SISTER ACT: Lessons Learned by Phyllis
Photography by Fran Collin
The most important thing is to have a support system. My husband has been a wonderful help by managing Mom’s finances. And when we were away for several weeks, I asked my niece to help. You should also utilize medical personnel and social workers as a resource. When Mom had to leave Rusk, I asked a social worker for advice about finding another place. She was the one who suggested the Hebrew Home for the Aged.
I’ve also learned the importance of being able to adapt. For instance, I wanted Mom to be at my daughter’s baby shower in New York City, but couldn’t drive the whole round-trip. I asked someone to drive Mom partway, we rendezvoused and I was able to drive Mom the rest of the way.
Since I live closest, the burden is still mainly on me. In February I developed shingles. But I’ve found that the best stress-reducer is the gym. I pass by my mother’s house on the way and I feel guilty, but I need that gym.
I exercise every chance I get. When Mom was in the Rusk Institute, I traveled from Philadelphia, where I was working then, to Manhattan, several times a week. I worked off tension by walking from the bus terminal, all the way across the city, rather than take a cab.
Lastly, I must have music. Any kind—classical popular, folk. It saves my life and my sanity!