Quad Cities, IL/IA

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Kudos to All Caregivers


By Linda Gilman

November is Caregiver Month. I want to begin this article by praising all the caregivers out there — family caregivers, and professionals. If you’ve read some of my articles, you know that Miss Lily often talks about how lucky she is to have Marilyn as her caregiver, and of course, Marilyn is lucky to have Miss Lily.

At some point, the majority of us are going to care for someone. It might be a spouse, family member, friend, or, a next-door neighbor. Some caregivers live far away and depend on others for their loved ones’ care. I had such a case…I was engaged as a private care manager for a long distant caregiver for her father. I’d like to share some comments my client’s daughter posted on her blog. I think they will be helpful to those caregivers who are just beginning their journey.

Barb is the daughter, and traveled back and forth from Pennsylvania to Iowa to help move her dad into Assisted Living. It was during that time that her dad had his first fall, and the beginning of the downward spiral. This led to the move to an Assisted Living Facility in the state where his daughter resided.

Barb writes, “The funny thing about this experience is that there are only two times in my life when I have felt so unprepared. The first was when they handed me my son after he was born; and the second was when I got the phone call that my dad had fallen, and was in the hospital in Iowa…and I was living in Pennsylvania. The difference between the two scenarios is that in the first, I had a nine-month advanced notice that this baby was going to be handed to me to care for; but with this most recent scenario, I had zero notice. I thought I was doing everything right. We had the talk about advance directives, he had all the appropriate power of attorney paperwork drafted, and appointed me as his health care proxy. Of course, he never really explained fully what that meant. I knew that I would be making health care decisions for him, should he be incapacitated and yada yada yada…”

When I read this paragraph, I thought, “What a perfect analogy.” Family caregivers are not prepared, nor are they trained…at first. Unlike the professional caregiver, who receives training when hired, and in-service programs for continuing education, a family caregiver begins when the loved one can no longer take care of the daily tasks of living alone. It often begins when a crisis happens, such as a bad fall or car accident. Barb posted about lessons she learned along the way in her journey as a caregiver. She said, “When you get a call telling you that your loved one has fallen, but everything is ‘okay,’ don’t assume that to be true. Evaluate for yourself! Whether you are a long distance caregiver, or you live in the same town, don’t believe everything you hear.”

Barb ends her post with this statement, “Live and learn. I’ve lived it, now you can learn it so you don’t make the same mistakes. What lessons have you learned in your caregiving? I will help you if you help me. No one needs to travel this road alone.”

This last statement reminds me of the years I spent running a caregiver support group. Dementia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s brought them to my group. They had different stories, yet the thread was the same. They all needed support in order to keep from falling apart or going crazy from the stress of the day and night care.

As caregivers, we are not given the option of caring for the best patient — or the sweetest. That is why Miss Lily, Marilyn, and I want to tell all the caregivers out there how lucky your loved one…your client…your friend is to have you. What have you learned as a caregiver? How can you use what you’ve learned to help you be a better caregiver — to make less mistakes…to have less stress? Caregiving is one of the hardest jobs…God Bless you and keep you.

PS… If you haven’t done so yet, join a support group!

Marilyn Woelke, MAG, MSW, and Linda Gilman, MSG, LPC, of Geri-Ed Services are available to talk to you. They are both Gerontology Specialists, and Certified Counselors. Marilyn: 309-281-6462 and Linda: 309-373-2400.

Photo credits: Pamela Moore/KatarzynaBialasiewicz