Q: My mom will be moving in with us and I will be her main caregiver. How can I best prepare for this transition in our lives?
A: It’s very wise of you to plan for your new role as caregiver. I think it’s easy to prepare by arranging the house accordingly and taking it day-by-day, but truth-be-told; there is a lot more to becoming a caregiver and it is not a job to be taken lightly.
Acknowledging that you are, in fact, a caregiver is a crucial first step. It may seem silly, but if you don’t recognize it for what it is, you are less likely to ask for help. And you will need help.
Talk with your close family and friends. Ask who is willing and able to pitch in. Who can stop by for an hour a week or a couple hours a month so you can take a break? Maybe someone can do the grocery shopping, even if only once a month. Is there a family member who can pitch in financially to help with the cost of a fill-in caregiver, or even for the cost of house cleaning to free you up and remove some of the stress of your ongoing To-Do list? If you do have others you can lean on, talk to them. People are usually willing to help out. Create a community of friends and family around your mom. Update them regularly on her life. Send emails, talk about her on Facebook, and make them a part of her life even when they are not physically there with her. If you keep them in the loop, it will be easier and more comfortable for them to step in when you need assistance. Sometimes people allow themselves to avoid helping out simply because there is a disconnect.
While there is a wealth of satisfaction that comes with caring for others, there can be just as much emotional and physical exhaustion. As your mom’s caregiver, your roles are essentially reversing and you will be experiencing many new things with her as she ages. It’s no cakewalk caring for someone. Add to that the emotional attachment you have to her as her daughter, and you may find yourself in some very confusing emotional battles. Be honest with yourself. You are doing no one any favors by running yourself into the ground trying to make a one-man-show work.
Get involved in local support groups. You’ll meet people in similar situations and you’ll learn a lot. Prepare a list of resources for current and future needs. You never know when you’ll suddenly need a new gadget or emergency care.
Make sure you know all of your mom’s personal and medical information, or that she has elected someone to handle her affairs if the need arises. Y
ou should at least be privy to her doctor’s names and numbers, her prescription details, medical history, DNR, insurance information, and Social Security number. Knowing any military information about her or her spouse will be helpful, as well.
If you haven’t already, talk with your mom about her personal wishes. Find out what her preferences are for her end-of-life care. She can be as general or detailed as she would like. This can be a wonderful experience, believe it or not. It opens up room to discuss the inevitable and it can be very therapeutic.
Enjoy your time with your mom. You are lucky to have one another.
• Stacey Conkle is a longtime East Valley resident and community liaison working closely with seniors and their families during times of transition. Send questions and comments to Stacey@generationsofamerica.org.