Through no choice of my own, I became the primary caregiver of my elderly, chronically ill mother following the 2013 death of my father in a neighboring state. Within weeks, I realized that my mother hadn’t been apart from my father for 60+ years; clearly, major changes had to be made. For many reasons, including geographic, greater access to better health care and more appropriate, same-campus facilities for the elderly, I moved her to a suburb of the metropolitan city that I had called home for 35 years.
Fortunately, assisted living facilities offering a continuum of care were available in my state. This solved the overwhelming problem of having to move from facility to facility, depending on her health, and provided much needed stability. Initially, I selected the least dependent service arrangement for my mom, thinking I had learned my independence from her. To the contrary, it meant that I became responsible for everything from medication disbursement to grocery shopping. That routine quickly gave way to exhaustion so I adjusted accordingly with the service provider. The commute to and from the facility also was another hardship, so my husband and I sold our home in the city where we had lived for 20 years and bought a house to be closer to her facility. Meanwhile, I continued to manage my consultancy practice, with my mom eventually becoming my largest pro bono client.
The team approach of caregivers was helpful. Researching what your loved one may be eligible for is worth the time. From the Veteran’s Administration to Medicare, this may be the last generation who will benefit from federal assistance. Medical professionals, case workers and many others are typically more than willing to help.
Establish boundaries early on for yourself and your loved ones. Stick to it.
Delegate anything and everything you can to other professionals, including home care services, transportation, healthcare aides, financial experts and legal counselors.
Research eligibility requirements for various healthcare assistance from government entities of all levels.
Take care of yourself first. If you don’t, you’re not able to care for someone else.
Rely on your own support network, longtime group of friends or whomever can be there for you to listen and empathize.
Learn from others’ experience. For example, I had never used online subscription services to order regular products delivered to loved one until someone else told me about it.
This may be the one and last time to get to know your loved one, bring closure to a situation, unload a burden, or forgive a past deed. Take advantage of that if needed.