This year, I realized how thankful I am for the thousands of individuals that have been reading this blog. It has become my own digital caregiving support group. I would like to try to share the power of the support network with all of the readers. If you have a question, please send it to me at Kay @ MemoryBanc . com and I will post it to the blog for other readers to weigh in.
Since it’s Thanksgiving, and we are moving into the time of year where we spend a lot more time with family. You may be noticing new issues and want a place to turn to ask a question or three.
The feedback and suggestions I get through this blog and the other social media postings are invaluable to me. Keep them coming … and I hope you will consider using what you’ve learned to help the dozens of new individuals who are just starting on this journey.
I will post questions anonymously, and hope you all will take the time to share your thoughts, give some words of encouragement, and even consider asking a question. Thankful.
Several of my students were widows with grown children, and during the class, they approached me to ask about services that could help them manage if they needed support. They didn’t want to burden their children, and the isolation felt behind that simple question hurt. I know my Mom felt the same way, yet I believe most children would prefer to have this discussion with their parent rather than struggle through the issues my family faced (visit the first post on this blog if you are unfamiliar with our challenges in caring for two parents with dementia). I can imagine the hurt I would have felt had my Mom hired someone and not discussed her choice with me or one of my siblings.
While we have just celebrated Mother’s Day, I hope those of you in great health with vibrate families will consider celebrating your mom with the ultimate gift — your time. When you need this information is always a bad time to start the discussion. Every day is a good opportunity to let your mom or dad know that you are there and would like to help SHOULD they ever need it.
Good times to raise your offer include:
When they ask you to be their executor or share their estate planning documents with you. Let them know you are honored to be asked and request that they schedule some time to sit with you to share the information you would need to fulfill this role.
When something has happened to a family friend. These are the best times to warmly ask how your parent might want you to help if your family was faced with a similar situation.
At family gatherings when you are all sitting around a table. You can ask open questions like “Have you noticed any changes or had to give up things you love since you have gotten older?” Once you find an opening to the discussion in a positive light, you should be able to build on that discussion.
If a parent has cognitive impairment, there may never be a good time. It could be that they don’t remember much of the information and are afraid to share it with you. In this case, you will have to work on finding mailings and checking files to collect the information. A cell phone with a camera can be an easy way to gather information without mom or dad feeling like you are sneaking around and taking their papers.
In general, you will need to be patient, take it slow and look for windows of opportunity to raise these issues.
My siblings are wonderful. I know from many of you that I’m lucky to have engaged siblings who will and can help. As we rolled into Christmas, my siblings came to town to visit with my Mom so I could spend time with my husband’s family who would be visiting us.
Initially, I still got a few calls from Mom when she was confused by a call and didn’t know how to reach my brother or sister, but for nearly three days, I did not get one phone call. On the third day — I started to ignore my mobile phone (it was Christmas Day) since my kids and husband were all with me and I knew my Mom was in the company of my sister. As soon as my sister’s flight left, the calls began.
I believe my Mom calls me when she is lonely, which only reignites concern over her well-being. I’m thankful she is in an Assisted Living facility, but can’t imagine anyone being in one without a family that visits, calls or advocates for their loved one. The fact that she is already in a place prepared to support her and that it is one she choose makes my caregiver duties much lighter, but it does add a level of complication. There are things that happen that we learn of second-hand, can’t control and don’t like.
However, I recognize the toll of my constant concern as the only local family member as well as the guilt that I’m not visiting her daily are taking on me and know that I need to give myself more breaks. I can’t make up for my Mom’s lack of short-term memory by calling more, I can’t feel guilty that I don’t visit more, but I can love her and be mindful of her needs.
One of the best tools I found to manage was using Google Calendar for my family scheduling. When I started to feel overwhelmed by raising my children well, caring for my parents and work, I worked with a life coach. She helped me develop my priority system. I use that to determine what goes on my schedule and review it quarterly to ensure I’m not neglecting key elements of my life. My husband and children all use the calendar to stay in synch. It works well for us.
A change in the routine of life can be eye-opening. Helping my Mom is such a daily part of my life, I didn’t recognize until I stepped away for a few days how much mental time I spent on the topic. It was nice to have the mental break. Recognized.