emotional toll of downsizing my elderly mom

photoAssessing an aging parent’s most treasured possessions: Our family is in the process of the ultimate (and probably the last) downsize – moving my mom into a nursing home. Over the last four years, we have consolidated my parent’s possessions two other times: first, when we moved them from their town home to independent living and then from independent to assisted. They left most of the decision making up to me as to what was going with them, with the exception of a few key items that included my Mom’s curio cabinet full of collectibles. In the interim, my Dad has passed away, so there are some small reminders that she treasures like his bathrobe and slippers.

Currently, I am in an emotional knot! I am completely distraught with the responsibilty of moving my mother into a tiny space. WHAT CAN SHE BRING? There are two facets to this question, pragmatic and emotional. As I have mentioned, there is only one item in question. My mother’s treasured momentos sit in a curio cabinet that I know would bring her great comfort. I have been strongly advised, however, by the nursing home staff, that to bring such valuables would be a mistake. How do I tell this to my mother? How can we protect them if we decide to go against their advice?

Bigger problem: what can I bring to help my mother emotionally feel good other than this cabinet? How can I build an environment in a cell sized space that will bring her joy? HELP! Has anyone else had to do this??? ANY IDEAS, please share.I would love to hear how others have handled this situation!

If you have a “moving story” of your own please click here to submit.

 

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getting help finding the right caregiver

I live in California and have parents who are getting older now. Things are unfortunately starting to go downhill. I work full time and have a generally busy lifestyle and wasn’t able to be there to care for them. My father was slowing slipping into dementia and it was getting harder to ensure that they were safe while I was away.

The last thing I wanted to do was put them in a home, as I knew it would crush their spirits even further.  I went on a search to find alternate in-home care options. I went through a couple of different services but wasn’t really happy with any of them – then I saw an ad online for this company Helpio – they offer in-home care services for practically everything. In addition, all their staff is well trained. I can set everything up from my phone and they even offer 8 hours of free care!

I’m not sure if they still offer the 8 hours of free care but you can sign up for it here: http://www.gethelpio.net/helpio/ It is a service that has been of great help to me.

Leave a comment below. If you have a story of your own, share it here.

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caregiver burnout: 7 tips that help

173-002Caregiving can make you feel stressed and overwhelmed! Caring for a loved one is a challenge, especially while working full time. Remember, in order to provide care you must take care of yourself. Here’s a list of tips to offer relief from stress:

  • Increase your support system. Have a team of people in place to assist with caregiving responsibilities. Your family, people from church, and formal caregivers are places to start.
  • Learn to say no. You are not the only person who can provide whatever is needed. Things will go on without you.
  • Join support groups. Learn from other people’s experience in caregiving. Discover that you are not alone there’s many people going through similar circumstances.
  • Minimum of twice a month set aside time to unwind. Go shopping, have a spa day, mediate, whatever you do to relax. These special times can give you something to look forward to when a bad day occurs. submitted by: Cassandra Hill, M.A. Gerontology

Make a comment below to Cassandra or if you have a tip of your own submit it here.

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making sure mom’s life matters: the story in between

elderly womanThis morning I sat in the outdoor courtyard of Mom’s assisted living home, listening to the sparrows calling to one another and the grasshoppers buzzing, as the sun rose over the rooftop and woke up the hibiscus. Coffee in hand, I had just come from the hospital, trying to sort through my thoughts and feelings.

Her doctor had just told me it was time to put Mom on hospice.

This wasn’t a shock. Still, there was something hard and cold and definitive about the word hospice. The end was now becoming real. My reaction bounced from graceful acceptance to profound sadness, and from certainty that a conspiracy theory existed in the medical community against Mom to contemplating the overall meaning of life.

As writers, we’re taught that the beginning and ending of a story must be both meaningful and memorable, or else the story in between doesn’t matter. But how can this be, if fiction is meant to be reflective of real life, to help us better understand real life? Few of us remember our births, and it remains to be seen whether we’ll remember our deaths, so does that mean that our life stories in between those bookends may not matter? I think not.

I once gave Mom a framed print that said, “A Girl’s Best Friend is Her Mother.” I was a new parent at the time, and at that phase in my life, she indeed was my best friend, always happy to hear my voice calling, always willing to listen without doling out advice. She made me feel like a valuable person in a way that others didn’t or couldn’t.

And yet, there was always a thin wall between us; we were two very different people, and there was something unnamable that prevented her from completely understanding who I was. I suspect she saw that wall, too. And as we’ve both grown older, that wall has thickened like plaque in our arteries. Now that Loss is about to come calling, memories of our friendship and regrets about the wall are competing for my attention.

In “Escape from Spiderhead,” (Tenth of December, George Saunders) a dying character says that his only regret “was Mom. I hoped someday, in some better place, I’d get a chance to explain it to her, and maybe she’d be proud of me, one last time, after all these years.” Wow, I can relate. The arrival of hospice means the loss of my relationship with Mom is near, and my chances for getting her to understand me better¾to be proud of me¾are dissipating.

And yet, in these final days, I know what I have to do: worry less about the wall, concentrate more on the friendship, because that will be the key, I think, to making sure the story of Mom’s life will continue to matter.

G. Elizabeth Kretchmer is the author of The Damnable Legacy of A Minister’s Wife, and her short work can be found in The New York Times and other publications. When she’s not writing or visiting her mom, she teaches therapeutic and wellness writing.

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nursing home staff: no accountability

mother in nursing homeI have taken the time to label each of the of my mother’s drawers – socks, nightgowns, bras, etc.  Every stitch of her clothing has a name label applied to it, like camp.  Why is it that my efforts mean nothing to the staff?  The nursing home where Mom lives continuously has no answers and seemingly does not care about her personal belongings and their whereabouts.  How does it happen that my Mom’s clothing is sent to the in-house laundry one day and some of it just doesn’t reappear at all?  Also, something with someone else’s name showed up in her lingerie drawer.  Why or why is there no accountability?  I manage my own business, am married, and have adult children & grandchildren.  I cannot be the one to micromanage my mother’s laundry service, on top of everything else.  Who can help me solve this problem before I explode????? P.S. The head of nursing in Mom’s wing, who I have spoken with (as directed by the management), has done nothing to improve the situation.  I feel ridiculous writing this, but it actually does matter to my mother to have two socks vs. one and a nightgown that actually is hers! If you have a comment leave it in the reply box below. Also, if you would like to share your own story, do so here.

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why talk to seniors with respect?

IMG_0604Do seniors annoy you? Are you angry & irritated with them? We can say that it is easy to have a “short fuse” when dealing with our aging loved ones for any number of reasons.

I think that to understand the importance of this discussion you need to take a good look at yourself. Sometime we loose our patience, hearing our elder repeat the same thing over & over. There may be many things that irritate us but this a good reminder that how we say something is as important as what we say!

An article from Seniors for Living, written by Michelle Seitzer, Oct. 2013 called “How to Talk to Seniors (and why it matters)” had an important view to share. “Besides being hurtful on an emotional level, a 2002 Yale University study on “elderspeak” (the official term for this disrespectful language/perception) revealed this startling result: it hurts life expectancy too. “Being the target of it can shorten an old person’s life by up to 7.5 years,” according to a Yale psychology professor, Becca Levy”.

Read the article in full and leave a comment. If you have a story to tell click here.

 

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4 generations of caregivers

irelandI come from four generations of caregivers & am one myself. It all started back in a farmhouse in Ireland in the mid 1930′s. On a beautiful hillside outside of Dublin, Ireland there is a farm with the simple address of “Feahoe”. There is no number & no street name, just Feahoe. This farm over looks a lake and the land where the cattle graze. My great grandmother “Granma Hoey” was a caregiver to her daughter. I am glad to have caregiving in common with this wonderful, brave and strong woman. She was brought to Feahoe when she married. Her life must have been difficult when she was left widowed with six young children. Granma Hoey raised her children and eight grandchildren while managing the family farm. In the mid 1930′s my father recalls being given a little teapot by his grandmother to take upstairs to his Aunt Maggie. He thinks she must have developed some kind of paralysis, as she could not even hold the teapot. At this time, I am the relief caregiver to my mother, who had a stroke in 2006. My father, her regular caregiver, has gone to Ireland for a five-week break. He will be staying with his family at Feahoe. I am also care giving for Mr. Handsome, an 81-year-old southern gentleman with dementia in an assisted living facility For several years I arranged and hired caregivers for my mom long distance and know how challenging that can be. I also held a director position at an assisted living facility. After raising six children, I feel called to care for those who are not able to care for themselves. I am also compelled to share my varied experiences from care giving in the home, long distance, and from managing a facility. I can only hope that sharing my perspective may help others in the difficult but very rewarding experience of care giving. Visit www.caregiversassist.com for more information about caregiving and get the 10 Ways to make caregiving easier or leave a comment below. If you would like to share your story about caregiving, do so here.

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