When caregiving becomes too much

When caregiving becomes too much

Over the years, I’ve watched family caregivers perform heroic acts in caring for their loved ones. I’ve seen spouses and adult children give up their work and social life—and essentially any semblance of freedom—to devote themselves 24/7.

Many of these individuals began their caregiving journey years earlier, perhaps somewhat in the dark about the changes that would occur as their loved ones’ physical, mental and personal needs increased. These caregivers continually added more duties to their plate, often more than any one person should ever be expected to do.

I’m both reassured and troubled by this phenomenon.

Doctor’s order is best gift of all

Doctor’s order is best gift of all

With a yearlong waiting list to enter a skilled-nursing facility for long-term care, my father was placed on palliative care at home recently. While it may not seem so, it was an early Christmas gift for our family.

The occupational therapist who had been helping teach my mother and sister how to safely transfer my father asked my father’s physician about a palliative-care consult, and the physician put in the order.

My father has advanced Parkinson’s, but he is not near the end of his life. He doesn’t have pain, but his breathing is labored, he has significant fatigue, he is depressed (who wouldn’t be?) and he has bowel and bladder issues. For all intents and purposes, he is homebound.

The local home health agency that was providing occupational therapy also has a palliative care and hospice division. So the same agency sent a new person to the home to evaluate my father.

The yin and yang of caregiving

The yin and yang of caregiving

On a recent trip home to New Hampshire I felt the yin and yang of family caregiving or, more specifically, the interconnected and sometimes opposing forces of the local family caregiver and the long-distance ones.

While my mother is the primary caregiver for my father, my sister Carla, who lives less than 5 miles from my parents, assists them with all their needs. She picks up groceries, accompanies my parents to appointments, sits with my father so my mother can run an errand, attends doctor appointments and joins my mother on her respite outings.

She’s also the one who is enlisted to help transfer my father when he falls, fix the internet or TV when my mother’s skills are outmatched or interpret complex insurance and financial forms.

About four years ago, as my parents realized their needs exceeded their abilities, all three daughters suggested Mom and Dad move closer. Their choices included New HampshireConnecticut and California.

Spa day

Here’s a snippet from a recent phone conversation I had with my mother, who speaks with a thick New England accent.

Mom: “Yesterday I took Daddy for his checkup with the doctor. The doctor asked Daddy how he was doing. Daddy pointed his finger at me and said, ‘I think she’s had it with me.’”

Me: “Why would Daddy say that?”

Mom: “I told the doctor I was very tired and maybe not as patient as I should be. I said I just needed a good night’s rest and I would be fine. Dr. Nguyen told me I needed to go to a bar (pronounced baah).”

Me: “What?? He told you to go to a bar? Man, I like this doctor.”

Mom: "No, no, not a baah—a spa!"

A future look at caregiving

A 2009 study concluded that the majority of family caregivers are white, female, employed, average 50 years of age and help in the care of a relative, often their mother.

The support systems for seniors and their family caregivers are built around this pattern.

Since the world is changing at lightning speed, I wonder what caregivers might look like in 2050.

The first step is to take a look at the changes coming to the senior population.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2050 our population will be older and more ethnically and racially diverse. Minorities in the senior population today represent one-third of the population, but

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