#1 -LESSONS IN CAREGIVINGMay 1st, 2013 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Senior Moments Blog
Seniors and Life-Long Learning
One of the benefits of being a senior citizen these days is the joy of admitting we have a lot yet to learn. We don’t have to prove ourselves any longer. We can just be ourselves, open to learning whatever new behaviors and insights happen to come along our way.
Such is the case with our most recent caregiving experience. It was actually the first time we had taken on the responsibility of care for another human being. I had always insisted I wasn’t a nurse and didn’t want to be one. But when faced with the choice of caring for my 93 year old mother-in-law in our home, I didn’t hesitate. She had been a loving and caring person all her life; it was time for that love and care to be returned to her in her last days.
Caregiving lasted just six months and a few days. She suffered from generalized debility, first losing one self-help skill, then another. Jerry deferred most of the personal care assistance to me; it just wasn’t his thing.
So I took on the task and never looked back. She died just three weeks ago, and already I’m identifying many things I learned about myself and caregiving.
The list is much too long to include in just one article, so this will be a series. And I hope our readers will enjoy sharing our experiences and perhaps even learning from them as well.
Caregiving Changes Your Life
I learned early on that caregiving is a life-changer. Yep. Our daily lives changed dramatically, and we will be on a different road forever.
Caregiving requires a level of self-denial that I hadn’t experienced previously. My day was dictated by what Momma wanted or needed or required. Hospice entered the scene early on when it was clear to me that I could not take care of her by myself. I was determined not to put her back in a nursing home, so the alternative was to bring home-health care into our home. She qualified for Hospice immediately, and their services were invaluable over the six months of care.
Momma’s wants and needs were pretty simple for the most part. I helped her dress with clothes she chose for the most part. Her daily (sometimes twice daily) desire for ice cream meant I had to have it on hand all the time. Her personal aide bathed her twice a week, and I took care of keeping her clean the other days.
I discovered that my own personal care suffered as a result of the time I spent on Momma. There just wasn’t enough time in the day for me to take care of both of us, so I took care of her first. If there was time left over, I managed to do what I needed to do for myself.
This changed my life because I realized I can live just fine with a shampoo two or three times a week, rather than daily. If I don’t shower every day, the world does not come to an end. My face looks good without makeup. Manicures and pedicures are no longer mandatory. My short, cropped hairstyle that requires no comb or brush is a good one for me.
Life-changing. Indeed. I’ll likely never return to those previous expectations.
Next: Stages of Caregiving