Caregivers are one of the most unheard and underserved groups in our society. Growing at exponential rates, they struggle with isolation, loneliness, and adverse health consequences at a much higher rate than the general population.
Coping with the loss of a family member may be one of the most complex challenges we face. When we lose a spouse, our grief can be particularly intense, and moving on after a long and happy marriage takes time. Loved ones can be catalysts in helping those grieving to find joy and happiness again.
Patricia (Dee) Hutchinson is AGE-u-cate Training Institute's Fulfillment Center Manager. I want to share her story about her father-in-law, Donald, and his journey from loss and grief to finding purpose and meaning after the loss of his wife. Here's their story:
Although my personal story of caregiving goes back decades, the message has not changed. My sweet mother, Jeanette, lived with Parkinson's Disease for many years. Our journey together as care partners included the highs of our incredible mother-daughter relationship growing even closer and the lows of experiencing the emotional roller-coaster of managing a disease that is ever-changing and often mysterious.
At 85, Jeanette's health had declined significantly due to the progression of her PD and complications from a broken hip. In addition, my sister was taking care of our mom in her home following a rehab stay, and the stress of 24/7 caregiving responsibilities took a toll on her physical and emotional health. It was time for a change, and a decision needed to be made relatively quickly.
Visiting one care community after another, I soon became embattled with my own emotions as I toured beautifully decorated buildings led by cheery marketing professionals. All the while, I was an emotional train wreck. What was truly important? I had some real soul searching to do.
A friend suggested I visit a residential care community that her dad had been in, so I arranged for a meeting with the owners, one of who was a registered nurse. The home was not in the most convenient area to my home, but was adequate for my sister and me to visit with a drive for both of us. The neighborhood was eclectic but safe. As I drove to the house, my thoughts were on a single track.
Entering the house, one of the care team members greeted me with a warm welcome and hug. The place was lively and bright, though far from fancy. Sitting areas in the large living room included residents, care partners, and family members.
As I made my way to another sitting room to meet with the owner, I noted the care team busy making lunch and chatting about the new recipe for the day. They stopped to say hello and asked if I'd like to stay. How could I pass up a yummy-looking Mexican dish?
As I sat down to talk, I could feel my emotions bubbling, and sure enough, tears started streaming. My decision of where my precious mama would live out her days played heavy on my heart. What did I want for her, for me, and the rest of my family? After all, we were all in this together.
All of the "things" that I thought were important started racing through my head. Within a short driving distance? Not really. Amenities? Somewhat limited. And this sounds so silly now, but at the time, I thought to myself, "this is just not mom's decorating style."
As I pulled myself from the depths of my crying episode, I felt incredible compassion and understanding embracing me. As I explained mom's health needs and history, it became clear what I was seeking.
Beyond the basics of cleanliness, safety, nursing care, I wanted my mom to be loved when I wasn't there. That sounds like a big ask, right?
It's frightening to care for someone you don't understand. People living with dementia (PLWD) are themselves often filled with fear and anxiety and express themselves in ways that are difficult for others to comprehend. For a family member or professional who is helping persons who are themselves trying to cope with the cognitive changes going on in their brains, it is a domino effect that carries over to care partners. Fear, anxiety, guilt, and feeling very frustrated in not having the tools to better communicate and respond to stress reactions leave caregivers feeling helpless.
The Home Health/Care Industry quickly stepped up to the plate during the COVID pandemic. The demand for services ballooned almost over-night, and providers responded with a fierce determination to serve those in need.
The challenges were not that different from long term care. However, one might argue they were a bit more challenging due to the remote nature of the workforce.
COVID testing and protocol training required an enormous amount of coordination. Another challenge was the lack of testing for the home-bound elders, and discovering that in desperation for care, dishonesty of symptoms was a factor.
Topics: The Family Caregiver, Senior Care Professionals, aging services, Family Caregiver, Training, Aging Service Provider, Hospital Professionals, caregiving, aging, Workforce, home care, COVID, home health
This year has been a challenging one to say the least. Grief over lost time with loved ones in long-term care is understandable. Also, not being able to say goodbye to a loved one due to quarantine restrictions certainly causes pain and anguish. The holiday season can amplify these feelings.
About a month ago, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued new guidelines that advocate family visitors to return to nursing homes. At this time only three states are not allowing visits. The guidelines provide specifics on how to visit a family member while remaining safe. Unfortunately, it still means making tough choices between a resident's mental and physical health.
Alan Packer said, “We can do hard things—it’s the impossible that takes a little longer.” Well, we have been doing hard things for quite a while now. In fact, it seems that we are in the ‘impossible’ phase now. Truly, I believe we have been working on accomplishing the “impossible” for quite some time now, aided by resilience.