November is National Family Caregivers Month and AARP is sponsoring a Thanks Project to thank the more than 42 million caregivers in the U.S. As a member of AARP’s Kitchen Cabinet on Caregiving, I wanted to send a special shout out to all the boomer girls (and their boomer guys too) who are caring for aging parents.
I know how difficult it is to balance life while caregiving. My sister N and I were caregivers to my mom until she passed away last March at the age of 91. Up until the end of her life, we agonized over multiple decisions we had to make regarding her caregiving.
What assisted living residence would provide the best environment when she could no longer live on her own? What rehab would meet her needs and get her back on her feet when she fell down and could no longer walk? To what might seem like a simple, yet important issue, such as how might we arrange for delivery of disposable underwear for overnight incontinence?
My mom lived in Florida and my sister and I lived a plane ride away. There were regrets and guilt. We always wished we could do more. We were good daughters and she appreciated our love. I miss being her caregiver. She is in my thoughts and in my heart every day.
My yoga teacher N told us to practice the phrase “I am” instead of “I am not.” Perhaps this is a phrase that caregivers of aging parents should practice when they feel overwhelmed. Think about all the things you “do” as a caregiver instead of all the things you “cannot” do.
“When caregiving full time, don’t agonize over temporarily setting aside lofty professional and personal goals. You cannot expect to search for the perfect job or write the Great American Novel while juggling three doctor appointments a day and washing soiled sheets. Appreciate the value of what you’re doing now. You’ll feel less stress and, when these responsibilities are over, still have the skills and wisdom to pursue your dreams,” said my friend B. B is a caregiver to her parents who are both in their 90s. Thank you B for all that you do.
“Most important, don’t argue about the ‘right answer’ or ‘correct date.’ Right doesn’t matter anymore. Yes ’em to death,” said my friend N. “Secondly, have patience, patience and more patience. N and her husband M are caregivers to her mom who lives in a nursing home and her ailing dad who lives in an apartment. Both of N’s parents are in their late 80s. Thank you N and M for all that you do.
“The caregiver is #1 in the equation,” added N. “Take care of yourself first. You have to survive.”
“It’s a conundrum,” said my friend L, who is a caregiver to her dad L who has Alzheimer’s disease and lives in a nursing home and her mom L who lives on her own. “These are parents who I used to turn to for advice and now I have to give them advice. It isn’t easy being the parent to aging parents. It takes lots of patience.” L visits her parents regularly. Thank you L for all that you do.
According to AARP, taking care of an older loved one means doing anything from handling their bills, to helping them with meals and driving them to appointments. It’s tough, juggling all of those roles. To illustrate the complexity and help the 42 million sons and daughters, friends and spouses caring for parents and loves ones see themselves as caregivers, AARP and the Ad Council are distributing Public Service Announcements as part of National Family Caregivers Month. The PSAs direct caregivers to tools and resources to help caregivers cope with their responsibilities at aarp.org/caregiving.
“Family, friends and neighbors who support a loved one rarely see themselves as a caregiver,” said Debra Whitman, AARP Executive Vice President for Policy, Strategy and International Affairs. “And they almost never ask for help. But at some point in their lives most people will be a caregiver or need support. Our campaign is here to remind caregivers that they aren’t alone and there is help.”
Please take time during the rest of November to give thanks to as many caregivers as you can. Go to thanksproject.org and post a photo, note, video or other comments thanking a caregiver you know. A companion mural will be painted on the side of a NYC building incorporating the names of those thanked.
I am a member of AARP’s blogger kitchen cabinet on caregiving issues. All opinions are my own.
What a great reminder! I am thankful that I’m not quite at this stage yet as my parents are both still independent, but I’ve watched others transform their lives to become caregivers and I admire them so much. It is the ultimate selfless act.
Brandi, you are so lucky that your parents are still independent. When the time comes, I’m sure you will be a great caregiver. AARP provides a lot of good resources when you need them.
Being a caregiver for an aging parent is SO hard, and I can imagine rewarding too, but I’ve watched my mom and my MIL go through it and I know it is wrought with stress and heartache, and that is in the best of situations. I think it’s awesome you’re calling attention to those who give so selflessly on a daily basis to care for those they love.
Jo-Lynne, yes you are so right about both sides of caregiving. This is an issue that I am very passionate about – thanks for your support.
Great post – I watched my grandmom care for her mom who lived to be 100, then her brother-in-law who lived to 96. She is now 102 and for the last 6 years FINALLY allowed herself to be cared for. It’s another circle of life 🙂
Wow Colleen! Sounds like you have good longevity genes in your family. Thanks for being a caregiver.
My sister and I were our mom’s caregivers until she died almost two years ago. Taking care of her was time consuming and sometimes taxed our patience. Even then, though, I enjoyed being with her. She was ninety when she died. I still miss her, especially on Sundays after church which was when we used to take her out for lunch.
Nicki, thanks for being such a wonderful caregiver to your mom. And thanks to your sister too. I can relate to missing moms – they are our foundation. Try to remember the memories and honor her each Sunday after church.
Hi Judy, I love your site and look forward to indulging in more in your writings.
Thanks Frantastically Fran. Love your name!
I thank my husband every day. Because on my worst days, when I need a cane and can’t get out of bed, he’s my caregiver. I thank my mother as caregiver to my dad.
I loved this post for obvious reasons, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing it.
Cathy, you are lucky to have such a wonderful husband. But he is equally lucky to have you as his wife. Be well.
I received more comments via email:
N said “Thank you for taking in an interest in it for others and sharing the wealth of wisdom.”
B said “Great column! Inspiring and an emotional boost for caregivers everywhere. Nice to know we’re not alone.”
Judy, I am so sorry to hear about your mom’s passing. I know you always worried about her. I cannot believe D’s already working in finance!!! I wish you a busy retirement! Kathylu
Kathy, thanks for your note. As for retirement from my corporate career, I’m loving it.