Aging Parents: Caregiving With A Little Help From My Friends

Image result for "I get by with a little help from my friends sheet music image

Caregiving. Caregiver support. One size never fits all. We have our own ways of approaching and handling things.That said, a reference to this Kiplinger’s magazine article, Pitching In When Caregivers Need Help, was glaring at me as I began moving older Newsworthy articles from the column at right, to “Newsworthy Archives” (above). Having just gone through months of what qualifies as “caregiving,” I’m thinking the idea for finding additional help as offered by Kiplinger’s  three listed sites below may appeal to many.

The first site: Lotsahelpinghands–how-it-works reminds me of those community blackboards I’ve seen in neighborhoods in Portland, Oregon offering services: people helping people –a ride, someone to make meals etc. (the site has added other aspects now). It has a practical emphasis. This no doubt works well in suburbia and smaller communities and in cities where neighborhoods are important.

The second site, www.careflash.com concentrates on supportive relationships and meaningful communication and support through shared and private interactions on the internet. With a goal to “foster healing among loved ones,” it has no geographical restrictions. It seems to emphasize the “touchy-feely” and offers planned activity ideas.

The third site, caringbridge–how it works: provides a private site for family, friends and others you select–saves calling many people with the same information and allows easy updates and messages for all users invited to use the site. For those with large families and large groups that care and want to regularly share, this could be the answer. 

However, none of the above would have worked for me, I guess confirming the fact that “one size doesn’t fit all,” “different strokes for different folks” or whatever. Some of us will find our own routine and support system–out of creativity or necessity.

I live in New York City. I was “it”–the caregiver–for my husband. Whether in the hospital or at home, there was little time for private calls to family–all living in the west–or friends, spread out across the country.  And there was no time for extended conversations or daily emailing.

My solution: Once or twice a month I emailed blasts, trying to craft the nicest email I could with timely information, always adding at the end something like: “Please understand, my day is over-full, and much as I’d like to talk with–or email– each one of you, I can’t; so please don’t call me.” I created a contact group on my Mac and sent updates as appropriate.

As for support, I got by, and continue to get by, with a little help from my friends–three  friends, each helpful in different ways, to whom I will forever feel grateful and indebted.

With hopes that one of the preceding ideas will resonate with many…..

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Related: (For nostalgia’s sake–watch the performance–YouTube in color: the Beatles with Ringo singing  I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

 

 

Caregiving and Time for Self

  • One reality is that we can’t stretch a 24-hour day.
  • A second reality is that–and we all know this, but easier said than done, those entrusted with caregiving must take care of themselves.
  • A third reality: it’s hard not to push ourselves….just this one time or just a little bit more…but it’s not good for us if it must continue over an extended period.
  • And the last reality–at least for me–is that my time for keeping up with my blog remains in short supply for the time being.

Having set mental markers in my head to warn me of when my ability to remain helpful to anyone, even myself, is at risk–I have asked for help several times since my husband’s surgery to replace his aorta and mitral valves on February 4.

While we planned to go to the Southwest the beginning of April and had been cleared by doctors to go, there was a serious issue connected with the surgery, that hospitalized my husband on April 1st….and he is still hospitalized, although we’re hoping he can come home in a few days.

So the help I now need is finding a bit of time for myself–something I’ve done to a small extent each week. Yet as this hospital routine continues, and time walking, running, taxi-ing, bus-ing back and forth to the hospital continues to eat up time, I need more rest or unassigned time, as well as time to prepare for his homecoming.

With no family members east of the Rockies, the ultimate caregiving responsibility is mine. Good friends are a blessing and have been wonderful. With many friends in the counseling profession like myself, there’s a certain supportive understanding that most people don’t have.

For now I take a break from my blog and will get back when I can….hoping it will be soon.

 

Caregiving, Cancer, Computer and Convention Come Together Tonight

Helping Aging Friends

While I should have been writing tonight’s post early this evening in order to watch the convention tonight (I’m a convention junkie every 4 years), my brother calls my cell phone. It’s dinner time in NY. Initially I let it go, waiting for a message. No message. Instead he calls my husband’s cell. I realize it’s important.

My brother’s very good friend, age 75, has cancer. A biopsy taken today may not be back for 3-5 days, but scans show 2 highly suspicious tumors. He’s in the VA hospital.  Should he come to NYC where the experts are–to Sloan-Kettering? Can I recommend someone? While I do know someone who “lives” the medical field and does thorough research, added information before action is needed.

I’m also aware that the sister whom I’ve never met and I assume is in her 70’s, is already caregiver for 2 sisters. One, 82, is confined to a wheel chair; the other has major health issues. The caregiver sister has been the sole caregiver for several years with a little help from her 75-year-old brother. Since all the siblings live together, it’s probable that she will soon have additional caregiving responsibilities because of her brother.

I first learned of the situation on my visit to the Northwest–understood from my brother that the caregiver sister said she didn’t think she “could take any more.” In trying to get her mobility-challenged sister from the wheel chair to the car the week before, she and her brother had fallen and suffered bruises. She was exhausted. And that was before her brother’s probable cancer diagnosis. So last week I complied with my brother’s first request that I speak with the caregiver sister.. He gave me her number and I phoned–trying not to be intrusive.

Caregiving in a Vacuum

The sister was appreciative, basically clueless about support. Visiting nurse services? She’d never heard of them. Social services? Her mobility-challenged sister was receiving physical therapy each week–had been for at least a year–but she didn’t know who arranged it and knew nothing about social services. This woman has been caregiving in a vacuum.

While my knowledge about specific support services in that city is very outdated, I know hospitals have social workers. And since she was spending time at the VA hospital, I suggested she start there and also tell nurses taking care of her brother about her situation and seek suggestions for possible help. Additionally I suggested she discuss her situation with the physical therapist the next time she came.

The writing of this post is halted.

Tonight, at my brother’s request, I once again phone the caregiver sister.  She’s appreciative and begins by telling me that she never would have known about visiting nurses or social workers had it not been for my phone call last week. (She immediately took action and scheduled a social worker’s visit for tomorrow.)

We talk about hospice. Like so many, she has the misconception that one must be on death’s doorstep to use their wonderful services. She never heard of respite. Said she was going to talk to the social worker about that tomorrow.

Then I ask about using a computer to gain information or even share concerns on a blog or website (like www.caring.com) so she wouldn’t feel so alone. This seemingly smart woman is computer illiterate. Never used a computer. While it’s never too late to learn when one has a good mind, it saddens me that she’s without this valuable tool.

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We do what we can to help aging parents–and  friends and our friend’s and sibling’s  friends. This caregiver sister is doing more than she stretched to the limit, while awaiting the biopsy report. So much is out of our control, yet we can take heart: sharing information and being supportive to caregivers is under our control.

Additional Resources:
http://www.agingcare.com/Articles/When-to-Call-Hospice-and-How-to-Find-One-Near-You-96209.htm

https://helpparentsagewell.com/2012/03/24/aging-parents-…l-when-to-call/ ‎  information from a former hospice nurse concerning when to hospice–as well as the fact that people under hospice care can still go to work, some actually get better with hospice care routines and some come off hospice.