Caregivers: Looking Back, Giving Back

We were fortunate to have people and places who helped us care for my husband’s mother.

During the last year of mother’s life, things were intense, and sometimes we wished that we could be taken care of, too. Choosing to help with mother’s care and to have her near us, especially before she needed substantial care, meant that our lives were very different for a several years. Check out the January 21st posting at the New York Times Well Blog and a more detailed article on by Dr. Pauline Chen, “Offering Care for Caregivers.”Mother’s assisted living facility, Chesterbrook Residences, provided a warm and personalized environment where she could continue to live and take advantage of the resident nursing staff and with a lot of help from us, stay as independent as possible. As her medical needs grew, Mother was also cared for by companions whose hours increased over time and were nearly full time in the months before her death. We know how lucky we were to have so much support.

The Alzheimer’s Speaks blog has many more thoughts and descriptions on caregiving.

We were also fortunate that Mother could live, with her own possessions, only five minutes from our house, enabling us to be with her and often share meals. Being able to hold, touch, and live among her own possessions and books, albeit in a tiny apartment, made her more relaxed even as her health worsened. While her move away from South Carolina was difficult, her retirement community there had no assisted living arrangements. When she moved here we had the opportunity after the move to participate in her care rather than just monitoring or supervising it. Check out Jane Brody’s November, 2008 New York Times article, “When Families Take Care of Their Own.”

As difficult as these past three years have been, especially the past 18 months, we know they would have been even more so without people, institutions, and organizations working along with us. And as only children it would have been far more difficult for us had Mother chosen to stay in South Carolina.

We are glad we did what we did.

To give back a bit we plan to volunteer at Chesterbrook, starting in a few weeks, after getting more of mother’s possessions and affairs sorted out. This way we continue to stay in touch with Mother’s many friends and make new ones. Our plan is to volunteer in the dining room every other Friday night.

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