CAREGIVERS TAKE CARE
2006 "Give a Caregiver a Break" RUNNER-UP: Barbara
My husband and I have been married 13 years. Since 1997, we have willingly provided assistance for my Aunt Hannah, my husband's parents, my uncle, and my mother.
My Aunt Hannah moved in with us when she was 97. At that time, she was quite independent and lived alone in an apartment. My uncle (Hannah’s brother) was caring for his wife and could no longer check on Hannah with his prior regularity. After some problems with water overflowing in her kitchen, we convinced Hannah it would be better for her to stay with us. She enjoyed having someone around and not having to worry about the household chores and shopping.
Her memory declined over the years, but she always knew where to find the cookies, candy, her spot on the couch and her room. She didn't always know our names, but she knew we cared for her and expressed appreciation.
Aunt Hannah lived with us until three and a half months before she died. We had to place her in a nursing home after a hip fracture and surgery that resulted in a greater need for medical and personal care. She died a week after turning 104.
While she lived with us, we were able to take a few weekend-long vacations using Home Instead CAREGivers. I was impressed that we were able to use some of the same caregivers, even though we used their services about three years apart.
My husband’s parents required some assistance with maintenance of their home, transportation, meals, shopping and phone calls. His father had relied on his mother to be his ears, but Alzheimer’s disease took away her ability to communicate for business matters. She had limited vision, and he had been her eyes. Both became very frail, and although they tried to manage on their own, their need for help increased.
When my father-in-law was on dialysis three times a week for several months, my husband provided transportation and often stayed with him. My husband was “on call” 24/7 much of the two to three years prior to the deaths of my in-laws, who passed away less than a year apart.
During the time of caring for my husband’s parents and my aunt, my uncle required some assistance. He could no longer drive, so my husband took him to many medical appointments. We called my uncle frequently to check on him and brought him to our home for visits.
Mom stopped driving eight years ago, when she was 89. I work full-time, so every Saturday we grocery shopped, had lunch and ran errands. But when Mom’s health declined in 2003, she moved in with us. A wedding my husband and I wanted to attend was the motivation behind another call to Home Instead. I worried about leaving for 11 days, but after a few calls home I felt confident Mom was relaxed, comfortable and well cared for. As a geriatric social worker, I often remind caregivers and their families to take care of themselves. Our vacation validated the importance of that advice.
—Barbara Solomon-Warren, Pepper Pike, OH