Monday, February 8, 2010

Taking Care Of Elderly Parents - Life With The Grays

As the cost of living and health care costs continue to rise, there are a growing number of the elderly finding themselves facing giving up their independence and becoming dependent on either government assisted living or living with younger family member.

Which bring us to adding a couple of Grays to our coloring box. While I don't pretend to know all the secrets of making it work or know all the answers; I know what it feels like for us.

It's tough no matter how you try to slice it. Tough for both parties.

While I am constantly told that I don't truly no how it feels, I hear The Grays talk about a lack of independence, feeling like a burden and a consuming feel of uncertainty. Uncertain about their own place in life and what that life is going to look like in 1 year, 5 years, etc. One thing they know for certain is that life, from this point on, is not going to get any better. The years have robbed them of even being an adult anymore. Once more, as a child, they must submit their freedoms to someone else. They have to be driven to where they want to go, have help with any financial, medical or personal decisions and become totally dependent on the whims of someone else. They have to hope that the person has their best interest at heart and surrender everything that they knew. They have to worry about when they become totally helpless...is anyone going to really care for them? Will they make sure they are fed? Have their medicines? Have access to medical treatments that are necessary? Are their finances going to be safe? Will someone bathe them?

As the caretaker, its just as hard. From my own experience, it is though we have added two more children to my family. While they are not at the point of total helplessness yet, I know that one day we will be there. When making the choice to become a caretaker, it is not something you jump into. While you want more than anything to be able to provide for your parents, as they provided for you; sometimes it can break a family. All parties have to be on board for the venture and everyone must know what is going to be expected of them. This includes not only the elderly parents and their child, but the spouse, children and other family members.

Since I am a stay at home mom with my own children, the bulk of the daily care falls on me. This not only includes the making of meals, shuttling to the doctor, etc. but also the daily, sometimes hourly, assurances that The Grays are wanted and are not a burden. Thankfully, The Head Crayon is the financial guru of our family and helps them deal with all of those pesky matters. The stress falls on him as well. He has to think far into the future about the cost of them living with us, medical expenses that in the future may not be covered under their insurance, etc.

Let me be real honest with you, when I imagined my life as The Crayon Wrangler, this is not what I had envisioned, but it is something that I signed up for. When we shared our wedding vows, we shared our families and our obligations. What I am doing for his parents, he would do for mine and any other family members that might need our help. It is the obligation of family. On days when I am not frustrated, I would tell you the honest truth that it is indeed a privilege to have The Grays depend on us. To know that they feel safe counting on us, speaks volumes of their love for us and their trust in us.

One of the biggest things that we are struggling with right now is boundaries and understanding. As we are moving from partial care to full time care, we are all learning what is "fair" to expect out of each other. It's a lesson in trial and error. We have a good days and we have our bad, but one thing we have decided is we will make it work. We will honor that trust that they put in us and show through our actions our love we have for them.

Do you have a elderly parent living with you? Are you dealing with Alzheimer's in a loved one? Is this something that your family is about to face? I would love to hear from you!

16 comments:

Mama M. said...

You are an amazing, patient, kind woman! I have the feeling you'll sail right through this adjustment time, and provide some funny stories along the way!

Cop Mama said...

You have such a kind heart. Not many people would be so willing to take on the challenges you have. I admire your positive attitude through it all.

I reall liked this post. You write so honestly about what life is like for you right now. You are an inspiration, my friend.

Keeslermom said...

My mom moved my grandmother into her home a few months ago. It makes me so sad to see my beloved grandma loosing her spunk, and my mom her freedom. I worry about both of them, how they will manage, and I long to help, but live 800 miles away. I would love to move closer and be a hands on support for both of them.

Jeanette said...

My parents do not live with me, but I do partial care for my grandparents. My uncle lives there with them, takes care of making sure they eat, are safe, and don't hurt themselves. I do all the shopping, bill paying, doctor shuttling, etc. At the end of the day, I get to come home. BUT... in the last 2 years there have been 3 occasions where I have had to pack up my kids and camp out at their house for anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months. Once it was because my grandpa was released from the hospital and required round the clock care, and twice because my grandmother had a surgery that required wound care and for her to be waited on hand and foot. That said, I think I know where you are coming from. It's hard. Especially while juggling a newborn and breastfeeding. I can totally commiserate. There are many tears of frustration and bouts of anger. But there is also love involved, or you wouldn't be putting yourself in that position. The important thing to remember, at least for me, is that my kids see what I am doing for the ones that raised me. You are teaching your kids that it is right and good to help out family. You are showing them what it means to be responsible and caring. They will keep that with them and when they are grown and you are the one that needs help, you won't have to worry because you will instilled those family values in your children.

Jeez, I wrote a book. Sorry bout that :)

Brianne said...

I have no experience but my when I was younger I spent a lot of time with my grandmother who had her mother living with her. They seemed fine together but she was not taking care of her own children too.

Good luck with it. I know if my mom needed me I would take her in- in a second. But it has to be harder when it's the inlaws.

Bless you.

Kimberly said...

We're not there yet, but if we ever do get there, I will count on God's grace and mercy to help me through.

Praying for the same for you.

*Jess* said...

My grandmother, with alzheimer's moved in with my parents when I was a teenager. Yes, it was very hard. I suggest finding a good support system (hey, maybe even us bloggers!) to vent your frustrations and to ask questions. You have such a wonderful heart :)

Cascia said...

My husbands grandmother has Alzheimer's. My parents are still pretty young and healthy so I don't think I will have to take care of them any time soon.

Tiffany said...

You are so compassionate. Grace to you as you care for those you love.

Ben Balsbaugh said...

Assisted living is an excellent way to promote independence amongst the aging population. Assistance is only rendered when needed. Independence on the performance of ADLs is encouraged. Keep up the good work. You will be rewarded for your kind heart.

MyMomfessions said...

*teary eyed*

following you from mbc

Nikki Cupcake said...

I was my mother's caretaker from when she got sick until she passed away last year. it's was hard on everyone. at the time i wasn't in a relationship when she was ill, but towards the end of her life i found someone. it was hard for that someone to except that i had my mom to take care of. I since had my son and the person who i was taken care of couldn't understand that they were no longer the center or my life.

my mothers care took a huge toll on my and my fathers life. we had to make huge sacrifices. i was lucky that my partner was willing to help too.

Jen said...

I took care of my mother from the time I was 4. She had a stroke when she was 29. It took a huge tool on all of us. I cared for her with my father through two of my own marriages and raising two children. After my father died I tried to care for her on my own but it was too stressful on all of us, especially my mom. We moved her to a nursing home after trying assisted living which wasn't right for her. She is finally settled after three years and now tells me how much she loves the place she is in. I still feel guilt that I am not willing to give up any more of my life to care for her but she is happy, or at least says she is. Having been a caretaker for most of my life I have no idea how to have a life of my own. Even now I schedule everything I might want to do around her appts.

I commend you for being such a caring person. It takes a lot to do what you do, just remember to take care of yourself.

Working Mommy said...

My father lost his father when he was young - 8 years old I think - and his mother had to work to support them both. As soon as he turned 18 he left home for the military because, if he stayed, he would have either become a cop or gotten into fights with them. He then married my mother and they adopted me. My father's mother is the only one of my grandparents still living. When I turned 6, the decision was made that gma would come to live with us. So my dad built an extension - in-law "suite" - attached to our home for her to live in. She is still independent to some extent...she can't drive or anything...and there is no door directly to our home from hers. It is a constant struggle, but the family is still doing it. Just gotta keep taking one day at a time!

~WM

Mom of the Perpetually Grounded said...

Bless you! This is an experience that can be rewarding but also one of the most difficult in life. In the early years of our marriage we shared a home with my husbands grandfather while he was still able and thru his decline and cared for him for a few years after a severe stoke. My mother was physically very healthy but had alzheimers and lived with my sister who was single and had no children for a few years while I helped out with driving duties and doc appointments while she was at work and some weekend breaks. But when she couldn't handle it anymore my mother came to us for her last full year of life. It was the hardest year of my life and took a toll on the whole family and nearly sent me round the bend but at the same time I am glad I had her with me as long as I was capable of caring for her and I wouldn't trade it. If you have adult day care centers in your area it is a treasure to families trying to keep parents at home as long as possible. When alzheimers hits the later stages you need a support system to give you breaks. Both for you and for the parents. I could write a text book here, but if you ever want to ask a question or vent any frustration, feel free to visit my blog or email me there. I do plan on including some of our experiences in my blog at some point, I just haven't got there yet.

Erin&Tara's Mummy said...

I know exactly how you feel, and also your in-laws. My father-in-law lives with my family, which includes two children aged 3 and 1. At first he was very independent, could drive and shop etc. and had a number of hobbies. All of a sudden he just went downhill and now just watches TV and complains all day. Sometimes I wish he wasn't here and I think he sees that. I feel that I am failing when I feel that, so you just get on a cycle of resentment and guilt.Anyway all I know is Hobbies Are A Very Good Thing For Elderly People.

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