Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chapte Two of When Mom Moves In

     One of our greatest fears about growing old is not death, but becoming dependent on someone else for our care.  As our parents and grandparents advance to the age of needing help, they look to their children for assistance.  What do you do?
     Your children are gone, the nest is empty, and you finally have time for yourself.  You are about to retire and enjoy the “Golden Years.”  A little travel and a lot of relaxation with your spouse.  Then one of your parents falls ill and you are elected to care for her.  So much for the Golden Years.  They become a little tarnished.
     You take on a new job.  You are now known as a “caregiver”; one who provides assistance to someone who cannot care for himself---usually an aging parent.
     A good caregiver provides help where it’s needed but encourages the parent to stay as independent and self-sufficient as possible.
     Sometimes a parent may want to stay in her own home and hire a part-time caregiver to do the little things she can no longer do for herself.  If she can afford the help, great.  This type of care will give her the feeling of independence and keep her content.
      Others will want to sell everything and move in with you.  If this should happen, you should make plans for the future, because it will change drastically.  At this point the whole family should get together with the parents and plan their needs.  It is important to include the parents in all your plans.  They need to be a part of planning their own future.  This includes discussing the possibility of living in an assisted-living facility or even a nursing home and when the time would be right to place them there.  They are much more content in a facility when it is their decision to go there.  It makes it easier on the whole family.  Your parents will feel they are still in control.  You wouldn’t like to lose control of your life either. Iin a small part, you will lose control of it.  For now the needs of your aging parents will dictate your daily routine.  
     They will be changes, but nothing you can’t handle if you keep a positive attitude about the whole situation.  A good attitude will help you maintain a constructive outlook in the days to come.
     On the bright side, many happy hours can be spent with your parent, reliving memories of childhood and uncovering family history to preserve for new generations to come.  You will probably discover events that you have not heard about before. Parents love to talk about “the good old days.”  This is a perfect time to start a family history of special events in the lives of your parents and grandparents.
     When the time comes for your parent to leave this world, you will treasure the time you have spent together.  Precious moments--mother and child--good friends!  These memories are something that you wouldn’t have if your parent lived out their life in a home other than yours  There is a warm feeling that comes with knowing that you have done the right thing when Mom Moves in.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chapter One of What to do When Moves In

    As far back as I can remember, my family was taking care of someone.  A few months after my parents were married, Dad’s mother passed away and Dad took in his father and two brothers.  My mother learned her fate as a caretaker early in her married life.  But she was young and in love and took it all in stride.  However, there were times when she longed for privacy.  Especially when she and Dad gave up their bedroom and slept on the couch in the living room---a major sacrifice for a newlywed couple.  Even their lovemaking had to wait until everyone was asleep, so they could steal a few moments of privacy.  I doubt that many young couples today would sacrifice their room or assume so much responsibility.  But that is the way that my parents generation was raised; you always took care of your family, no matter what.
     As I was growing up, I too learned how to care for others.  My sister was born when I was eleven.  Naturally, I was eager to help Mother take care of her; it was like having a live baby doll.  It was fun at first, but child care soon lost its thrill.  Then she was just my little sister who I had to look after.
     Our family included my two brothers, one two years older and one two years younger , my sister who was 11 years younger and me.  Of course, like most boys they fought all the time and we got into trouble, not serious trouble, though, mostly for avoiding our chores or fighting with each other.
     My two uncles lived with us from time to time along with Grandpa, then Grandmother on Mom’s side moved in.  It seemed to be one person after another, year after year.  It was a big job learning to care for each of them and each one’s particular problems.
     My grandmother posed special challenges.  She was very religious and she didn’t approve of many of our favorite radio programs.  Much to our dismay she would turn off The Shadow or Gangbusters mid-program, because she deemed them too violent.
      Grandma lived with us for years before she became bedridden and lost most of her sight.  She would sit for hours reading her Bible.  When she became too ill to read she liked to have me read to her.  I enjoyed it also, for I was raised in the Lutheran church and knew my Bible well.  I read until she fell asleep, then place the Bible on her lap with her hands on top of it.  She liked that, and kept her Bible with her at all times.
     I inherited Grandma’s Bible when she passed on, and it brings back memories of reading to her, the part of her caregiving that I liked most.  She was a very special person, with wonderful stories of her home in Denmark.
     Grandma’s health wasn’t too good toward the end.  She was terribily confused and forgetful.  She wouldn’t recognize me or my mother at times and often thought we were trying to kill her.  She fought us tooth and nail when we came in to tend to her needs.  For a frail old woman she packed a pretty mean wallop.  But, we had to overlook her actions because of her condition.
     I learned how to give her a bath without embarrassing her by watching Mom in action, and, of course, learned the bedpan routine,  She joined us at the table and always said grace.  Toward the end of her life she took her meals in her room, until finally we had to feed her.  In those days no one came in to help you, you simply did the best you could.  You would only put your loved one in a nursing home when it was absolutely necessary.  I think that is still the best way.
     As a teenage it was hard to entertain with Grandma there and before her it was Grandpa, with his smelly pipe and his crazy sense of humor.
     Uncles, aunts, grandparents, we were never a small family.  There was always someone special to care for.  As if that wasn’t enough, Mom took in boarders from time to time to supplement our income.  She also took in foster children from broken homes.  It was short-term care, but these children got all the love and attention that our own family received.
     We were a very happy, well-adjusted family, in spite of all the extra people packed in our house all the time---or should I say because of all the people we had in our house all the time?

Friday, September 23, 2011


     When I make a diagnosis of chronic kidney failure, patients and their families invariably ask me,”How can we get through this?”  I tell them to take life one day at a time, and we do just that, day after day, year after year.
     Betty Kuhn’s book will be at hand now, when patients leave my office.  In a friendly yet firm manner Betty covers the basics of living well in old age.  None of us wants to address these issues, but infirmity will prevail.  I recommend this book to every family young and old.  An ounce of prevention with Betty’s “words to the wise” could indeed save your loved ones pain and suffering.
     As for the author herself, without her strength and determination, her husband, Wayne, would not have made his remarkable recovery.  I never cease to learn from my patients---they are your best teachers---and Betty Kuhn sets a fine example for us all.
         What do you do when Mom moves in?  I suggest that you grab your suitcase and run out the back door as fast as you can.  Well, that may be exaggerating just a tad, but you’ll feel like fleeing, maybe not at first, but eventually you will.  You’ll want to escape from everything and everyone, hungry for a little solitude.  Luckily these feelings will pass.  If they didn’t you’d go crazy.  But you won’t run, you’ll open your arms and welcome Mom with a big hug.
     The stress of keeping everyone happy (except yourself), and balancing work, home, family, and an extra family member, is overwhelming at times.  the endeavor also has it’s lighter moments, which makes it all worthwhile.
     It can create hardships in a marriage too.  However, if you keep the lines of communication open with your husband, it can help your marriage become stronger, because you need each other and you must pull together to make it all work.
     Caretaking can be very rewarding at times.  The simple fact that you are taking someone you love into your home and preventing them from being placed in a nursing home makes it all worthwhile...well, most of the time.  When your parents need you, it gives you a warm feeling to be able to help them.  After all, they raised you for eighteen years; now it is your turn to raise them.  Sometimes they are like children, so the phrase rings true.
     It isn’t easy though.  It is one of the hardest things we had to face in our forty-seven years of marriage.  But, I’m glad we did it---four times---before my husband himself became critically ill.  Luckily, I had learned a little with each patient, so that I felt confident in my ability as a caregiver when my husband, Wayne, needed me.  After forty-seven years of him taking care of me, now it was my turn.  Perhaps that is why God gave me the task of caring for the others---to prepare me for the monumental task of caring for my husband.
     My biggest surprise was that I couldn’t handle it all myself.  I had been dealing with people for twenty-five years in the banking business, but when we took in my mother-in-law, it was a whole new world for me.  Surely, one little woman wouldn’t get to me.  But she did.  She managed to rub me the wrong way many times during her stay with us.  This woman with whom I had been friends for so many years was about to drive me crazy.  That’s when I knew I needed help.
     I hope that my experiences will help you know what to do when your mom moves in.  Good luck!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


     I have many requests to give more information on caregiving, since I wrote a book on the subject.  So, I thought it might be a good idea to blog my book so everybody who needs the information can simply read my book.  I enjoy sharing information about caregiving and hope that the people who need it will read my book online.
     A chapter or more will be posted each week, as time will allow.  The name of my book is
                             “What to do When Mom Moves In”  
                                         Ideas To Make It Easier
     This book was written while my husband was in the hospital for eight months with peritonitis, due to End Stage Renal failure.   All of it is true...I lived it!  I learned so much about  how to care for others in my home.  But most of all, I learned a lot about myself.
     My loved ones came into my home for care.  First was my father-in-law with a heart attack, and then my mother-in-law with emphysema, next my father with colon cancer, and then my mother with congestive heart failure, and my husband on dialysis, at the same time.  It spanned a fifteen year period and it was the most challenging thing I had to face in my life.    
     My book offers help for the first-time caregiver, who may be overwhelmed by the task at hand.  It will cover:
          How to overcome the resentment of caregiving.
          How to locate other caregivers to share experiences.
          How to give a bed bath without embarrassing anyone.
          How to prepare for an emergency at home.
          How to choose a nursing home that is not a warehouse for the dying.
          How to keep a positive attitude in a frequently trying environment.
     The book will help you get through the time you spend helping your loved ones, and learn more about them in the process.  It will bring you closer to your loved one, closer than you have ever been before.  Read and enjoy.
     “Taking care of our elders is a privilege.  It is a redemption of their love, and a lesson for the heart.”
Betty Kuhn