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Today, I switch roles from the caregiver blogging perspective to that of the care receiver–

specifically, the aging parent.

If you’re a caregiver/son, daughter, please read this post.

You need to put yourself in their shoes.

But I don’t want to live with my adult children!

I don’t blame you. Me neither.

(And I wrote the book, Mothering Mother–and my mom lived with me the last (almost) three years of her life!) But that’s my point–my mother lived on her own–with Parkinson’s and early dementia until she was 89 years old!

We’ll all be in this predicament one day–if we live that long–so we need to be empathetic.

My kids are grown, responsible, and we all love each other–and I still don’t relish the thought of permanently living with them! I am a big proponent of family caregiving–but do it when the time is right.

No one wants to give up their independence.

We like things our way, our household “rules,” TV shows, and favorite laundry detergent. Things seemingly insignificant choices give us a sense of autonomy and joy to every day life.

I don’t want to be a burden. 

I hear this a lot. I feel it on a personal level, but know that when it’s necessary–cancer, end of life, when it’s really needed, then it’s not a burden. It’s a privilege–

Ad you still have much to give.

Encourgement, humor, appreciation, family togetherness is a rare and precious gift and should not be under-appreciated.

I feel privileged to have children. And I know if/when I have to, we would all do our best to make it work. I’m grateful I have the option if I needed it.

There are many people who do not have children. Or their children are not able or willing to help.

No time for a pity party. Get busy! Use this as a catalyst to get busy doing just that–planning your life–for quality and purpose.

If you don’t want to live in a care facility (prematurely, and hopefully never) or with someone else–family member or not, then I (and you) better have a plan.

Note: Decide today to be okay how your life turns out–either way. Who knows what wil happen? 

Have you heard of the aging in place movement?

This July AARP released a new report citing that 87% of people with disabilities age 50 and older want to receive long-term care (LTC) services in their own homes.

The National Aging in Place Organization is about collaboration and education to live at home as long as possible.

Aging in Place includes building/altering your home so that you can stay there safely as long as possible.

It might also include a ramp, ample doorways and bathrooms for wheelchair accommodation, safe flooring, and even a space for live-in care. It’s up to each individual to make these arrangements to suit (by anticipating) their needs. This term is also loosely used to help individuals begin to plan for their future in terms of how and where they want to live as life progresses.

Aging in place might even include moving so that you are living in an area where retirement and aging is not only enjoyable, but that you also have ample resources within your community for the care you might need.

Or…it might include living close enough to your adult children so that they can easily check on you and manage your care without having to live with you. ( I know of three families in our neighborhood whose mothers/parents also live in another house in the neighborhood).

Recently, after Tropical Storm Faye, I saw one of the son-in-laws picking up debris out of his mother-in-law’s yard. At least he didn’t have to drive an hour or two to do this little chore–or worry about someone charging her an exorbitant price for a job that took less than an hour.

How to Arrange Your Life So That You Can Live at Home Longer:

(consider one or more of the following suggestions)

  • Move your bedroom on the first/main floor
  • Do a computer search or call your council on aging and get a list of all your community’s resources now. Don’t wait until you need help to start this process.
  • Consider redoing your main bath to accommodate a wheelchair/walker–and make your shower easy to get in and out of
  • If your spouse has passed away, consider a roommate. Finish a garage or basement if you’d like it to be more private and separate. This $10-20,000 investment (if it’s done well) could give you added years at home–you could even trade rent for care.
  • Be sure that if you choose to do this that you both sign a contract for renting, you get driver’s license info, run a background check and never ever give them access or personal/financial information.
  • Even though there are risks involved, having someone live with you or on your property can provide a certain sense of security, companionship, and allow you to stay home much longer than living alone.
  • Consider an alarm system if you feel you live in an area where you’re vulnerable to break-ins. Check with your local police to see if this is a common occurrence. Elders can be targets for easy crimes.
  • Don’t blab to every cable and lawn guy that you live alone. Always act like your son/nephew is in the house, coming home, on the phone. Even if you don’t have one–never let others think you’re always alone. Don’t be an easy target!
  • Consider “the button,” a monitoring device you wear in case you fall. There are systems that will call and check on you morning and night (of course, you pay extra for this), but it might give you and those who love you a peace of mind to know that you can call for help at any time.
  • Wear the thing! My mom was terrible about leaving it on a piece of clothing she wasn’t wearing, forgetting where it was–and caregivers, family members–if your loved one has memory loss, this may not help them. They won’t necessarily remember they have “the button” on, or even what it’s for!
  • Get rid of clutter now! Clutter can cause you to fall and gets to be a real hassle for those caring for you. Don’t leave this to your family to do later–give those sentimental items to your family members now so that you can see the joy on their face when they use their grandmother’s dishes or wear a family heirloom piece of jewelry
  • Gather all your important documents–insurance info, cards, prescriptions, life insurance, house insurance and living will. Place these items in a portable box and let your loved ones know where it is–for easy access. 
  • Do that living will now–don’t make your loved ones have to guess or fight over whether you’d want to be put on a ventilator or not. Be clear. Make several copies and give them to all the important peopel–one for you, your main doctor, the hospital you’re likely to go to, and one or two loved ones/guardians who would get to you quickly in times of emergency.
  • Get a recliner chair that can lift you out easily (consider this your next purchase when the current chair needs to be replaced)
  • Eventually consider a bed that is motorized–this added expense really helps if you have back problems and can sometimes be covered on insurance
  • Place tread on any slick floors inside or outside your house to avoid slipping
  • Remove any throw rugs that might trip you–(you may need to do this later or if you tend to shuffle)
  • Begin to think about your options if/when you can no longer drive–is there a senior van in your area? Friends/neighbors who you can ride with or will pick up a few items for you? Even consider a taxi–most areas have taxis (even if you’ve never used one in your area before, they’re probably there). Don’t sit at home and waste away–even if your eyes or your coordination begin to wane, you can still get out and enjoy life.
  • Continue to be a part of your local church/temple. Make friends–you need them, and they need you! Churches and community organizations are there to help. Let them. Helping others make us feel good–don’t be so stubborn and independent that you don’t allow someone else to give and feel good. If someone is willing to pick you up to take you to Sunday School or choir practice–let them~ You still get to go to an activity (which is good for you), and they feel like they’ve helped someone. Win-win.
  • Get to know your neighbors. You can all keep an eye on each other. Be nice to the kids in your neighborhood–they can rake your leaves or bring you the mail. Most children and even teens long for a grandparent and don’t get to see theirs enough. Wave! Smile, get to know their moms and dads so they trust you. Bake a cake and take it to them. Cultivate relationships. Old-fashioned neighborliness and friendship never grows old and is never out of style.
  • Choose where you want to pass away. Hospice offers you the choice to spend your last few months/weeks/days at home and can offer palliative care (pain management). Most people choose to be in their own home and to surrounded by those they love. Let people know now–most areas of the country have access to hospice. The diagnosis is that you have a life-limiting condition with a diagnosis or a year or less to live.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute–ask for hospice. Anyone can refer you to hospice (including yourself or your physician). Also know that many cities have more than one hospice with varying levels of care and options. Check them out to see what’s available to you.

Bottom line:

Plan now. If you’re over 50, then you better start planning. Having a 401K isn’t enough. It doesn’t take care of the details and quality of life–and money won’t fix everything.

Adapt your house to suit your aging needs.

If it’s not too late, and you need to, move closer to family so that it’s not hard for them to drop by and check on you.

And…or…live in a community that is “elder friendly,” with lots of resources.

Stay involved with people. Accept their help. Give back any way you can. A smile, a hug, homemade cookies will get you lots of friends. Neighbors are important. Do more than wave. You might need them one day.

Stay/get involved in church and other community activities. The more plugged in you are, the more people you have in your life, the more your mind/body stays active. Staying active will keep you at home.

No longer driving is not the end of the world. Figure out how to make it work–taxi, community van, church members/neighbors.

Consider a roommate or a family member living arrangement. Just be safe, sign a contract, and do a background check. ( I know of several nieces/nephews who are young and starting out in life by sharing a house with an aunt or grandmother).

Get help when you need it–hiring day-time care is cheaper than a care facility. There are many great companies such as Comfort Keepers who are licensed, bonded, flexible and reasonable–usually less than $20.00 an hour.

Wherever you are and whatever life throws at you–continue to smile, see the good, and find ways to give and receive love.

Carol D. O’Dell, and I hope you’ll check out my book, Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir, available on Amazon, other online stores and in bookstores. Kunati Publishing

I’m a family advisor on Caring.com, and my syndicated blog appears on www.opentohope.com.

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Do you feel like running away?

You may have restless caregiver syndrome.

What’s that, you ask?

I may have made up the term, but I certainly experienced it firsthand.

Have you seen the commercials for restless leg syndrome?

They’re kind of quirky, and I’m not saying that it’s not a serious disorder, but it’s presented in a way that makes my own legs twitch! Nothing like an idea planted in your brain.

But that’s exactly what I felt like some days as I cared for my mom who had Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. I just couldn’t sit still. I wanted to run, to stay busy, to go, go, go.

I guess I was scared.

I was scared my mother would consume me.

I was scared that this was going to be my life from now on, and that by accepting it now, I was accepting it forever.

I was scared that if I sat still, thought too long, I’d realize it was a mistake, that this wasn’t what I wanted to do. I was scared I’d grow old and not have the life, the adventures, the memories and journeys I’d always dreamed of.

Restless caregiver syndrome happens off and on in the caregiving process. It occurs when you’ve given up your old life in order to care for your loved one. It’s also compounded by a sandwich generation lifestyle where everyone wants something from you all the time. And, if you’re female, you may be dealing with the oh so lovely change of life–men-o-pause. And, on top of that, you’re probably a boomer and thinking about your own future, i.e. finances, career, retirement, aging, etc.

You became a caregiver because your loved one needed you. You did it believing it was the right thing to do. You told yourself there were some benefits—getting out of a dead-end job, able to spend more time at home, maybe take better care of your own health, or begin that second career you’ve always dreamed of.

Only…

Caregiving isn’t quite what you’d thought it’d be. You’re bored. Stressed. Unmotivated. Overwhelmed by all the stuff there is to do, and how little you feel you get done. You have time (sometimes) but no focus, no initiative.

Your loved one certainly needs your assistance, but you didn’t plan on becoming someone’s personal butler, driver, maid, and cook. They also seem to enjoy your being at your beck and call—or they’re miserable, fussy, or constantly apologizing. You didn’t think all this emotional baggage would come in tow.

You‘re consumed by caregiving even when you’re not caregiving.

You’re fumbling in your own life. Directionless. How long can this go on? The years stretch out in front of you like a vast desert. Some days, sure, you feel on top of your game, but there’s also an underlying sense of sadness. You know where this is going to end.

A restlessness has built up inside you. You gotta get out. You can’t sit in that living room chair one more minute. You can’t scramble one more egg. But you’re stuck.

How to Combat Restless Caregiver Syndrome:

·       Play a game with yourself: if you were under house arrest, but you weren’t caregiving, what would you do? What resources do you have right at home?

·       If someone gave you three years to reinvent yourself, what would you do? Learn a new language? Take some classes and become a computer whiz? Sell your handmade jewelry online?

·       Create a structure you can live with. You call the shots. You decide when dinner is, you decide the med routine. If you want your loved one to go to bed at 7pm so you can have the night to yourself, then arrange it. Create boundaries you can honor that make your life easier.

·       Start planning for time off. Check into respite care; hire a CNA for $20.00 an hour. It may take you a while to get all this in order, but do your homework, find someone you feel your loved one is safe with, and start taking regular breaks.

·       Don’t use your take out for anything that you aren’t dying to do. Go for a mountain hike, antique shopping, to the local pub to watch a football game—anything that will make you feel as if you’ve truly taken a break. No errands. No combining. Time off is time for you.

·       Create a room—your bedroom, a spare office, part of the garage that is just for you. Make it your haven. Put a cooler in there with drinks, stock a mini-bar, and collect magazines only you like— and go there — alone. Your family and loved ones will respect what you respect—and they will run rough-shod over you if you let them.

·       Call a friend and vent for 10 minutes. Set the timer and then just go for it. After that, tell your friend to forbid you from any further complaining for the day. Complaining and whining and griping are good, but not when it’s a toilet bowl that never flushes. I mean that visual to be disgusting so that you’d STOP. Incessant thinking is unhealthy.

·       Use your fidgetiness and wear yourself out. Do something physical—put all your anger and edginess into it. Clean out the frig, scrub the bathroom tiles and get out the gunk around the shower door. Use your restlessness.

·       Find a safety valve. If you’re really about to blow your top, how can you get away? Do you have an emergency person? Can you take them to adult day care? Are they okay for a couple of hours alone if you really couldn’t take it anymore? Have a plan B—because sometimes, it all gets to be too much.

·       If you have siblings and you’ve been carrying this burden alone—then make the call and insist they help out in some way. Even if it’s paying for home help, then that’s a help. Don’t let resentment and exhaustion build up. Tell them how hard it is. Insist you get a weekend off every few months—and a week or two of vacation time a year. You only get what you ask for, so ask!

·       Don’t be a perfectionist and think everything has to be exactly right and exactly your way. If you do, you’ll be a slave to the mundane. Choose a few things to do well, and a few things to do lousy. Nobody ever died because the forks were sticking up in the dishwasher.

·       If your loved one is being ugly, then get in the car and leave. Even driving around the block helps. I used to walk out back, down the embankment out at the river—and scream. So what if the neighbors heard! Better they hear me scream than gunshotsJ They’re adults and can be alone for 5 minutes and they need to be taught that you will not be mistreated. Make that point clear.

You get what you allow.

Sometimes, you’re just going to feel restless as caregiver. You’re going to want to run, to scream, to change your name to Flo and become a waitress on some seaside pier restaurant (my fantasy, not yours necessarily).

When you feel like running, then run. Get out as much as you can. Even if it’s just out the front door and around the block. Hide, sneak out, stay in bed an extra half hour, stand in your shower until the water turns cold. Do what your gut is telling you to do–at least in some small way. If you let off the pressure valve, then maybe, maybe the whole thing won’t blow.

Trust yourself. Trust your journey and this process.

Later, there will come a time when you might not be able to “run,” so do it now. Trust that you will come back.

After your loved one passes, you’ll go through this all over again—there’ll be days when you just can’t be at home. It’s a part of the grieving process. There’ll be other days, or weeks that you can’t make yourself leave. Home feels safe.

Again, trust yourself. Trust that your body, your soul, and your heart knows how to heal itself.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Family Advisor at Caring.com

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir, available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

www.opentohope.com

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Caregiver guilt is debilitating. You know that the word, “guilt” isn’t a healthy word, but many caregivers feel overwhelmed with a sense of I should, I wish I had, why can’t I just…

I certainly experienced my fair share of caregiver guilt.

The irony is the more you do, the guiltier you feel. Trust me, the family members who have disconnected from their loved ones who need them feel far less guilt than you do. Why? Perhaps it is as simple as a disconnect. They just don’t “feel” it. It’s a safety valve. But those who get in the thick of the battle, who give time, money, energy, and day-to-day care are the ones feeling the most guilt. Crazy, huh?

Certain family dynamics add to this.

Was your mom the queen of guilt? Is this a learned behavoir for you? Did you hear the phrase, “You should be ashamed…” when you were younger?

I sure did. Certain religions, (growing up Catholic, or in my case, Pentecostal) seemed to serve guilt as an entree to life. I was taught to feel bad about everything–my thoughts, my actions, my in-actions, you name it. I never felt good enough, or that I could ever do enough.

That’s sad. I don’t believe that shame based manipulation is good for anyone, especially a child. And I don’t believe that’s what God ever intended. Guilt can lead into the downward spiral of depression. Be careful of that little buggar. Stats say that 52% of Americans experience depression–and I wonder what percentage of them are wracked in guilt? (depression.about.com/od/factsfigures/Statistics.htm –

Sure, guilt might work for awhile, on the surface–but it doesn’t begin to touch on the issues of the heart.

Sometimes, our loved ones still employ guilt tactics to keep us entangled and paralyzed.

Ever heard these lines?

“You never come to see me.”

“Why can’t you just do this one thing for me.”

“I thought you’d be glad to…”

My mother had a purse full of guilt lines and she’d whip them out all hours of the day and night–and it didn’t matter who was around. At 89, I insisted she move in with my family and me. She had Parkinson’s, and although she wasn’t aware, the beginning signs of Alzheimer’s. I moved heaven and earth to sell my home, her home, put us all under one roof, drive her to every doctor’s appointment, find her a church she liked, buy her favorite foods, and you know what she used to tell people?

“Carol’s asked me to give up so much just to move in with her.”

Now, I can laugh. Now, I see that as her defense mechanism. Now, I see that statement as a way of her to keep her dignity, to feel in charge. I wasn’t as merciful with her at the time. I rolled my eyes and looked disgusted. And yet, I did feel guilty. Had I made the right decision?

Here you are. 30, 40, 50, or more–and you’re wracked with guilt.

Here’s something I wrote in journal several years ago as I was caring for my mother:

Letter to Self

Dear Carol,So far, you’ve been taking care of your mother for a year and a half. You’ve stuck it out through crazy times, angry times, tender times, through hospital visits and home health visits and while everyone else gets to come and go, you’ve stayed. You haven’t had a vacation and no more than two days away this whole time. I know that when your mother dies, you’re going to feel guilty. I know you. You’re going to think that you should have been kinder, less rushed, that you should have done more with her, taken her more places, insisted the kids be nicer. I know you’re going to miss her and wish that a million things had been different.I want you to know you did the best you could.You remained faithful. You grappled with every decision. You let her into your life and your home, and you and your family did what most people wouldn’t even have considered, much less done. People aren’t perfect, and if they try to be, then they’re not real. We’re not supposed to get it all right.Remember that you had to balance this with being a wife and mother. It’s only natural to want to move forward and be more interested in your children, in those who are living. That’s how the human race survives.

Remember that her emotions were always on an ever-widening pendulum and Alzheimer’s took it to frightening heights and devastating lows. You learned as a child that you couldn’t trust her with your heart although you kept trying. It just wasn’t ever possible. That’s okay. You also know she loved you. And you loved her.

It really did help to write that letter to myself. To rationalize guilt away, to expose it, to learn to be tender with myself–as tender as I would to a dear friend.

Become your own friend. Talk to yourself. I do a lot of self-talks in the car. I’m grateful for blue-tooths because most people just think you’re talking on the phone.

By going into “third person,” I’m able to objectively treat myself with the same respect, dignity, and honor I tend to give others.

A Few Guilt Breaking Techniques:

  • Self Letters, and letters to your loved one explaining why you simply can’t fall into the guilt trap any more
  • Self-talks–or talk to your loved one (metaphorically). Argue, tell them to stop. Tell them it isn’t going to work any more.
  • List all the things you’ve done–with love, kindness, and committment. You’ll be surprised how very long this list is.
  • Put yourself in your loved one’s shoes. They don’t like feeling weak and vulnerable, and guilt is one of the very few tools they possess.
  • List ways you “think” you’ve failed. Then really look at that list. Is this in any way realistic?
  • Cut yourself some slack. Take “perfect” off the table. Be realistic. If there’s one area you, personally would really like to improve upon–then make a plan. Do it. One thing–not the whole mountain.
  • Learn to let go. Whatever you didn’t do right 10 years ago, yesterday, or in the last five minutes is the past. Let it go. Keep a stone or shell in your pocket to remind you to let go of old baggage.
  • Visualize guilt as a toxic bright green substance as dangerous as battery acid. Every time you have a guilty thought, see your heart being splattered with this yucky, sizzling, flesh eating gunk. Become “allergic” to guilt.
  • Adopt the mentality, “If I’d-a known better, I’d-a done better.” Now you know. It’s a new day.
  • Take a tube of lipstick and draw a big heart on your bathroom mirror. Align your face to fit the inside of that heart. Every day, put yourself in that heart. Smile, and say outloud, “I’m a good person, and I have a good heart.” Do this several times a day. Straighten your posture. Take a few deep breaths. Smile. Begin to view yourself as your own best friend. Your own advocate. Don’t let anyone, including your “other selves” tear down this person you love and respect.

Have a great, guiltless day!~

Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir,

Available on Amazon and in most bookstores

Kunati Publishing

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Why are adult day care centers so important?

Because according to National Family Caregivers Association, 77% of all caregivers go it alone. Their loved ones live with them, or near them. Most caregivers have to work. It’s not an option. With the average caregiver being an 46 year old woman, she can’t afford not to work. She’s technically a boomer, and has a mortgage, oftentimes children, she may be divorced. She has worked hard to create her life–her career. She needs to work for the insurance benefits and continue to save for her own retirement, and yet she finds herself in the midst of caregiving responsibilities.

Caregivers worry.

They worry their mom or dad or grandparent is left alone all day. They worry mom or dad is going to fall, that they won’t be able to get to the phone, or they’ll take off their “button” and will lie helpless for hours. They worry their loved one isn’t eating, or does nothing all day but sit in front of the television or they might wander due to dementia or Alzheimer’s. They worry that their loved one is lonely, bored, not getting enough exercise, isn’t taking their meds….the worry list goes on.

And while they’re worrying about that–they have to juggle their families, doctor appointments, cleaning and cooking, and job duties. It’s a wonder their heads don’t explode. It felt like mine would during the almost three years I cared for my mom full time.

What’s one of the easiest, safest, more natural alternatives to relieve some of this caregiver stress?

Adult day care centers.

Most adult day care centers are community based, usually non-profit, and are conveniently located. It’s a place that’s not run by a corporation, but is almost always run by someone with a big heart, someone who lives within this community and knows the resources needed and available to families.

As an author and speaker, I get to visit and work closely with adult day care centers, such as Peaches-na-Basket in Jacksonville, Florida. Dolores is resident “Mama,” and her heart’s desire is to provide a safe, loving, homey environment for her seniors she calls her “Peaches.”

How very blessed north Jacksonville is to have her!

Who needs adult day care?

Average families–families who work, or need a few hours break. Seniors who need to get out, meet new people, have some place to go, learn new things. Seniors who don’t need to sit around alone all day. Seniors who will be given their meds, provided with a meal and entertainment, who might be able to do a little shopping and be escorted on the community van. Seniors who need a friend.

If you’re looking for a worthy charity this holiday season, why not consider a donation to your community adult day care? What better place to give than to your own community?

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

by Kunati Publishing

Available on Amazon and in most bookstores

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I wanted this to be funny–that someone  in China is selling her mother on the internet. Sounds funny–in that sick, dark humor style I wrote many of the vignettes in my book, MOTHERING MOTHER.  Your mom gets on your nerves and you threaten her with eBay…. tell her the minutes are counting down, there’s a bidding war, mom–pack your bags.

But the truth is that this Chinese woman’s family is attempting to sell dear old mom to help pay her medical expenses. She has cancer. China has poor health care system that can’t take care of everybody (sounds familiar?) and her kids had already spent all they had on dad–who also had cancer. It stopped being funny. They hope to bring attention to the dilemma their country faces. Health care concerns apparently span the globe, and my heart aches for all those who find themseles in a desparate situation.  http://chinaview.wordpress.com/2007/05/24/mother-for-sale-on-chinas-internet/

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I’ve received lots of call this week urging me to watch the NBC Nightly News special, Trading Places–about caring for our parents. What is so amazing is how much family, friends, and now acquaintances who are familiar with my book, Mothering Mother identify my book with this subject. I feel connected, and I feel that (hopefully) my words are beginning to make a difference.  

My heart goes out to the thousands and thousands of families who do not have the means to place their loved ones in assisted care. They have to carry the emotional, physical and financial responsibilities–and with little governmental or community supplement. They limp by, exhausted and worried about what will come next, but they do it. They can’t turn their backs on their moms/dads/children/siblings who are aging, disabled or ill. And what’s worse, they dare not speak their deepest fears, much less their ugly truths. After all, they have to keep it all together–for everybody.

I’m grateful that NBC has addressed the issue of caring for our parents. The overwhelming response that they’ve received has certainly proven how timely and relevant this subject really is.  Mothering Mother will play a role in the American landscape. It will have impact. Why? Because people need it. I know because I needed it.

Here’s what I posted on Brian Williams blog regarding the series, Trading Spaces.

Thank you, Brian, and the NBC staff who decided to do this series,

Caring for our parents is a privilege. I’m not saying it’s not challenging. I know it is, but I also know that the passing on of our elders stories and wisdom is something of great value.

Whether you have the ability to care for your parents in your home, or with assistance in their home, or a care facility is an individual decision based on your own personal circumstances of what is best for everyone involved. But the fact that our parents are living longer and that we, their children and/or other loved ones must “step up” and participate in their care has now reached epidemic proportions. Our parents need us, and we need them.

My mother lived with my husband and I and our three teenage daughters for the last almost three years of her life. It wasn’t easy physically or financially. My mother thought she had saved enough money, and that she had enough insurance when in reality it wasn’t nearly enough for the staggering costs of elder-care.

At times, I felt that I couldn’t give anyone enough–not my husband, not my children or my mother, and there certainly wasn’t any time left for me. I journaled every day. I wrote about how scared I was, how frustrating it was to watch my mother’s health slowly decline, and how I wondered if I could physically stand up to the task.

I wrote about what it’s like to mother my mother, what it did to my soul, how I perceived myself, what I had learned about my mother and me and how very fragile and resilient faith really is. It’s become a book, Mothering Mother, April 1 release by Kunati Books. And what I desire more than anything is that by revealing my fears, my inadequacies, my frustrations–and also what I learned about hope and life–and that it will inspire others.
We stuck together…because that’s what families do.

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