#2 – LESSONS IN CAREGIVINGMay 3rd, 2013 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Senior Moments Blog
No Caregiver Regrets
Someone recently said to me, “I do not want to die with any regrets.” My life-long statement to self has been, “I want to be proud of what I do and say.” This was certainly true of the six months we spent caregiving. Did I live up to that totally? No. Did I get close? Yes. I learned that, because there is life after caregiving, I needed to conduct myself so I would not end up with regrets.
By far the most difficult situations we encountered caregiving for my mother-in-law centered around her safety. Momma never got her fair share of common sense and good judgment in life. Health care professionals, particularly in rehab after she broke her hip for the third time, consistently identified her lack of judgment as a major problem in her rehabilitation. So we came to her last days still trying to manage her safety in the face of her poor judgment.
In particular, Momma insisted on doing what she thought she could do, what she wanted to do, in the face of the Hospice team telling her she wasn’t safe doing that. And there wasn’t any amount of cajoling or reasoning that worked to convince her otherwise. In the first three months, she fell/slid to the floor about every other day. We kept putting safety precautions in her environment to minimize her falling, but she still would ‘walk the furniture’ around the room and refuse to use her walker or wheel chair.
Caregivers Face Tough Decisions
There came a point when I had a discussion with Hospice professionals about how far we should push the insistence that she stay safe. That conversation included references to the legal responsibility we had for her safety, and the potential consequences if we weren’t protecting her appropriately. When I learned we could be charged with ‘endangerment’, the decision to insist on her safety was an easy one. I’m willing to be her caregiver; I’m just not willing to face going to jail because she didn’t use good judgment.
From that point on, the tension increased over what she was no longer allowed to do, and we learned to manage the daily incidences with as much grace and understanding as possible. Some days were better than others. I grew eyes in the back of my head. We moved her hospital bed out into the great room so we could watch her more easily without obviously checking up on her. We had to say “No” more often than we wanted, and we always referenced her safety. We had to recognize that was the best we were going to do.
My only regret is her inability to understand the need for the many safety precautions we had to create. And I recognize I had no control over her ability to understand. I have absolutely no regrets that in the six months of care, although she fell many times, she did not break any bones nor suffer any major contusions on her body. I know that is because we insisted she be safe.