AARP Mississippi is proud to present the Scholar Athlete of the Week program this fall. Mississippi is home to outstanding Scholar Athletes who go over and beyond in sports and academics. This fall, we will recognize these high school students weekly beginning in October. The students will receive a certificate and monetary award.
My husband’s mother was “losing it.” She started a fire in her apartment after she forgot to turn off a burner on her stove. She was demanding when a family member would take her grocery shopping and she would insist on using her bundle of coupons for various items, a process that would often take as long as two hours. Her mood was never good. There were several panic trips to the emergency room in the middle of the night.
Each time that a crisis occurred when I was caring for my elderly parents, I took a deep breath and tried to focus on finding a temporary solution to the prevailing problem. It would be a time to investigate alternatives and options for the issue I was facing. That always required doing some research.
The most frustrating part of taking care of my parents was navigating whatever bureaucracy of the moment confronted me. And there were many of them including insurance companies, Medicare, home health, caregiving agencies, emergency rooms, dementia units, respite care, and on and on.
Join us on October 6, 2015 for We Need to Talk, a program developed to offer tips, guidance, and resources to family members who are planning sensitive conversations with their loved ones regarding safe driving. We Need to Talk is based on information created jointly by The Hartford (Insurance Group) and MITAgeLab.
A few years ago when I was taking care of my 90 year-old mom and my 95 year-old dad, articles and books were just beginning to be written about the importance of taking care of yourself if you were the primary caregiver. At that point I was so wrapped up in the day-to-day demands of supervising Mom and Dad that I couldn’t really read much. It amazes me that I did attempt to take care of myself instinctively without realizing the concept of what the experts were trying to convey. I tried to stay true to my regular exercise schedule as much as possible; I spent time with my grandchildren who always made me smile; and occasionally I even went out for a quiet dinner with just my husband. My favorite “me” memory took place around the time of Mother’s Day soon after I had moved Mom, age 90 and Dad, age 95 from Chicago to Denver where I live. I had gone to the grocery store to buy some dinner that I could make quickly (probably a rotisserie chicken) and there at the entrance to the store was a beautiful display of orange star plants all lined up in a row just in time for Mothers’ Day. Normally I would have admired the plants and then passed up purchasing one because they were too expensive. But on this day, relieved that Mom was comfortably ensconced in her new dementia unit and Dad was temporarily situated at our house and not complaining, I spontaneously took the plunge and purchased a plant with a profusion of gorgeous orange five-star blossoms. I placed it in my kitchen where it brightened my spirits for many days. As time went on, it became more difficult to balance out my parents’ needs with some time for myself, and too expensive to keep on buying beautiful houseplants, but I continued to make the effort to take time off for myself. Doing so made me more able to cope with all the crises that came along. And you know what? I continue this practice even now that both my parents have passed away. It works.
When I assumed the primary caregiving responsibilities for my parents at the time my mom was 90 and my dad was 95, I was completely overwhelmed. I had to learn quickly on the job about the ( medical, financial, legal, and emotional needs for each of them individually and for them as a couple. From the time they began to have difficulties with the aging process while still residing in Chicago to the time I moved them to Denver so that I could better supervise them, Mom and Dad’s collective living situations changed eight times. From the start I learned that I needed to get organized. Being more right brained than left brained, I found this a challenge, but I disciplined myself to conquer my inadequacies. When my parents were living together, I had one spiral notebook and one folder (I found very pretty matching ones at Walgreen’s). I would keep the records in the pockets of the folder as the paperwork turned up, and then I would write down any other important information in the spiral notebook. I still had to hunt for the notations I would need at a particular time because the pages were not categorized. When I moved them to Denver and they were placed in different living facilities, I bought more folders and labeled them for different subjects. They included folders for basic information like Social Security Numbers, ID Numbers, and doctors’ phone numbers, information for Medicare, insurance, medical for Mom, medical for Dad, contracts and releases, and daily living paperwork for each of them. As they continued to have difficulties, the folders increased and ultimately, there were six file boxes full of material including photo albums, keepsakes, and retired records. This method of organization is now a part of my daily life. I always keep my own “to do” list that I revise on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. I keep folders for my own current needs and I have started to record the personal information that my children can find should anything happen to my husband or myself. Being organized helped me navigate this difficult period.
During November, National Caregiving Month, AARP gathered stories from caregivers throughout Alabama, and we would like to share the Britt's story with you.
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