Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Love of a Caregiver Daughter

I had the privilege of interviewing an outstanding caregiver whom I had been corresponding with. My dog Ziggy and I were privileged to stay overnight with this couple. Over a breakfast of homemade biscuits Patricia said about her mother:

I was blessed with a great mother 
and I can do no less than care for her. 
She always tried to care 
for others in her family, 
selflessly giving even after she was disabled with leg fractures.

Her mother broke her hip and leg at age 84 requiring metal rods. Then 2 years later she broke the other leg in two places requiring rods and pins. Her resilience was amazing, but due to issues with blood pressure she began to lose her sight and have small TIAs. Then the dementia began as it often does in the 80s. Finally at 87 she had a stroke that paralyzed her left side and throat causing aspiration issues. Due to the extreme physical issues she was placed in a skilled nursing facility hoping for rehabilitation. Unfortunately a second stroke in rehab greatly reduced her ability to respond to therapy and today’s healthcare system discontinued the therapy due to lack of progress. 

This was a very stressful time for Patricia because she felt so helpless. She knew her mother didn’t qualify for therapy,  but without it she would just lose the existing strength and rapidly cycle downward. How do you watch a loved one lose their dignity and connection to reality? Her mother had good days where she was alert and realized that she was not getting therapy and therefore she had little hope of regaining function of her body and returning to her home. It is difficult to see a loved one lose their spirit and will to live. The 88-year-old mother also had a son, but he was not in a position to help. 

So for four years Patricia worked four days with the schools and then drove 3 and 1/2 hours to stay with her mother Friday through Sunday—so her mother could stretch her finances needed to pay around the clock caregivers allowing her to remain in her own home. Patricia said it overtook her life for those four years, greatly impacting the quality of her other family relationships especially the special time to share activities with her husband during their golden years together. She said that she always felt guilty trying to meet everyone’s needs at the same time and never doing a good job anywhere. Her mother had to pay $35,000 a year for Monday to Thursday caregivers when Patricia was not there during those four years. After the first major stroke her mother’s needs increased but Patricia was exhausted also. She had also developed physical ailments from helping to lift her mother over the last 2 years and now her mother would not be able to assist with any position transfers to prevent bed sores.

Something had to give. She was moved to live closer to the couple. They decided to have her dentist husband  hook up oxygen to create a sort of  SUV ambulance to move the mother to a nursing facility in their home town. The original plan was to receive therapy until she improved and could then assist with transfers and limited caretaking within Patricia’s home. Unfortunately, her health continued to degenerate and she was unable to make any physical progress. Now Patricia is able to visit her several hours a day and still have a life with her very understanding, caring husband.
I asked Patricia how she was able to sustain this selfless care giving for four years and even now going to the nursing home every day. She said,

I just do it.
I stay in the moment.
Then I’ve also let go of some 
other moments or expectations for my life.
I don’t look at it as an intrusion.
I know that once she is really gone
 I can’t touch her again, 
so for now it is all worth it.

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