Archive for November, 2012

Don’t Count on it!

There are some things you can expect when you make the decision to become a live-in caregiver – or as I call myself – a Housekeeper, Activities Director, Nutritionist and Companion (HANC) for your aging or seriously ill loved one.

Companion

Count on an increased stress-level.
Count on sore, aching muscles from unexpected chores.

receipts paper and staple

Count on additional paperwork, schedules and medical-related trips.

Count on resistance.

Count on television programs that require little interaction or attention span.

Count on some sleepless nights as you will be the only one holding sickbed vigil.

rural mail

Count on euphoria when you receive mail or a call from a friend.

One reason people choose to become HANCs is because it is ultimately easier than managing two households, especially when one is hundreds of miles and several states away.

gourmet brownies

Don’t count on it, but if your rising planet aligns with the sun, the moon and 27 un-named stars; your karma is high; and you have enough universal brownie points, you won’t have to relocate out of your current zip code. If you do have to relocate and you’re one lucky so-and-so, you’ll move to a similar demographic, but don’t count on that, either.

Dare to Care

Many caregivers are forced to make a choice when a loved one’s health makes a sudden decline.

Some have watched a beloved parent, grandparent or other relative battle an illness and then came forward to offer help rather than placing their loved ones in assisted living facilities or hiring strangers to care for them in their homes.

Some work with hospice and some work alone.

clock ten after ten

At a point in time, you made the decision to become a caregiver. You may not remember the exact date or time and you may not remember the details of the situation that led you to the decision. You may not even like considering yourself a caregiver.

For me, the idea of being my mother’s caregiver was difficult to accept.

I’m an editor, a writer and photographer. I’m not a nurse or a caregiver! Am I? How did this happen?

My mother, always so strong and independent, raised eight children to adulthood.

To think that she needed someone to care for her made me extremely emotional.

When she first fell, about eight years ago, no one in the family considered anything other than temporary help during her recovery. After her release from rehab, she stayed with one sister for several months. I spent many weeks with her after she returned home and watched her grow stronger by the day. Her second fall, five years later, didn’t bring speedy recovery.  Her entire left side had nearly crumbled: hip, ribs, shoulder were broken or shattered. Brittle bones splintered and broke as she hit the floor. Her left knee had been replaced years earlier and her right shoulder had been rendered nearly useless from years of folding fabric – similar to tennis elbow.

Her doctors suggested we start looking into nursing homes.

In support of her extreme independence and love of home, the family, instead, had a ramp built onto her small house and hired a “sitter” who  helped with the transition.ramp

For most of those three years, I came home as often as possible to visit and offer respite.

The sitter moved on and family members filled in, doing their best in part-time capacities. They prepared meals, helped with appointments, cleaning, medical needs and socialization. Her overall health has always been excellent, but age makes her frail.

As time passed, her “memory issues” progressed.clock and flowers

Still, we’ve seen the signs that tell us things we don’t want to know. After her second fall, she grew fearful of falling again. She felt less confident in the kitchen, due to her blood thinner, but continues to maintain as much independence as possible, insisting on doing as many personal chores as she can.

 Our occasional visits confirmed our suspicions.

We could no longer ignore the fact that our once strong, powerful, independent mother would eventually need someone to help her with her daily care needs. Eventually became sooner than later.

One day, it became clear. The time is now. The who is “us.”

 Sarasota Sunset

My husband and I made the easiest hard decision of our lives and we became my mother’s

Housekeeper

Activities Director

Nutritionist &

Companions

Each day bring a new adventure, a new challenge and a new lesson. As the entire family adjusts to the new dynamics in our household, we redefine our ideas of family and relationships, we grow closer as mother and daughter, husband and wife, mother-in-law and son-in-law and we deepen our love and respect for one another.

Take a Break. It’s more Important than you Think.

Since becoming my mother’s Housekeeper, Activities Director, Nutritionist and Companion (HANC) I face new challenges daily. In some ways, on some days, it’s as if I am responsible for an 85-year-old toddler. Without family intervention, her meals would be meager and lonely, her health dwindling rapidly.

woman in blue shirt wearing glasses

Joe plays guitar

 Prior to our moving in, my sister, Jane, or my brother, Joe, cooked for her, but they weren’t able to be on hand daily to ensure she ate what they prepared.

That’s my job, now.

When I told Jane of our decision to move in with Momma, she told me, “You have no idea what you are getting yourself into. It is much more work than you think it is and it’s not going to get easier.”

She was right. Being a HANC is a tremendous honor and an enormous responsibility.

Without my support system, I might have burned out quickly.

family

By far, my biggest supporters are my brothers and sisters. Each in his or her way has provided invaluable assistance. Some have taken us out to dinner.

tea party

Others have brought food or even tea parties to us. Some have helped with yard work.

All have given words of gratitude and encouragement.

Jane offered to give me and my husband one weekend off each month.

gift

What a gift!

I had no idea how important that would be, but Jane knew.

When we first moved in, I needed some time to unpack and assimilate. We all needed to adjust to the new lifestyle. We were here three months before our first weekend away, which meant it was all the more important.

We’d started planning a trip to Hilton Head, but something didn’t feel right about it, so we decided my husband would follow his instincts and use “the force” to direct us on our spontaneous adventure.

museum

We drove an hour to North Charleston, where he surprised me by taking me to the Fire Museum, a wonderful visual tribute to firefighters all over the world. That evening, we enjoyed a sumptuous meal and sat outside our less-than-ideal motel room watching a feral cat colony.

library

The next day, we drove to historic downtown Charleston where we started making plans for a return trip.

A short drive to the Isle of Palms, where we toured the island and I took photos, took us past the Windjammer Beach Club and we modified our plans. We then drove us to Sullivan’s Island.

signbattle sign

 

My husband stopped as soon as he saw  the historical monument depicting the Battle of Sullivan’s Island.

Then we saw him.

ski on air

A young man was rising out of the water, a hose attached to a jet ski. He rode on a stream of water, hovering over the inlet. We watched him until he stopped his water and air show.

It was the highlight of our day.

Revived by his enthusiasm and athleticism, we returned home with great memories and hundreds of photos to share. We can relive the weekend with Momma, which should spark some stimulating conversations.

 

 

 

 

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