crazy and stressful transition (many people are not aware of the behind the scenes running around and phone calls I had to do over a four month period), those micro-cracks are showing gaping craters.
In short, my parents need more help and monitoring than what they were getting or doing. However, people tend to hide their deficits so well which convince others that things are ‘alright’ or ‘going somewhat smoothly.’
Frankly, I do not think my parents recognize that things are really not ‘alright.’ In the last month, I have been running two households and mine is slowly falling into neglect.
I am not shy to talk about my additional stress coming from the new caregiver role. While I don’t announce it to the world (except here on my blog 🙂 , I share with friends and family.
I have no intentions to pretend that everything is great and under control because that is stupid and damaging.
While 1-2 people offer to help, I am appreciative but realistic in knowing that some things have to be done by me. However, I am open to invitations to social activities which help as an escape.
I was given compliments for becoming my parents’ caregiver which I am very reticent to accept. I grew up in a family and at the time, a culture that took care of their elderly (there were no old folks homes – it’s either family care or neglect). My mother and aunt cared for my grandparents until their death. I saw this an expectation since I was a child.
Someone pointed out that I was the youngest of all the siblings. In my simple mind, youngest, middle or oldest birth order does not matter in the care of your parents.
Does anyone ever compliment a parent for taking care of a special needs adult child/ren or a wo/man caring for a disabled spouse? Then how is it such a novelty to care for your aging parents? After all, if you had a decent relationship with your parents, then is it such a stretch to believe that you are obligated for their care?
As they become first priority during this long transition, I become last.
*I joked that I leave my first job to go to my second job.
*I have left clothes in my dryer for a week because the only energy left is to go to bed.
*I have loss a little body fat (which I have been trying to lose- a negative that is a positive)
*My regular routines are very irregular
*I was ordering lunch and dinner because I did not have time to cook
*My weekly exercise routine had gaping holds in the schedule
*I felt tired all the time
*I was not keeping up with regular friends because I got home too late to talk. I was neglecting my friendships but they understood when explained the situation.
*I had put off weekend excursions because things needed to get done for them
*I wasn’t going on dates anymore (oh wait! that’s normal 🙂 )
LEARNING AS I GO
1. After making phone calls to the same places 3-4x, I am learning the lingo and the questions to ask in order to get them their care
2. I am systematically dropping the burden of things and people who serve no purpose to me.
3. The importance to maintain connections with the friends and family who provide emotional support.
4. Avoid becoming too absorbed into my stuff and shutting out others who also need my support. Making sure my conversations are not all about me. “So tell me what’s going with…”
5. Setting boundaries with my parents and taking time off for me.
6. Finding efficient professional help who will take over day to day things such as monitoring their meds, home care, and escorting them to drs’ appointments.
7. Prayer often and praise & worship music. Some mornings as I get ready for work, my brain is so busy that I need music to calm the overactive planning and worrying beast.
8. Continue to do. Sure some plans may have to change but not deleted just delayed.
9. Don’t lose my sense of self and humour.
For you caregivers, any words of wisdom or resources?