Hey it’s Jenn from the AARP IL communications team with our Monday caregiving blog post. Here is what’s up in my life lately…
Caregiving sucks. That’s right I said it. If you’re a caregiver you’ve thought the same thing at least once. When we actually get enough sleep to think above the positives, we may add the following new skills to our resumes: professional financial adviser, medical advocate, senior lobbyist, chief mediator, personal chef, bath giver extraordinaire and, as a bonus, we’ve got a gag reflex of steel! Go us! We’re tired, we’re stressed, and sometimes we panic. Guess what though…we’re going to keep doing it, because we have to. How do YOU deal with it? Here are some of the strategies I’ve used to survive life as a caregiver.
Tough Decisions – Suck it Up.
An absolutely horrifying day: I stopped over to visit my “perfectly healthy” grandparents and noticed grandpa wandering around the kitchen looking for food. In fact, he was actually looking quite thin. Turns out my gourmet cooking grandma had suddenly stopped cooking. My well-fed 6’2″ grandpa had dropped 50 pounds in two months. Meals weren’t the only things they were missing – there were several late notices for bills, and don’t even get me started on their medications… DISASTER! Grandma had always taken care of that. What on earth was going on and why hadn’t someone noticed?! Long story short, grandma has Alzheimer’s (although if you ask any of their four perfectly capable adult children, none of them will say the A-word aloud) and my easygoing Grandpa had been covering for her for ages.
Lesson #1: Do not deny the problem exists. DO SOMETHING. There were warning signs that we all shrugged off. Someone has to take charge. I’m not saying become a dictator, I’m saying step up and lead. That very day I arranged for a short term personal chef as a “Christmas present,” read some tips on having hard conversations ala the Harvard business review, and then set up and led a family meeting. In the end, after we said a lot of uncomfortable things, everyone agreed (my grandparents included) that they needed to make the move to assisted living. Fast forward 6 months… they actually love it there! Long time friends live just down the hall, their meds arrive on time and, while the food is “not quite as good as grandma used to make,” they never miss a meal.
As a serial caregiver, I can tell you that some of the most “beneficial” things I have done have been outright petrifying. A few weeks ago I dragged my 89 and 90 year old grandparents to the funeral home of their choice and had them pre-plan their funerals and set funding aside. As an added bonus we updated their wills, wrote out a child who had stolen most of their retirement money, and made me financial POA. Do we know how to have fun or what? They did take me out to lunch afterwards though. Love them! And this is where I learned Lesson #2: Not everyone in the family agreed with the decision, not everyone showed up, but the key is that everyone was kept informed, invited to participate and the lines of communication were kept wide and uncomfortably open. No one wants to face mortality. I’ll take solace someday knowing their wishes were carried out exactly as they wanted.
So that’s just a small part of my caregiving saga with my grandparents. It’s ongoing and I’m sure I’ll put up another blog post about them soon. There are a lot of tips and tricks I’ve come across that keep me sane and I’m happy to share them. I’d love to hear your stories and your tips too – I’ll sure need them.