While we hear many stories from caregivers about the challenges and difficulties inherent in providing care for an elderly loved one, it’s less often when that person wants to share the story publicly. Sometimes heartbreaking, other times uplifting, stories from caregivers offer insight to those of us new to caregiving or already in the thick of it. Either way, there’s something to learn from another’s experience.
No matter who tells the story the thread running through them remains the same: the difficulty of providing care on your own. No matter how astute or your established ability to multi-task, caregivers find real difficulty making the DIY model work.
Today, InnovAge’s President and CEO Maureen Hewitt shares the story of caring for her mother.
Thankfully, it’s much easier now to help older adults age well. But it wasn’t always this simple; and even today many caregivers still don’t know where to turn for help. (Please see a list of resources below.)
By Maureen Hewitt
I didn’t have a care coordination provider in 2009 when my daughter and I started caring for my mom, Margaret. It was difficult. I was working; my daughter was in college. I was still working, of course, when I cared for my mother. Again I was like many others in the U.S. More than 1 in 6 caregivers work part or full time while spending at least 15 hours a week as a caregiver.
There may have been something called “care coordination,” but at that time many of the care coordination services were in early stages of development or new. I did have lists of services and phone numbers; and financial statements and housing options.
My challenge—and, thankfully, what care coordinators do every day for older adults—was taking a fragmented system and organizing it into something cohesive to serve my mother. I was my mom’s care coordinator. I learned as I went. I made mistakes. I got better. I was like most caregivers in the United States: a full 72 percent of us provide care for a parent or family member.
To have had an objective source to help me, to me that would have been huge. Without one, I went through many options with my mother until we finally found one to fit her desires and situation.
I considered adult day services for my mother, but she wasn’t interested. She lived in senior housing for a time, but didn’t enjoy it. My mother didn’t want to live in a nursing home and told me many times.
My mother was a businesswoman. She wanted control; to live on her own in her own home. And that’s what she did. She moved in with my daughter and lived across the street from me. She had the independence of her own home and was helping her granddaughter. She had purpose.
While she had her independence, I remained tethered to her as a care coordinator. I found a nurse practitioner and physician who would monitor her health and well-being monthly. We used web-based services to send her vitals from her home to a physician. Then I added home care. I put together a list of everything and everyone who could potentially come to the house to provide services, like hair and foot care.
My daughter and I cooked meals and took turns going to doctor appointments to take notes. We surrounded my mother with all the components we were going to need. Somehow we pieced it together. I learned from this that every situation and person is different. Each has his or her desires and needs when it comes to living and enjoying life.
I’d love to hear your caregiver story. Please add it here if you’re comfortable doing so.
- AARP Caregiver Resources
- National Alliance for Caregiving
- National PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) Program Finder
- Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living
- USA.gov Caregivers’ Resources
This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your health or medical needs.