Coming Home: a Revelation in Caregiving

By October 23, 2014Uncategorized

Coming home again was a delicate mix of comforting memories and eagerness to make
much-needed changes. It had been 6 years since Iʼd visited my mother shortly after my
father passed away. Since then, not much had changed in the house, except for the
obvious absence of “Dad things” here and there. No more candy in the crystal bowl,
with which he discreetly filled his pockets on his way to his dental practice. (He was a
dentist with a sweet tooth!) No “Hello, nice people!” punctually at 6pm when he
returned home. No freshly baked pound cake under the dark blue dome of the bread
box, which Mom made sure was there for Dad to nibble on. Although I felt Dadʼs
presence everywhere, this was now our Motherʼs home.

Having been a long-distance caregiver for my mother since 2008, my head was full of
ideas of how I could spruce up the house and coordinate some repairs. I had
mentioned them to Mom on the phone several times and she always greeted the ideas
with a “Well, letʼs see…” My enthusiasm quelled when, once there, I realized that, while
I was home again, I was not in my home. This was Momʼs home and I needed to
respect that.

My brother, sister and I teamed up to become Momʼs family caregivers. While she is
relatively healthy and astounds her doctors with her flexibility, we help her with everyday
tasks. My brother and sister, who live somewhat near her, pick up groceries, take her to
the post office, visit and chat, take her on outings and bring her homemade dishes and
juicy hamburgers. I take care of bills, taxes, legal documents and anything that can be
done online. One of us calls her every day and reassures her that she can count on us
to be there for her the way she continues to be for us.

The temptation to take over for the sake of efficiency or practicality was a challenge for
me as I saw the need for several projects to begin. Home repairs that remain on the todo
list and sorting through old or unused items to make space were a priority for me.
The question was, were they a priority for Mom?

My sister pointed out a few years ago that, in helping Mom move forward with a new life
without Dad, we must not try to shape her into the person that we expect her to be. My
brother added that we ought to just make the best of our time together and show her
life! My view has always been to encourage her to do what she can do and to let us
jump in when she needs our assistance. Because I am also a family caregiver for my
homebound husband, I donʼt let my mother forget that she is quite capable of handling
many tasks on her own. It behooves her to see that she does not need to rely on others
for everything. Proof is, she has called me several times to proudly inform me that she
has taken care of this or that!

With love comes respect. In caregiving, sometimes the line between providing care and
maintaining respect and independence gets blurry. Family caregivers who are devoted
to the care of a senior may face the dilemma of providing compassionate care or
stepping back when that care is rejected. Preserving their careeʼs dignity and selfsufficiency
is crucial. Wendy Lustbader, MSW, writes in her book, Counting on
Kindness – The Dilemmas of Dependency
, “Unless we exert control over some aspect of
our lives, no matter how mundane or seemingly inconsequential, a significant part of our
spirit dies.” Allowing our loved ones to manage all that they safely can, in their own
way, helps family caregivers to foment their seniorsʼ self-worth and independence. Isnʼt
that how we would like to be treated?

About the author

Lynn Greenblatt is a family caregiver and the founder of CaregivingCafe.com – an online
directory of links to caregiving information, resources & support that can help caregivers
to more efficiently & effectively manage their tasks. She also encourages family
caregivers to take good care of themselves.

Image Credit – http://atgrandmastable.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/1163-east-avenue-small-living-room-facing-east-argyle-street-side.jpg

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