By RUTH SANDERS
Most of my adult life, I have been visiting friends, family and associates in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. I learned early that God had a calling on my life. I never knew the journey would involve becoming a caregiver to my mother.
God allows us to encounter problems so we can share our story and help others. “Who comforteth us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God,” 2 Corinthians 1:4.
Caregiving is a rewarding but challenging journey. The journey can happen to an individual at any stage of his or her life. The most important thing is to make sure that you have discussed this topic with your spouse, parents, siblings and friends.
The journey of caregiving is filled with many decisions, which are made easier if you know the wishes of your care recipient. You will need to discuss many things: an advance directive, last will and testament, and power of attorney. Does your loved one want to donate their organs, or not; stay in their home, or relocate to an assisted living or long-term facility? I discussed these issues with my mother when she was cognitively intact. These conversations are never easy but are necessary.
We all have heard of the generation gap. My mother was from the Silent Generation, or what is also called the traditionalists. I am what is called a Baby Boomer. I had to accept that my mother and I had a communication problem.
Also, I still had children at home when I first started my caregiving journey with my mother. I was still working full time, going to graduate school and carrying on with my life. I came across a word that described me perfectly: sandwich. I thought about that and had to smile. Yes, I felt like a sandwich (caught in the middle). I had to be available to take my mother to her medical appointments, shop for groceries and clothes, make sure her bills were paid, and balance her checkbook. Also, my journey with my mother started when she was in one city and I was in another. The 90-mile back-and-forth trips lasted for more than a decade.
I retired from the Department of Defense in 2005 after working as a clinical registered nurse. I thought I would have more time to spend with my family and my mother. My goal was to help alleviate some of the stress in my life. However, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast where I lived in 2005. We decided in 2006 to move. If you have ever moved, you know that moving is extremely stressful. My stress level was off the charts.
I also could see that my mother was showing changes in her health. She was 90 in 2005 and was living in an apartment. She required more help. I called her several times a day. I reminded her to take her medications and made sure she was OK. I had to hire someone to deliver her lunch and dinner. She was able to prepare her own breakfast. I was never really able to relax. I was on pins and needles thinking she might fall, and I wanted her to wear a necklace that would alert me if she fell. She refused to comply with my request. I realized there were boundaries I could not breach with my mother, but as a nurse, I knew she should have worn the necklace for safety.
In October 2006, our lives changed. My husband and I had just moved in August. I had no idea that in two months I would be moving my mother in with us. She fell one day, and I had to travel two hours to get her off the floor. I thank God she was not seriously injured. I had to “care-proof” my house. I had to make sure I had grab bars in the shower, grab bars near the commode, an elevated toilet seat, and no “throw rugs.”
Caregiving is very demanding. Through all this, I learned many lessons on my journey:
◼ Learn to prioritize tasks.
◼ Not all things can be accomplished in a single day.
◼ Encourage family members to assist in your loved one’s care, and accept help from church members.
◼ Join caregiver support groups.
◼ Take care of yourself.
◼ Get rid of the guilt.
Ruth Sanders is the wife of Bill Sanders and the mother of two adult children. She has over four decades of experience as a professional nurse, has an advanced degree in adult health, and is the author of several books and many professional articles. Her book “My Parent, My Child: Love Conquers All” is available at AuthorHouse.com or on Amazon.