Caring for Elderly Parent
Nothing prepares you for caring for an elderly parent. It is a role that research indicates falls mostly to daughters. Why? Is that because we are seen as having motherly, empathetic loving traits?
Is it because we are accepting, as many baby boomers did, of delaying our careers for motherhood – so we are experienced at self sacrificing? Or that our businesses or careers can be set aside or impacted and we will accept that ? Or we will juggle our worklife and personal life – accept and catch this ball of caring.
I think probably a combination of all the above. I care because of love. Of family. Of expectation. It often means the denial of my own needs and because caring for an elderly parent is a duty.
I struggle as a carer. Some days I wish I wasn’t a carer – they are the days mum is aggressive, argumentative, accuses me of taking things from her unit that I have never taken – but she has I find, misplaced.
Other times, we enjoy our time together – especially when it involves, tea and cake or some bubbly.
But mum can no longer drink and eats very little, although her enjoyment of berry pancakes, cream and ice cream is unaffected! And mum still licks the plate! LOL
In the past 20 months I have had to close down my business consultancy “My Business Doctor” thereby ending decades of supporting and assisting local start up and established businesswomen. I have reduced my celebrant business of conducting ceremonies from around 65 a year to 2 – 3 a year.
I have stopped attending many of the business networking events as I feel so out of the business loop. I feel overlooked, inconsequential when introducing myself at business events. I stumble over how to introduce myself. Decades of career development, managing teams, huge projects and working with a diverse range of businesses from all industry areas – all in the past. I didn’t intend to go from Working to Retired. I semi retired into micro businesses – initially as it felt right and would give me time to spend with my first grand child. No thought of caring for an elderly parent.
That is one toll. The toll on my business. The toll then that results in struggling with identification of who I am. Who I am without my business card.
Then there is the emotional and physical toll. As a carer I find my body seems to be on 24/7 alert. The adrenaline in the body…ready for that call….of which already are many….for help of the latest ambulance ride to hospital.
The call of ‘I don’t feel well, can you come and get me breakfast”. “I don’t feel well, can you make an appointment with the doctor for me today.” “Can you go shopping for me, I want to make……receipe” (last time mum cooked a chop – she fell asleep as it burnt and the fire alarm was screaming but with her deafness issue she was oblivious)”.
Or “there is a message on my answering machine………… I think it is a call from ………… but I can’t understand it…..can you come and listen to it. I go around and she has deleted it but decided she knew how it was from and made up some story!
“My washing machine is ticking, I need you to take me to buy a new washing machine. I have rung and someone is coming to fix it tomorrow. Mum couldn’t remember who she had called. “Someone from Yellow Pages”. I go around and find the noise is the laundry tap dripping. After ringing many numbers in the yellow pages, there goes another few hours.
Expect the unexpected. And cope with the unexpected.
The toll. Well I do find I resort to comfort eating. A regular apple muffin and coffee for morning tea. I biscuit here and there. After a particularly stressful demanding day, a drink or two of wine and now it is summer a drink or two of Bailey’s on the Rocks.
None of the above help. I am the heaviest I have ever been. I just don’t have the motivation to exercise (I also help care for young grand daughters). The drink – in winter a glass or two of sherry – just seems to calm me. Don’t talk mindfulness – I struggle to find time alone – and also the discipline to incorporate daily.
I find after drinking alcohol that if exacerbates my arthritic inflammation. As I suppose does the ongoing emotional stress.
I somethimes think of myself as the Dutiful, Undutiful Daughter.
I provide care because…..well because…..I have to. I wouldn’t not provide care. I do have a sibling – and he helps a few hours one day a week, and ad hoc depending on how busy he is will pop in for a cuppa tea or a swim in the retirement village pool with mum – or take her for lunch. But he goes away so often for 2 – 6 weeks at a time (for 6 months when I was ‘handed’ mum to care for). He also is often unavailable with a bad back or other ailments. At least when he is here I have a sense of a back up but big stretches of juggling alone take their toll.
As does mum’s often aggressive attitude to a variety of things I try and organise that will help her. She sees it as trying to boss her. That I am trying to take over. That she still has her marbles. That she is capable of thinking and making her own decisions. As dementia issues are increasing, this I think is the part that wears me down the most – and I am sure raises my blood pressure. And leaves me exhausted. It is a struggle. And of course a mother daughter relationship fraught with arguments and difficulties re-emerges.
I need to exercise. I need to find a exercise routine. I need to find exercise that I will enjoy. I need to lose weight. I need to modify my diet to reduce inflammation pain. I need to feel recognised. I need approval and a feeling of being loved. I need to work out a way to cope long term.
Mum at least is now on a Package – Level 2 and is having a cleaner come in once a fortnight. Honestly, I believe that if mum would only consider moving to an aged care home she would enjoy it. Mum likes company. She at the moment has many hours sitting at home watching TV. But mum won’t inspect or consider an aged care home.
I have started to think…..mum might continue to live like this until she is 100. The latest ACAT is for Level ¾. The assessor said that if she had care this is the level she would need. She is receiving that at the moment from me – majorly – and when around – from my brother. So I have started to think….how will I cope. I don’t want next year to be a repeat of the past 6 months in particular.
Her dementia is like being in limbo at the moment. She can make decisions but her brain is often confused and she has short term – increasingly short term memory loss. Caring is a responsibility that cannot be professionalised. Like becoming a mother for the first time, it cannot be prepared for.
How long can I continue in this limbo state? How can I motivate myself – or engage someone to help me – to lose weight and regain stamina and health? In the meantime it is school holidays and I am caring for my 5 year old grand daughter 3 days a week, ongoing of the just turned 4, of one day a week….so I must go……
All photos purchased: Fotolia, shutterstock and 123RF
After a couple of long, emotional weeks, as mum struggled with her health and I struggled with the hours and stress of caring – mum said “I need a hug! I just need to be held and hugged!”
We hugged tightly.
We are on this journey together. One which we know will end. When we don’t know.
We do know that there are many ups and lots of downs and struggles to go through. A hug. A simple hug between a mother and a daughter. A memorable moment in time.
It made me thing about touch. No matter our age we all love to have our hand held, our backs rubbed, or the feel of a warm embrace. How often to we go long periods without touch, without a healing, reassuring love.
Seniors who live alone often do not experience the simple act of touch on a daily basis. The reasons vary: spouses and close friends have passed away, families live in other states, or physical limitations may affect activity and contact with others.
In our busy lives – it is often easy to forget to show feelings of affection. For the elderly – and single people – a loving touch can make a big difference in their lives.
When we are with our partners – kids well and truly having left home, or as an elderly person living alone. How often do we stop – reach out and touch each other. Hug each other. So much care, support in that hug. It means, you are not alone. I feel your pain. I feel your struggle. I am here for you.
According to researchers at Ohio State University, hugging and physical touch becomes increasingly important with age. “The older you are, the more fragile you are physically, so contact becomes increasingly important for good health,” University psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser told USA TODAY. Studies have shown that loneliness, particularly with age, can also increase stress and have adverse health effects. By hugging someone, we instantly feel closer to that person and decrease feelings of loneliness.
I feel uplifted each time I see my grand daughters and we hug. I will often reach out to my daughter and give her a hug. And my son – he is like hugging a big teddy bear. But I am reflecting, not enough. A hug also says I love you. I am proud of you.
A hug provides solace, safety and tenderness and an overall sense of wellbeing.
Touching someone you love often conveys a message in a way words cannot.
So although I am so busy, I must now remind myself, to reassure mum, by giving her a hug when I see her. It will help both of us in this journey with ups and downs, together.
Mum’s bloomers have been for years a source of some jokes from time to time.
Especially when she goes away, and they are hanging from the balcony or when she comes to visit and hubby finds them washed and then hanging in the shower.
When I go shopping with mum, I have tried to convince her to buy some nice floral bloomers instead of the white ones. But no she sticks with the size 18 – 20 white soft cotton bloomers. You should wear them to she has said on many occasion.
No, I have stuck with the Hi Cut bikini underwear in vibrant floral patterns. I moved to the hi cut bikini when the bikini ones cut into me and a bit of a muffin top meant that there was a bit of an overflow.
Then OMG, well a year of doing lots of caring of grand daughters and mum, has resulted in a huge dive in my exercise routine. I mean huge dive. I mean NO exercise, except for of course running around after people, and I did get some strength exercise bending over and lifting and carrying the grand daughters. But I am home more. Morning tea, coffee and cake. And oh afternoon tea coffee and cake. Stressful tiring days, a Mocha Fusion from Zaraffar’s Coffee cafe at the end of the street. And a Bailey’s on the rocks at 5pm!
Dieting has just not entered my head and anyway, dieting is so passé. You now eat healthy and just avoid cakes, cakes, cakes, cakes…..oh dear I have inherited mum’s sweet tooth – well teeth the whole lot actually. So I am on my way to inheriting mum’s white bloomers.
I have just admitted that the Hi Cut bikini 12 – 14 was just not cutting it. Well actually, it was cutting it. Right into my flesh. OK. I have faced the truth and bought size 14 – 16. I do remember when mum bought this size. But no they are not white. I am still trendy and it helps to disguise the fact that they are no long hi cut and that they are a size larger – nice colourful, sexy – OK not sexy, comfortable cotton undies – no no no…..not bloomers. Comfortable larger undies.
Hmmmm not happy with hubby. He was hanging out washing and said to me” Oh, I noticed you have gone up a side in your underpants!”. Really? Like really? He made that comment! Really? I gave him an icy stare and walked away. ARGH!!
Just don’t tell mum. Anyway, the weight will fall off me next year. I am going to try that 5 day eating anything…..oooooohhhhh! CAKE! And 2 days fasting diet…..not diet, no one diets any more…..that just sets you up to failure. I am doing to do that healthy lifestyle eating practice of 5 days eating and 2 day fasting. Shouldn’t be too difficult. I wonder, the fasting – will bubbly count as the liquid?
Wish me luck
ARGH!! Huge big bite…MUNCH,MUNCH,MUNCH……..hmmmmm thanks Mum says my daughterKathryn…… ARGH….a smaller bit, taken a little longer to MUNCH in….bit slower…..that’s my elderly mum. Nibble Nibble trying to find a spot not yet chewed….that’s the retired hubby. Nannie, Nannie, poo poo….calls out nearly 2 year old grand daughter! Wah, wah…that’s the baby Chloe.
My semi retirement is such a mix of ingredients – diverse like a gourmet sandwich. Family needs and demands, a retired hubby, a couple of hours a week (2 if I am lucky) for myself, and in my role as a celebrant, working on wedding, ceremonies– each ceremony takes up to 15 hours from the first contact of a bridal couple – – yes I know, many think an hour or two to write a ceremony and rock up on the day…WRONG!!!!
I feel like a gourmet sandwich….you know the type….delicious soft bread with a hard crust with yummy grain seeds – that’s me – soft in the middle and hard around the edges. My softness is family – giving of my time for family – an elderly mother who needs increasing support whilst still living an independently in her unit, and support for a married daughter, who has just had another baby – this one by C Section….which means she couldn’t drive for a few weeks or pick up her very active toddler.
And a recently retired husband who wants to have lunch with me, or ask me if I am going out, when I will be back? Or at breakfast time…what’s for tea? Thankfully he is often occupied playing golf….and is happy pottering around the garden and shed with regular visits to the big man shed called Bunnings. And I am blessed that he will clean and prepare dinner ! Occasionally – but only occasionally – but on those occasions it is usually critical emotional help….my 30 something single son, will send out an SOS for help. Oh and I fit work in between.
So I am soft, gooey like delicious bread – every time I am asked for help I say yes. The hard crust – I rely on that …that is my backbone, my hardened area of my body that says, suck it up, you can do this, don’t worry about that sore aching back and painful hip and knees.
The inside of the gourmet sandwich – where we are provided with so many options to choose from. My gourmet sandwich is made up of many options – but most are currently out of my control. There are all the issues that relate to supporting an elderly parent in my semi-retirement.
Between flinging all this together, stuffing as much as I can into life, I am also a nanapreneur – move over mumpreneurs – you have such an easier life! So I semi-retired from my corporate government business development career two years ago. I have a little business consultancy and a very busy celebrant business (weddings, vow renewals, baby namings and the growth industry – funerals)! Of course, I couldn’t stop there, nooooo, something to do with my personality type! Now I have started facilitation training with 2 Young 2 Retire for my Retiree Matters business concept.
You know I am so busy helping family in my semi-retirement lifestyle….that sometimes I feel tempted to return to full time work. It is one of the issues we just don’t think about when we plan – ha ha ha – really how few of us, I now realise actually plan and visualise an accurate semi or full retirement life.
We think, kick back, time for us, shop, garden, follow our passions, run a small business, travel…… We are the first generation, who find that there parents are alive and often well and living for decades. Except that they need support from their children to keep living an independent life…..well there are carers…and other support, but I have found from chatting, that many of baby boomer parents….don’t like strangers, don’t like to ask, ‘can do it themselves’ in some respects whilst ringing and asking an adult child for help at the drop of a hat.
Hmmm makes me wish now, that my parents had more than two children….and wish that my older brother had married, as there would be a sister in law, perhaps to help out also.
But of course helping is rewarding…..except there is also some feelings at times of frustration, resentment and wishing one could say no…..but family ties, heart strings…and thinking that these will always be wonderful memories to cherish and look back on, keep me going.
Mum can ring at any second, needing help for that latest issue of a tradesperson, something that she desperately needs, emotional support as she is depressed and in pain, medical appointments, needing to be dropped off or picked up to go to and from cards (thank goodness mum still plays cards four days a week), to take her out – just out for lunch and her favourite berry pancakes, shopping for clothes – I now help dress me, squashed in together in the changing room along with her wheeler, as I tug and push her body and dangly bits, say into bathers…….oh my…..my mind does sometimes race forward to a time, when I will need my daughter to do the same! Gotta get out and do some more exercise to be as fit as possible. Oh and I fit work in between.
I mind my grand daughter one day a week – which is wonderful as playing tea parties, lying down pretending to be her baby, tickling her and teaching her to sing on the top of her voice (sorry daughter yes she is LOUD – but you had to know I would influence her with seeing and caring for her so much J ha ha – louder now….let’s out sing the music!!) , and I also pick her up from child care twice a week, and am the fall back carer, when she is too sick for child care. I also do overnight stays. I have started to show her catalogues….I am teaching her to understand what a bargain buy is! Oh and I fit work in between.
With another new adorable beautiful grand daughter, I am currently providing a high level of support each week day, all day, until my son in law, stops work for the holiday period. I get to goo over my tiny grand daughter, delight in her mustard coloured regular poo – she is obviously receiving enough nutrition and hold her to rock and cuddle her to sleep – yes yes, I know that is not in the modern day parenting books. Now I love absolutely love that my daughter and her family live close by and we see them so much. I absolutely cherish the time. I love the time when my elderly mum, me, my daughter and her two daughters are together – the generational females all together That is so special. It is just that I do get very tired. My osteoarthritic hips and knees ache and my back and sciatica remind me constantly that they are a part of my body.
I do manage at times to get out and network and chatting to many women, guess what they are now caring and supporting or have a sister, aunty in a similar position. Trying to transition to semi retirement, having stepped away for years of learning, developing and achieving in their career. They have considered the financial planning side of their life, but really the rest was oh, it will be nice to have all of this time, to follow my passions….without actually thinking through the emotional demands and needs of adult children and parents becoming more childlike and demanding at times like a petulant toddler.
I know that this very high intense time of assisting my daughter will pass in a matter of a couple of months – and likely I will actually miss seeing her and grand children just about everyday, but I also know that the hard crust of the bread with the grain seeds – that harbours many ideas and activities will germinate. And one of those ideas, is to begin to assist those women 55 plus who are beginning to think of their idyllic lifestyle in semi retirement . Thus the idea of Retiree Matters to coach, mentor and facilitate seminars in life planning for the next stage in life! Join me on my facebook page, as I begin to develop resources and blog posts. https://www.facebook.com/Retireematters
In the meantime, I’m off – to shop and provide some gourmet sandwiches for hubby, daughter and grand daughter for lunch today – before heading of to take 23 month old Maddy to the park to burn off some energy, prior to having her sleep over for the night.
Mum has hearing aids. She is very happy with them. Her last test before paying for them provided results of 50% hearing when she was turned away from the specialist and 75% hearing when facing him and able to watch his lips. So she says.
He must have been YELLING for mum to have achieved those results. No way, absolutely no way does she have that level of hearing. Even though she only wears one hearing aid. Yes just the one. She can hear better she said with just one hearing aid! Whatcha say? Oh dear, is it wine o’clock yet?
Her hearing has been noticeably worse over the past few months and I have encouraged, reasoned, pleaded, asked her to wear both because she can’t hear. She answers with “if people would just look at me when they talk to me I can hear them.” to “I can hear fine – it’s when people start mumbling I can’t hear.”
Her hearing got worse very quickly and although it seems to have stabilised now, holding a conversation is very difficult. I say something. Mum replies, whatcha say? I didn’t hear you” and me repeating it. This goes on all the time. I feel sorry for the people that she plays cards with each week, but then again, many of them are hard of hearing. If mum doesn’t hear everything someone says she will simply fill in her own blanks or she has a way of pretending that she has heard. Oh, hmmmm she will nod!!!
So let’s give some examples you may identify or one day you too might face a similar situation. So here are some daily examples of daily chats with mum. The tips, oh where are the tips for Coping with caring for an elderly mother. Or read as – virtually deaf elderly mother! Especially when you only wear one ruddy hearing aid.
Is it wine o’clock yet?
Mum is in the back seat of the car and we are taking mum for a drive out for lunch. Hubby and I chat in the front. Mum just starts a long conversation on top of our chat. OR, she hears some chatting noise, and then makes statements on a completely different topic to what we are talking about. Mum asks me questions, I turn my body and head towards the back and yell the answers back to her. Mum repeats my answers. Except what she repeats is nothing like what I have said. Hubby wonders if it is wine o’clock yet. FARK! I often think. Other times, I just giggle – oh dear! I do hope I don’t go deaf.
“Where are we going?” mum asks. “We are going to the Marina Market’s first, then for lunch”, I reply. “Oh, where did you have brunch? Mum asks – “why did you have brunch first, you won’t be hungry for your lunch”. Smile!!!
Why are we going this way, mum asks noticing we are going a different direction. I have to drop something off to Dave, I reply? Who? Who let off? Says mum? I can’t smell anything? Did you let off? Hmmmmm, is it wine o’clock yet?
I don’t like that table, it’s too cold, too breezy, too loud, too sunny”. We usually end up at the 3rd or 4th table that we sit at. Yes, move the glasses of water etc each time. Waitress comes over to ask our orders. Would you like to order your drinks? Whatch she say? SHE SAID ARE WE READY TO ORDER out drinks! “, I want some fresh oysters”, mum replies. I’ll have a wine I say to hubby! I’m not hungry says mum, what are you going to eat, when can share it. Do they have any lamb’s brains? I’m not eating lamb’s brains I say. Why not they are good for you. Hmmm I wonder, maybe they might help with my hearing.
Mum rings. You have my disabled sticker. No I don’t, I reply. Yes, you have it. The last time I saw it, was in your car. Go and have a look it must have fallen down the side of the car door. OK, I will go and look. No mum I don’t have your disabled sticker. Yes, she replies, you do. I used it last when I was with you on Sunday (it is now Friday). No, you have been out with my brother since then. No we couldn’t find it. You have it. I will look for it tomorrow when I come around, I reply. Hey? Whatcha say? I WILL LOOK FOR IT TOMORROW WHEN I COME AROUND. You found it in a round thing? NO MUM!! I WILL SEE YOU TOMORROW. BYE FOR NOW. Is it wine o’clock yet? And the next day, I find the disabled sticker, just like I do, every time mum says that I definitely have it. Usually caught up between her calendar or between loose paper on her breakfast bench.
Phone rings, or I walk into mum’s unit. Mum is crying. The cleaners (or somebody!!) have stolen….my disabled sticker – yep, that disabled sticker again, money, her pastel art work she was going to have framed, a top, etc etc. No mum, they wouldn’t steal anything. Oh yes they would. They get in her and talk and don’t clean very well. Tears, they have stolen….item…..! Mum, calm down, remember every time you think something is stolen, I find it. So calm down. Whatcha say? IT’S OK MUM. SIT DOWN AND I WILL HAVE A LOOK! But I didn’t lose a book.. I told you the cleaners have taken (insert item here) ….!!! Hmmmmm. Is it wine o’clock yet?
I’m going out with a friend and I have no money. Why mum? We took $400 out yesterday. Well you must have kept it. You have it. I can’t find the money. Why did you keep it. I didn’t keep it mum. I put in in the drawer with your cheque book. Whatcha say? You coming her to look for it? Why, you have it. Bring it back. No mum, I don’t have it. Move your cheque book, it will be under that. Sick? Are you sick? Why are you sick? NO MUM I’M NOT SICK. What? Oh can you bring the money back! Lorna is coming to get me to take me out in a few hours. Hmmmmm Is it wine o’clock yet?
So mum talks over us, on top of our conversation. Interrupts and starts her own conversation. Takes a conversation on a completely different area to topic that we are discussing. Sometimes, it is very funny. Other tines completely frustrating.
I feel so sorry for mum. She misses out on so much of what is been talked about and happening. I hope that I never go deaf, or have such hard of hearing issues.
Love mum. Is it wine o’clock yet?