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Caring for Sarah: Adapting and Rebuilding

One thing I’ve learned about caring for my mom is how much you change as a caregiver. I am not the same person who started taking care of her in a more intentional, specific way, almost two years ago. My perspective of aging and my view of my own mother have changed - and my perspective of myself has changed as well.

Sometimes I feel like I’m always adapting to her. Kind of like when I was growing up, but this time I’m the one looking after her.

She has changed, too. As she’s gotten older, her mobility has greatly diminished.

And that means that other changes are necessary and urgent – besides the internal ones.

Over the past few weeks my mom has fallen twice. Not hard falls, and I was near her both times. But falls, nonetheless!

One of those falls took place in the bathroom. Nobody really keeps tally of where most seniors fall, but the CDC does warn about the potential consequences of falls for older adults.

It’s critical to help prevent falls. Which means making changes around the house. My mom is very familiar with her surroundings but that doesn’t mean she’s completely safe. As her strength and mobility diminish, she needs more things that she can hang on to especially in her bedroom and bathroom.

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Handrails and chairs are useful bathroom adaptations (note: that's not her bathroom).
andres balcazar

Adapting a house to make it safer for older individuals can be costly. You need to look at what is most urgent and where, and start from there.

Full credit here to my wife, Ana Maria! She has a great eye for what needs to be adapted first in a room, and she knows where to find the necessary materials.

Family caregiving is team work.

The bathroom does look different. My mom tells me she feels safer.

It reminds me of when my daughter was a toddler and we needed gates and other things to keep her safe and prevent her from getting hurt. We covered electrical outlets and things like that.

And then I wonder: what changes did my mom make around the house when I was little, so that I wouldn’t get hurt? I remember a gate at the top of the stairs.

Funny how life works.

I was walking my mom back into the house after a doctor’s appointment. We were talking about the new stuff in the bathroom. Then she told me that she wanted a wheelchair – which she had rejected for years. Not to move around the house, she specified, but for going out. One of those modern, light ones that you can fold and carry in the car, she said.

And I remembered a walker I had when I was very, very little. Helped me take my first steps. It had bells and things that made all kinds of noises.

Life’s unending circle.

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My mom says "Hi!" Pictured here after a doctor's appointment, enjoying a cup of coffee, and trying out some wheelchairs.

Here’s a question: how has caregiving changed you? Tell me your story, either by leaving a comment in the comment box, or emailing me at gfcardenas@aarp.org.

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