Caring for Aging and Sick Parents–A Privilege In The Circle Of Life!

caring for parentsI am writing this blog from the viewpoint of being my parents’ healthcare executor, a job appointed me years ago, because I was the only adult child working in the healthcare industry. My mom and dad had 8 kids by choice,  an overwhelming task for most people, but not for them and which, ironically turned out to be their legacy.

My parents have worked hard all their lives, lived frugally and raised all 8 of us kids through their examples of exemplary living. They have reached the point of having been on this planet 80+ years and are requiring more and more help from us kids, in order to grant their wishes of being able to keep them on their feet and in their house.My mother is known for caring for anyone needing help and my father for his vegetable gardening; something they share with many.

Their late in life wishes are simple but that simple is turning into hard work for all the kids, yet isn’t anything we wouldn’t accept graciously. These two special people have made a lot of sacrifices over the years for each and every one of us, without ever complaining. If something important was needed, there was always a way to achieve it. We look at the present time in our lives as a privilege, in that our parents trust and love us enough to ask for our help. There is no fighting, arguing or complaining but rather, contributing ideas from all. No matter the hardships we’re currently facing, we’re all on board and ready to give back.

My mother had a life and death health situation some years back, that left her with daily Intravenous infusions vs eating like the rest of us. Since that time, she has had a 10 hour intravenous infusion daily (typically at night), in addition to a needle put into a port (surgically buried in her chest) on a weekly basis. It hasn’t been pleasant by any means and has been her cross to bear. She has accepted this as graciously as any person possibly could and continued on with her activities of daily living and caring for others. Our father has Alzheimer’s, with symptoms increasing over the last several years and consequently, requiring more and more monitoring.

Geography has placed a hurdle in accessibility to adequate healthcare for both of my parents. Again, their choice (after 59 yrs in the area) is to stay and eventually die in that area. All but 3 siblings live out of the area, so a lot of issues have been discussed through phone conversations/computers etc. We’ve also tapped into extended family members (mothers’ siblings) who have more than graciously stepped up to the plate when needed. One of my three siblings in the area by our parents, was an engineer, but after my mother’s healthcare crises, a choice was made to change professions in order to be of help. She applied to nursing school and has since graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing. Her over the top efforts have provided us with another level of backup care  in the chain of command.

Needless to say, the physician who initially informed my mom that she’d probably last 5 months at the most, was wrong, with my mother approaching 6 years post surgery and only because we, her children, have all worked at making sure she has good healthcare, even if it meant teaching one of the siblings, for example, the protocol for using sterile technique in a needle change out, via the phone. We also had common sense to not do things without permission as well as used local nurse resources to observe/critique when attempting something new. If there’s a will, there is always a way; merely takes effort over and above, thinking out of the box and asking for help from appropriate sources.

I haven’t enjoyed being the healthcare executor as it’s quite nerve-wracking in that you’re making someone else’s medical decisions, but I chose to take on the responsibility. You develop thick skin and learn  to take on the establishment at times, especially when the ball is dropped for whatever reason. If you stand up for what is right, believe in the accountability of others, as well as not be afraid to speak up or roll up your sleeves  when needed, things will work out. Keeping the doors of communication open between healthcare personnel and my siblings that live close by our parents, has been a critical component of our positive outcome. I will say that there is an advantage to making decisions from afar, as it has allowed me to be able to step back and think objectively rather than having to make decisions from the firing line where emotions can sometimes cancel out logic.

We are in constant communication with all healthcare personnel involved in our parents cases and keep copies of all records so that we’re current on labs/tests/Dr. visit results etc. This information is kept in a binder so that whomever is with our parents during times of crises (for lack of a better word) has access to records which can be passed on to appropriate caregivers when necessary; all the while being careful to protect their privacy. The three siblings that live close also alternate routine tasks, such as hooking up and discontinuing IV’s, helping with baths, driving to Dr. appointments etc., which helps immensely in that one person isn’t overly stressed in addition to trying to live their own lives, work and care for their own families.

The time is upon us  where my dad will need more care for progressing Alzheimer’s and my mother’s care has taken on a new level. It isn’t easy for anyone, but having everyone on board and helping in whatever ways they can, has fortunately allowed our parents’  ‘simple wish’ and/or the siblings’ goal, to remain a reality. I’m sure the day will come when that won’t be an option, but we thank God daily as we know we’re on borrowed time. You may not have the luxury of having had as many siblings to divide your responsibilities with, but establishing with people you trust and can communicate with, is a good place to start when planning out your elderly parents’ care. If and when your turn at caring for family members rises, talk to them, get their input, think through your options, give it your best and never look back in shame for not having tried. Your parents are worth the effort!

 

Comments

  1. Sharon Miller says:

    What a thoughtful, heart-rendering summary of your family’s journey with regard to your aging parents! Praise the Lord for “children” who commit and stay the course. Your parents obviously have blessed you and your siblings with the many gifts that come of being faith-filled people and in turn, all of you are blessing them! Kudos to all of you!

  2. A very nice post. Inspiring. I agree, it is a blessing to have a chance to take care of your parents. I hope I’ll get it too. May God bless your efforts and the efforts of your siblings.

    • Thank you Luigi!!! Fortunately, my parents passed on this knowledge/skill when they were caring for their parents and now, its is our turn to step up to the plate. A mere privilege to be able to give back to those who have given us so much.

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