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Friday, July 20, 2012

Life Is What Happens...

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

This quote is attributed to singer/songwriter John Lennon. No matter how we plan, life comes along and kicks us in the butt when we least expect it.
Even when we should expect it. A week and a half ago, if you'd asked me about my life, I'd have told you I was the caretaker of my eighty-eight year old mother. She'd spent time in the homes of my sister and brother, and I was happy to volunteer for a turn.
But things have changed now. After spending nine months with me, my siblings and I had to make the decision to place Mom in a nursing home.  She got sick, had to be hospitalized, and we realized that we simply could no longer provide the care she needed. It's been a difficult time, fraught with confusion, fear, some guilt and—I'll be honest—not a little relief. Many phone calls have been made to family, social workers and other authorities.

This is not meant to be a "poor me" or even a "poor Mom" blog. We're glad Mom is somewhere safe where she can be cared for. She's in the same facility where my grandmother was many years ago, where Mom was a volunteer for twenty years. Many people remember her and she knows them.  It felt good to hear a staff member tell her "You took care of us all those years, now it's our turn to take care of you."
I'm sharing all this with you because I want to give people a heads up about what I've learned. It may sound very basic, but when you're in this situation, it's easy to miss the forest for the trees.

First and foremost, if there is an elderly or infirm person in your life—have a plan. Have several plans. By that I mean, have some options ready in case your loved one can no longer live independently in his/her home. This may involve a difficult discussion. Let's face it, we all like to think we'll die peacefully in our sleep. But chances are as we age our abilities will deteriorate and we'll need to make changes in living arrangements. And while living with a family member may seem an ideal solution, believe me, you don't what you're getting into until you're in it.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not sorry that I tried. But that may not be the best solution, especially if an older person needs a lot of care. While help is sometimes available though special programs, unless you have funds the main burden remains on the caretaker. And let's be real--that caretaker is almost always a woman.

So have the talk! You might have to "force" your parent or older relative to sit down with you. If living with family isn't possible, investigate assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Talk to people you know who've been in similar circumstances. And for goodness sake, discuss the financials.

I don't want to go on too long, so I'll stop here. But in the future I hope to share more of what I'm learning. Take care, everyone.  


  1. Nona,
    Thanks for sharing something so personal with us. My mom and I have been going through this the past year or so with my Gram, so I totally understand. I'm glad you found somewhere to help take care of her. We never know what life will bring our way, do we?

    If you had told me a year ago that I would have a book coming out next month, I wouldn't have believed you. Hang in there.

  2. Thanks, Rachell. It's good that you and your mom are working together. Having support is so important. Best wishes for your Gram.

  3. In my 'real life' I'm a home healthcare provider. I assist elderly people in there homes while family members can't be with them. I've also worked in a nursing home setting for terminal patients. I agree with everything you've said. You have to know your abilities and limitations.
    There is one thing I'd like to add. When choosing a facility, find out what services will be provided. I know of some patients who've gone without food, medication, clean clothes, bathing, and room cleaning because it wasn't part of the service. Deplorable! Also, make sure they have licensed or certified staff. Not all are required to. A glitch in the legal system.
    Bless you for caring for your mom. You're doing the best you can.

  4. Hi Sandra,
    Thanks so much for stopping by. And thanks for your comment--I had no idea that such terrible oversights could occur. Bless you for the work you do--it's such a needed position and such a boon to families. I wish eldercare and child care workers received the respect (and the salary) that they deserve. Their jobs are so important.



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