Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Caregiver - Stepping Up When A Loved One Needs You

Sometimes your life changes in an instant and instead of inviting your adult son over for dinner you're holding his head coaxing him to eat just one more bite. Other times change comes so slowly you don't notice the metamorphosis until you realize that your mother not only depends on you to balance her checkbook and drive her to an endless secession of doctor's appointments but lately she needs help with baths and personal care, too.

The majority of us will be faced with situations similar to these or we might even be the recipient of the loving kindness of another. Let's face it, even if we avoid a serious illness or accident, we are living decades longer than previous generations...if we are not the caregiver, we will mostly become the cared for.

I am often reminded of my mother and the way she tirelessly cared for two sisters and an aunt. Every week for nearly twenty years she shuttled between two nursing homes, forty miles apart, to look after the people she loved. They needed her. She was there and that was that. In her words, "Someone had to do it so I did."

When I think of this I am renewed in my guilt that my mother is in her seventies and I, her only child, live thousands of miles away. One day, I know that will have to change. She will need me and I will make the necessary adjustments to care for her as she did so faithfully for others.

Many times my mother felt overwhelmed and didn't know where to turn for help. She muddled through it the best way she could. Apparently, things have not changed much since the twenty years since. I spoke with a friend recently who shared that her husband had been diagnosed with a debilitating illness. She's feeling the same isolation and confusion as my mother and so many others have experienced.

For my friend, and all those I know who are in her situation, I've compiled a short list of places on the web that might be helpful. I want my friend to remember that she is doing a noble thing, a loving and charitable thing at a time in history when it seems people turn away from heavy responsibilities. I want her to know that she is up to the task and she has support. Caregivers should be held in the highest esteem. As with my mother and many like her, my friend has my respect.

To care for those who cannot care for themselves is our highest calling as human beings and is rarely recognized as such.

Caregiver Resource List:

National Family Caregivers Association
Helene Moore, Author of Behind the Mask
Administration on Aging
Family Caregiver Alliance
Resources from the US Government
Ways To Connect With Other Caregivers from the American Cancer Society

Disabled Veterans
Alzheimer's Association
Emotional Side of Chronic Illness

I hope this helps in some small way. Reader, if you have a link for this list please put it in the comments section and I'll add it as soon as I can. Share you story, if you have one, it might just help someone in the same situation.


Linda Lou said...

I agree--caregivers should be held in the highest esteem. Unfortunately, caregivers in institutional settings--such as nursing homes, group homes for the mentally disabled, and centers for teens under supervision--are at the lowest level of the pay scale and they're the ones with the most direct patient/client contact. Caregivers are angels on earth!

Lisa McGlaun said...

They don't get paid well at all. I remember when I would go to the nursing homes with my mom. Some of the people were definatly not in the career of their choice. They did not take good care of the residents and part of it was the pay. I can remember hearing a conversation between two aids as they cleaned up and changed someone in one of the rooms. It went something like.
"Be careful.Slow down."
"Why? She can't talk. I'm not getting paid enough to be careful."

And then there was a nurse I will never forget. When we'd go visit my aunt, who was mentally retarded, Mrs. Fitzsimmons would greet my mom and immediately start telling her everything my aunt had done during the week, how she'd amused the staff, how she hated eating certain food, how much she loved being assigned to her hallway.

So that is the long way of saying that I agree with you. They are not respected and if they were paid more so that the job attracted and supported people like Mrs. Fitzsimmons every nursing home resident would be better off.


Gina Stepp said...

I've had more than a few loved ones in nursing homes over the years and have seen this same spread. Some caregivers are wonderful; others are there for the paycheck (which is only enough if you're doing the minimum). The good ones can't possibly be paid enough.

Then there are those families who put their lives on hold to take care of their loved ones at home. It isn't always possible, of course. And when it isn't, there's the accompanying (unnecessary but all-too-real) guilt.

So many layers, such a comlex problem. But as you say, "To care for those who cannot care for themselves is our highest calling as human beings and is rarely recognized as such."

Hear, hear.

Lisa, have you seen this? http://familymatters.vision.org/public/blog/190283

sunflower25 said...

Caregivers have the hardest job of all. There are some of us trying to change that. My book and blog has been noticed and things are popping. I will keep you posted.

Also you and Tami did a terrific job last night at the Clark County Library. It is a lot to take in at one time. I'm ready now start.

I will be speaking at the Henderson Senior Center on September 9th. (I hope it's not rude of me to include my talk?)

I wish you luck and best wishes.
Love and kisses Helene

Lisa McGlaun said...


I left a comment on Family Matters. I had no idea you did a post about me. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.

Hugs and great thanks,

Lisa McGlaun said...


I must have done something right last night if you were able to leave a comment on my blog. I taught you something..:)

It's been a pleasure getting to know you. You are an enjoyable, obviously loving lady.

It's prefectly fine to tell people about your event here on my little piece of the web.


fren_ace said...

i strongly agree with you,
what a nice and informative post,
keep it up..

can we exchange links?


the situation in america of people down and out is rediculous. only my homeboy ***obama!*** is the hope that we need.

Lisa McGlaun said...


Thank you for the kind words. I'll check out your blog, too.


Lisa McGlaun said...


I agree. I'm an Obama Mama all the way but I don't believe one person can heal our nation. His election will be a step in the right direction. The rest is up to us.


Anonymous said...

How touching this sensitive and oh so accurate portrait of caregiving. A memorable statement was spoken to our family as were faced with my Grandmother's dementia. "Enter your Grandmother's world." I was told. Your mother was indeed an inspiration to many of us in caregiving. She was and is a natural at caring for others. This bit of insight, and the helpful links are fabulous to keep on file. I also recommend Bill Moyer's program info "On Our Own Terms" which helps the families in need of Palliative Care for their loved one! There are several wonderful links to be found there. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/onourownterms/about/index.html
Have a wonderful day!

Lisa McGlaun said...

So wonderful to hear from you on here. What a suprise!

Thank you for the comment and the link. Hope all is well in your life. I think about you often.


thewishfulwriter said...

What a wonderful idea for a post. Those resources will undoubtedly be invaluable for someone.

Apes and I know that as much as we try to deny it, our parents will age and caring for them will be something we'll gladly do - just as they cared for us.

I'm certain I'll be scrolling through your blog posts in an effort to revisit those resources!

Care Givers said...

However, some caregiving professionals are skeptical about the efficacy of a national awareness month when caregivers continue to face many of the same challenges that they did decades ago. Thanks for sharing the information.