This is a guest post submitted by Mike Takieddine.
Trigger events give no notice
Families in distress were commonplace for those of us at the agency who got deeply involved, and yet I for one could never get the hang of it. Crisis after crisis, I got better at resolving some of the easier issues, but they still left me deeply affected.
When Jennifer’s Dad had his fatal stroke, it left her Mom on her own and vulnerable. He had been looking after her, and suddenly and there was no one left with her. Mom had Alzheimer’s, and she could not be left unattended, not even for 10 minutes
We called those trigger events: strokes: broken hips, traumas –all things sudden that leave the spouse stranded and in need of immediate attention. Naturally, trigger events have the most devastating impact when families have no contingency plans in place
The women usually ended up doing the heavy lifting
Despite having two brothers, it was Jennifer who had to drop everything she was doing and rush to her Mom’s aid. She was ill prepared and realized only too slowly that she would need to drop the old normal in her life and accept the new horizons that her father’s death had left for her.
By Laura Carstensen, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity: “The norms that told us when to get an education, when to marry, when to retire evolved when we lived half as long as now; In those norms, we’re raising kids, reaching the peak of our careers, and taking care of aging parents, all at the same time.”
Jennifer’s new norms
Jennifer’s new norms would involve several critical considerations for her and her siblings: first among those, the issue of where Mom was going to live and how they were going to pay for it.
A typical crisis brought about by a sudden trigger event never stands still long enough for one to adapt. It usually hides several layers of additional new givens. No sooner does Jennifer resolve one issue than she realizes that her two brothers cannot be counted upon for much, and that her parents were almost entirely insolvent. And on and on, until she confronts the reality that she might have to leave work and take care of Mom herself.
Hands-on caregiving is not for everyone
If a Mom –your Mom- is alert, ambulatory, continent, and does not have an illness that requires her, for example, to need to be seen by registered nurses and physicians all the time, you can be her caregiver yourself. You will need to manage her household, do some housekeeping, buy groceries, prepare meals, keep her company, and take her out occasionally.
Be warned, it is not easy, the dangers of stress and depression overwhelming; but if you have to, then you will, hopefully only until you find better and longer term solutions. In fact, you may have no choice in the matter, at least for a few days.
On the other hand if a Mom is non-ambulatory, think “transfers”: from bed to wheelchair, to couch, back to wheelchair, over the edge of the bathtub, and so on, all day long.
If a Mom is impaired with dementia, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, your days and nights might consist of keeping her from wandering outdoors, causing herself harm in any one of many ways, or setting the house on fire.
And if a Mom is incontinent, you will have to deal with incontinence, and a daily routine that is punctuated by unpleasantness.
I think you get the drift of where we are going with this. If Mom is any of the above three, non-ambulatory, confused, incontinent or, as was mentioned previously, if she has a debilitating illness, then you are going to need to hire a professional caregiver, if only until you sort things out. You may hire a professional caregiver for enough days until you place Mom in another setting outside her home, but you will nevertheless have to hire a caregiver.
Hiring an agency
Hiring an agency has a daunting ring to it although it shouldn’t. Get two or three names form online, or from the list that the discharge planning social worker at the hospital may have given you, call, and simply say:
“I need help at home for my mother,” you explain, “She has Alzheimer’s. Can you tell me about your agency?” That should do it to get the conversation going.
In selecting the agency for you, you want to satisfy yourself that:
- the person you had talked to was pleasant and sensitive to your needs
- they’d been in business for at least 2-3 years
- they had a plentiful roster of caregivers who live close to your parent
- they screened their caregivers thoroughly including criminal background checks
- And what their costs are for live-out (by the hour) and live-in (by the day) caregivers
In the end, you will want to call back the agency you were most comfortable with and book them. They will be thrilled to have you as their latest customer
About Mike Takieddine, the author:
Mine has been a privileged life, first for having traveled all over as son of a diplomat, then for having had the opportunity to study at Oxford, then for a most gratifying career in home care, and finally for ending up in what I always wanted to do: writing. I have found the best forum for my writing in the wonderful website of Healthline.com