Being the CEO of Mom’s Care

by Kathleen on April 10, 2012

It was an emotional week last week. For many months, I’ve been going to Mom’s house twice a day to be sure she takes her meds, prepare some meals, do laundry, dishes or minor housekeeping. I also take her to all her doctor appointments, grocery shopping and out to lunch to get her out of the house. 

Mom is now 93 and a half. Her COPD is quite severe and getting worse. She’s been on oxygen 24/7 for over two years now. Yet, she still lives in her own home and we’re trying to keep her there as long as possible. A former Navy WAVE ‘gunnery’ instructor, Mom has always been strong–willed, feisty and independent.

The photo above shows Mom with her now deceased and beloved younger sister. It was taken just a year and a half ago.

I think it reflects her feisty spirit. If there was a boat trip to be had, she was going to be there—oxygen and all!

Being tethered to a tube and an oxygen tank is a source of frustration for her but as her strength and weight has diminished, she’s settled into a more sedate existence.

The hours I devote to helping her are having a distinct impact on my own ability to grow and nurture my freelance businesses–publishing this newsletter and mentoring women who struggle with caring for their own parents as well as my copywriting/internet marketing business.

I knew I needed help and I also knew Mom would probably resist it. But I also knew if I approached it as MY needing help, she’d be more agreeable to accepting someone else coming into her home.

When I speak to groups, I talk about being the CEO of Caring for Mom & Dad–a concept I first learned about from reading the Caregiver.com newsletter.

The concept is to tell your folks you’ll be the CEO of their care and they are your most important client. As business partners, you’ll make decisions together and evaluate what’s working and what isn’t. If you need to make adjustments, you will.

This approach helps your parents to feel:

  • Respected
  • Valued
  • Loved and cared for

Help them to see that the purpose of using home health aides is to make their lives easier–not to invade their space. Not to mention, to help them remain in their own home as long as possible–perhaps always.

In full transparency, I was somewhat nervous about opening the topic of bringing in a caregiver to Mom.

Fortunately, we are planning a family vacation in May and we’ll be away for 10 nights. Mom is well aware that is going to be a LONG time to be alone and frankly, she knows she needs help.

So, I told Mom we needed to talk because I needed help and I was having trouble keeping up with my own businesses because of the hours I devote to helping her. We discussed the upcoming vacation and I told her I really wanted to start someone who could learn the routine for a month before we go away.

I laid out some options to her:

  1. I could ask a friend who Mom knows if she’d be interested in helping
  2. I could look for a freelance caregiver
  3. I could hire someone from a home health agency

She wanted me to start with the friend she knew. Unfortunately, she already has a packed schedule. Then, a good friend referred me to a freelance caregiver she’s worked with. We met over coffee so I could explain the situation and get a ‘feel’ for the caregiver. She also gave me the name of a woman whose mother she currently takes care of.

Not surprisingly, the next day Mom tried to convince me she “doesn’t really need anyone to come because she can take care of herself.” I was expecting this from her and told her, “I know you CAN take care of yourself, but look how difficult it is for you. Besides, when we are away for 10 days, you are going to need help keeping up the house, etc.”

So, we arranged for Susan to come a couple mornings a week. I was definitely nervous the first day. It took me roughly 45 minutes to show Susan the routine, etc. As I prepared to leave the house while Susan was in the kitchen, Mom told she didn’t need her to stay….aaarrghhh. I explained that our commitment to the caregiver is for 2 hours per day and she’d be there another hour.

I offered Susan some information about Mom’s talents as a seamstress, knitter and quilter so they’d have some things to talk about.

Then, I left with a feeling that was somewhat similar to the sickening feeling I used to get when I left my very young boys screaming with a babysitter as I left the house. It was tortuous. Of course, the sitter always told me I’d barely pulled out of the driveway and the boys were already happy and off to the next activity.

Apparently Mom and Susan looked over some of Mom’s photo albums of her quilting projects and quilting groups.

Lately, she’s been asking me when Susan is next coming. (Can you spell R_E_L_I_E_F??)

Of course, it did help that we have this trip planned and Mom simply has no choice but to accept the help. There’s many strategies to bringing in help for your folks. 

Geriatric Care Managers and Certified Senior Advisors can help do an assessment of your folk’s current living situation, particularly helpful if you don’t live close to your parents and therefore don’t TRULY know how safe or healthy they are. Believe me, they will try to convince you all is well, even when it’s not.

If you emphasize to your folks that their health, happiness and well–being is your utmost concern, you will find less resistance to your suggestions of bringing in help.

Kathleen Cleary is a Caregiver Coach and Consultant helping Professional Women find the answers they need to continue living their best life while caring for aging parents. As a Certified Senior Advisor, she offers Seniors and their adult children customized plans of care as well as resources and information to help them navigate the challenges of aging.

Skype: kathleen.cleary12

Kathleen@ThrivingInTheMiddle.com

413.822.1280

For a free 20 minute consultation: click here

If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed … or confused and afraid of the journey ahead, I can help! Let’s chat.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Dale Hetzer April 11, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Kathleen, GREAT write-up… and the feelings are SO true… the frustrations, the planning you fear might go down the drain.. Well said for anyone who has been there.

Thanks for being real here !

Reply

Kathleen April 11, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Glad you found this post useful, Dale. Watching our parents health decline is hard enough but getting them to agree to the best care is often a challenge. Most of us resist any suggestion we are ‘getting old’!

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Eryn April 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Wow, Kathleen – I admire you so much for what you’re able to do and the value of your words. My parents are both in their 80’s and we live on nearly opposite sides of the country, so my mom is the primary caretaker of my dad who’s health is declining. You’ve really given me some insight and some things to think about going forward. Thank you for the article!

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Kathleen April 11, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Thanks, Eryn. You are in a particularly delicate situation since you don’t live close. I know of several people whose parents told them ‘all is well’ when in fact, not so much! It’s good to start thinking and paying attention so when the time comes, you can offer the best solutions.

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Lori Emmons April 11, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Being a disabled person (differently abled as I like to call it) I really respect & admire the fact that you are protecting Mom’s sense of pride & independence. I can tell you first hand how tough it is to have to accept help for even basic things. You are doing a fabulous job!

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Kathleen April 13, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Hi Lori: Thank you for your comments. Although I don’t walk in her shoes, I certainly witness all the changes and increasing limitations. And yes, in her mind, she still talks about ‘doing’ things she’s no longer capable of doing but I don’t need to burst that bubble. I can just offer help and support as we go along.

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Randi Thimesch April 12, 2012 at 9:15 am

I like how well thought out you presented the need for help to your mom. Giving choices is always better than demanding -you will do what I say. My dad had COPD and was a feisty soul as well. One of the biggest problems we had with him was his independent streak and he would do too much instead of asking for help. He would lean over for something and lose his air, nearly passing out. In spite of all the trials we had his last years, it was a deep learning time for myself. my mom, and my sisters. I have no regrets, knowing I did what I could, even from a distance.

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Kathleen April 13, 2012 at 3:19 pm

All we can do is the best as we see it. I certainly think the entire experience is easier if we treat our folks as the adults they are and plan together with them on whatever the next stage may call for. I’m not saying they will always cooperate but they will certainly be more cooperative when they feel their opinions are respected.
The journey is challenging but I’m glad you were able to hold onto the blessings as well.

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