Friday, November 25, 2011


     When my mother-in-law first came to live with us she was able to do some things for herself.  She could take a shower, fix her own hair and keep her room clean.  But, as her illness worsened, she relied on us to do for her.
     There were times when I had to help her bathe herself, helping her in and out of the shower.  She was a little embarrassed at first, but she soon got over that.  When she could no longer walk and had to be wheeled around in a wheelchair, at first she would get around under her own power, but soon got over that.  When she could no longer walk and had to be wheeled around in a wheelchair, at first she would get around under her own power, but soon she became too weak to do even that chore for herself.
     When she became bedridden was when she needed the most attention.  Her daily routine was laid out so that it worked around our schedule.  At first we hired someone to come in and clean her room, give her a bath, and visit with her for a few hours each day.
     I would still make all the meals and care for her in the afternoon when I returned from work.  my husband did most of the daily chores after he retired, but some were too personal for him to do.  It was hard for him to help her use the rest room or bathe her---that was for me or the caregiver we hired.
     Her day would begin with coffee and a light breakfast, followed by a little rest so she could catch her breath.  it took a lot of her energy to eat her meat (emphysema is like that).  next she would get her bath and put on clean pajamas.  If she felt up to it, we would help her to a chair so that she could read or crochet a little, while we cleaned her room.  We made a pot of coffee for the day, as she was a real coffee drinker, and placed everything within her reach.
     By this time it was almost time to prepare lunch.  When she could no longer join us at the table, we brought her lunch on a tray and joined her in her room from time to time.  She hated to eat alone.  She would always take a nap after lunch and that would give us time to shop or take care of outside chores.
     We made sure that on a beautiful day, she was wheeled onto the porch for some fresh air, and given time to care for her plants.  she did love her flowers.  She would get tired easily, but she loved the outdoors very much, so it was important to give her the chance to be with her flowers.
    We would lift her back into bed for another nap, but not before I gave her a back rub.  She enjoyed having her back massaged.  It seemed to help the circulation when she was staying in bed so much of the time.  I would place a pillow between her legs when she turned on her side.  This helped cushion the knee bones and made her more comfortable.  It is also good to place a pillow between the feet for the same reason.  Her skin was very delicate and would tear easily, so we had to be careful that she didn’t get bedsores.
     We tried to always have her at the dinner table, so she had time to catch up on what we were doing each day.  We would prepare her food first, as it took her a long time to eat, with the oxygen and the emphysema tiring her out so easily.  After dinner she would sit in the living room with us for a little while, then ask to be put to bed, as she got tired.
     Another back massage helped her relax enough to get to sleep, but she might wake up in the middle of the night.  If she did, she would take a broom handle and hit the wall with it.  That would wake us up and we could help her, usually to use the bathroom.  Then in the morning we would start all over gain.
     We had a very good routine, with medication, baths, cleaning and all the other little chores that had to be done.  Mother enjoyed having someone fuss over her, so we tried to be in her room every hour or so to visit while we worked.  It worked out well for all three of us.  She seemed happier when we were there.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


     Yes, there was a lot of resentment that welled up inside me when my mother-in-law came to live with us.  My resentment faded after the first month or so, however, i realized it was simply that I didn’t want my world invaded by anyone.  When our freedom was taken, I didn’t like it.  
     That must have been how she felt too.  If I had stopped to realize this, we could have understood each other’s moods.  Bu,t I was thinking only about myself and what this arrangement was doing to me and my life.  I failed to realize that everything she loved was being taken from her too; her house; most of her furniture; all the items that held memories for her, including the dishes she had had since she was married; and the comfort of her little home.  Now all she had was one room and a bath.
     The worst part was that she lost her independence.  She could no longer putter around in her lovely flower garden that she enjoyed so much.  She could no longer cook the type of food she enjoyed.  Now she had to rely on someone else and she didn’t like the way I cooked.  How she must have longed for the strength to do it herself.
     In retrospect, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I should have been thinking about how I could make her life happier in those first months with us.
     When you become self-absorbed you lose all perspective.
     Don’t make the same mistakes that I made!  Think about how your patient feels and try to make their room their home.  Keep fresh flowers or plants in the room.  Place them where they can care for them.  Involve your patient in their own care.  While they are able, let them clean their room, do some light cooking, and work in the  garden, if you have one.
     Your patient needs to feel needed, a part of the family, not just at dinner time, but all the time.  Ask for their help in preparing dinner and cleaning house.  Sure, it is easier to do it yourself, but knowing that you need their help will make them feel useful, and we all need to feel that we have a purpose in life.
     Remember, when you have been independent for most of your life, you are in control.  It is hard in give up that control to someone else.  Be patient and understanding and soon you will see a difference come over your loved one, a mood of calm and resignation to their situation.  They become thankful for your help rather than resistant.  You will find that it is a rewarding experience.  There is a period of adjustment of course, especially in the first months, but then you will settle into a normal family life.
     Give your loved one the opportunity to feel in control.  No one likes to feel that they have lost control over their life.  Include them in all decisions made on their behalf.  Don;t be overprotective.  It is easy to be overprotective of someone who is ill or frail.  However, it is important for your patient to feel they have control over as many areas of their life as possible.  If your loved one is capable, encourage them to do as many things as they can.  They should be making as many decisions as they can, too, even if they are just small things like choosing what they would like to eat for a meal.
     Everyone needs their privacy.  This is one of he losses that an elderly person feels.  They need time to be alone with their thoughts.  If their door is closed be sure to knock before entering.
     Just remember, they are giving up everything; you are just giving up a little privacy for a short period of time.  With the right attitude, it will work out just fine.
     My mother-in-law lived with us for four and half years.  In that time we worked together to make our arrangement work.  We eventually talked about how we felt and understood each other’s problem.  After that she knew what i was going through and I knew how she felt about giving up her home.  From then on, we got along famously.  She became the sweet neighbor that I once knew and loved and I enjoyed doing for her.  There was love in our home again.
  •       Good communication with your patient can solve most of the problems.
  •       Keep a smile on your face and love in your heart.
  •       Do unto other...your turn is coming.
  •       Look for the good and that is what you will find.
  •       Do something nice for you loved one today.
                               THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
    As we get older we need very little, but we do need compassion and love very much.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


      There was a high window, so she couldn’t see out, except to see the sky.  It did make the room a little dark.  We talked it over, again, and finally hired a contractor to install a large sliding door and a deck with a railing around it, just outside the door.  This way she would have a good view of the back yard, with the beautiful flowers and the shade trees, plus she could go outside for some sun and fresh air, if she wanted to.  We planted some of her favorite flowers along the edge of the deck and put some brightly colored potted plants on the deck to brighten it up.  She had always grown lots of flowers and we thought taking care of the plants would make her feel a little more at home.  When we finished, it was quite lovely.  I think she liked the flowers; they seemed to make her happy.  It was worth the expense just to see her eyes light up.
     My husband and I are golfers and we always attended a golf tournament in Reno, sponsored by the bank I worked for.  We were left with the dilemma of finding someone to care for his mother.  Hiring someone was out--it was too expensive for twenty-four-hour care.  Our daughter, Casey came to the rescue with the suggestion that Grandma move into her house for the four days that we would be gone.  It was going to be difficult for her, with her small child, but she knew we needed a break.  Of course, Mother hated the arrangement and let her know it, as well as giving us an earful when we got home.  But, we had our vacation and we relished every minute.
     Even though my mother-in-law was a handful, I’m glad we took her into our home.  If she had spent her last years in a nursing home, she would have been devastated.  She would have felt that she had been discarded like an old shoe.  We couldn’t do that to the woman who had worked hard to raise a good son.  She was our family and we wanted to be sure that she had the best of care, in our home.
     Sometimes it’s hard to get past the resentment of having your life turned upside down.  However, it does pass, especially when you realize that you have truly helped your loved one in their hour of need.  After all, they raised you, nurtured you, sat up nights when you were ill, and didn’t complain.  Now it is your chance to return the favor.
     Even if they make life a little difficult for you, they are family and family cares for family.  Your efforts will be returned a hundredfold someday.  Remember, you will be old one day and you will be in the same boat as your loved one.  Who will care for you?
     Don’t feel guilty about your feelings.  They are normal.  Just remember that you are doing the right thing.  You are taking care of someone you love, someone who can no longer take care of herself---your mom, God love her.
     It may make you feel better to know that others share your frustration and resentments.  What follows are either reports I’ve gleaned from the Internet or stories related to me by other caregivers.
     Here’s a story from a caregiver named Connie:
     Sometimes I feel like I am a member of one of the most dysfunctional families on the face of the earth.  They aren’t dumb people.  I know that they must understand just how sick Mom is, so that leaves me wondering if they are just selfish, and if they are, how in the world did they get that way, and how do they just go on with their lives like nothing in the world is wrong here.  I just don’t understand anyone like that.
     I really feel for anybody who has to take care of an aging loved one by herself.  My husband died in 1972, and I only have one child.  She is twenty-four and married and busy with her own life, which is as it should e.  I have one brother and he is busy with his family.  He stops by for about five minutes every week, and never asks if we need anything.  As I said, I just don’t understand, and maybe I’m not supposed to.  I have heard it said many times that God takes care of us when we can’t take care of ourselves, and I know that it is true in my case.  Sometimes, though, I have to find a place where I can yell and rave and rant and let it all out.  If I didn’t I know I would be as crazy as a loon.  Maybe I am now, and I just don’t know it..