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Someone Needs You. How Will You Answer The Call? Part 1

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Holding You Up A bronze statue on hotel grounds in Kauai, Hawaii PHALL PHOTO 2012

Holding You Up
A bronze statue on hotel grounds in Kauai, Hawaii
PHALL PHOTO 2012

by Patti Hall

They Say That Practice Makes Perfect

Technically, I wasn’t looking for practice or perfection when I answered my sister’s phone call from Alaska a few days ago. Just last week I was deep into my grieving cave-woman mode. Tuesday, I traveled about 350 miles (round trip) to a convalescent facility in Oregon. I met with the care team of my sister’s mother-in-law, Mrs. M.  Yesterday I started cleaning, packing and planning for an extended stay at the home of Mrs. M. in Portland, as her caregiver.

Caregiver: Is This A Calling And/Or A Bridge?

My caregiver internship began within the parameters of my first parenting role when I was 28 years old. That’s what parents do, they give care. Care-giving starts when you wake up in the morning, extends throughout the day, and continues into the night. It is wiping snotty noses, changing diapers, feeding, clothing and loving those in your care. Care-giving is sleepily welcoming a tearful dreamer under your covers, and into your arms, in the middle of the night.

To further my caregiver qualifications, I answered the phone and agreed to join a caregiver group in California. A troupe of his sisters and nieces, gathered at the home of my maternal uncle, when he was in the last stages of his battle against cancer. We came from 3 states; sometimes one at a time, sometimes overlapping, but one of us was always at his side. Despite my uncle’s sad prognosis, he basked in the songs of this Florence Nightingale choir. The songs were expressed in our laughter and love. We nurtured, laughed, cried, reminisced and took care of his physical needs. It was the first time that I truly considered how fragile life is.

A few years later, an interim caregiver position came available via an out-of-state call from my children’s father, aka my former husband. His mother was in her 80’s, living alone and had recently been widowed. She was not doing well emotionally, although, she was physically fine. I packed my bag, drove 100 miles north and left my own family to fend for themselves (again). K and I had known each other for many years and we had remained friends.

K was in deep grief and needed help with the mounds of paperwork and legal procedures that come after a death. While her son handled his job and household transfers from Utah to Washington, I helped K negotiate the details at hand. The signs of dementia came on fast and I consulted her son over the phone. I took K to her doctor and explained our concerns. She was poked and prodded and tested.

I received a promotion. Along with K’s paperwork, legal matters and emotional distress (grief), I had to keep her physically safe. From herself. Household hazards suddenly loomed everywhere. She was a fragile child one moment and an angry woman in the next moment. By the time her son came, K and I were exhausted and traumatized by trying to navigate the chaos brought on by the changes taking place within her brain. I returned home and wished that I could have done more.

Stay tuned, Part 2 will be posted soon…more caregiver experiences and I ponder whether this role is a calling or bridge to the next step in my life.

Have you answered the call? We’d love to hear your story in the comment section.

Helpful Links:

http://www.caregivers.com/caregiving/ All things caregiver.

http://alzjourney.com/helpful-resources/ An incredibly helpful list of resources about dementia, Alzheimer’s, and caregivers.

Peace,

Patti

Author: Patti Hall

Writer, daughter, sister, mom, niece, grani, and friend. Works-in-progress; 3 children's books, some poetry and a memoir series, "Souvenirs from My Heart." Pursuits of happiness include gardening, walking the beach, reading, writing, photography, traveling and genealogy. I am a widow (2009), lost my sis in 2012, my aunt and a precious grandson in 2013.

13 thoughts on “Someone Needs You. How Will You Answer The Call? Part 1

  1. Oh, Patti, you’ve been through it. I wonder where it will lead, too, but today it leads to this powerful blog. You’ll be away from home and I wonder how that feels. I wonder what responsibilities you’ll have for your sister’s mother-in-law, how much you’re willing to take on.

    I’ve been through the caregiving ropes. First I helped care for my dad when I was 12 after my mom went back to school to get her teaching degree. I helped him at night when she was at classes, cooked for him (including this last meal that he couldn’t keep down–heartbreaking for a 14 year old or anyone). Then I had a long break before I needed to help my mother who had Alzheimer’s for over 10 years and then my husband Vic who was sick and often in crisis for two years and died one year after my mom. Now my mother-in-law who is 97 and the hardest of all because she’s angry about her only son’s death. I’m exhausted by her stubbornness and negativity. In this case, I’ve learned to take care of finances and the outer things and back away from trying to help more. She’s 90% blind and unbalanced, so I took her to get a walker when her doctor insisted–but the walker is now a clothes rack in her apartment.

    I look forward to Part II. Hope you’re also caretaking Patti. I’ll gladly share this on FB.

    • Thank you, Elaine. You too have been through it, and are still there, at least partially.
      Mrs. M. seems a good match for me. I will have my own room and should be able to come home to my beach once a week or so. She is getting very good help where she is, and they have her able to take care of herself pretty well. I think I will be more of a companion, while she recovers from injuries from a fall. Nothing is set in stone, but I will do what I can to give my sis & her husband some peace of mind.
      Thank you for sharing. I am trying to scale back FB while I work on writing projects, but will check in every day at some point.

  2. Patti, you have been through such a lot. Thank you for sharing your story. xo

  3. I does take practice! I’ve been helping my dad care for my mother who has Alzheimer’s (on top of other mental illness!).

  4. I agree with Elaine: Take care of yourself, Patti, amidst all the work of caregiving. In your case, I hope it’s a bridge (a transition and therefore temporary) and not a calling. Since my aunt Ruthie (whom you have heard about on my blog) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, my sister and I have shared in her care-giving. Even with help, it is positively HARD.

    There are support groups for caregivers but that may not re-charge your batteries as much as a yoga class or other “me” time. You have given voice to the experience of many, that’s for sure. Thanks, Patti.

    • Thank you, Marian. I will take care. I will also be there to help make permanent arrangements, as Mrs. M. is on the fine line between living alone and some kind of assisted care, even when she heals from her injuries.
      As far as I know Mrs. M. is still of sound mind, but I also know that can change quickly.
      I will still be here, so you can check on me:>)

  5. You are an angel, Patti. Your family and friends are very lucky. Take care of yourself too!

  6. Am I lucky that I’m now so old and decrepit no one would even think to call me for help? I’m not sure it’s an improvement to my status.

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