Mar 09, 2024

Our Caregiving Journey: Compromise and Communication

Some days it’s hard to keep in mind, but our family has learned a lot about effective caregiving during the past 18 months. For my sister and me, our mother’s primary caregivers, it has meant prioritizing clear, supportive communication among family members, especially our siblings, and building and sustaining a caregiving team. Both of us manage our own households, my sister also works full-time, and I commute for two hours in heavy traffic most days, so professional home care and family help to substitute for or supplement us is essential to avoid burnout. In order to keep exhaustion from overwhelming us, we have reached out to the grandchildren – two of them have been able to join the caregiving team – and PSWs to lighten our load. We have strategically arranged the help so that we can have a little time off during each week to spend with our own families and try to maintain our other interests and activities.

Our elderly mother continues to live in her home, which has added to our caregiving responsibilities; not only are we caring for her, but we are also attempting to maintain some continuity in the way she managed her home and other priorities. Our mother lived modestly, as many of her generation do, creating delicious meals and stocking her freezer from the generous output of her garden. Her garden is still a visual pleasure as she looks out from her recliner, or her veranda when the weather permits. She competently handled her finances. She socialized through her church and kept in touch with her friends. We have divided most of these tasks among us. My mother has had to compromise and adapt herself in several areas of her life; I now manage her banking and bill payments online – she no longer has an updated bank book – but I reassure her about the status of her account by reviewing it with her a couple of times a month. We are also doing our best to create and supply her with our own versions of delicious, nutritious meals. Of course, Covid and its accompanying restrictions, as well as her declining health, have drastically reduced the number of places and people we can visit. The telephone and the computer, which allows us to virtually explore my mother’s interests, have helped her to remain interested and connected.

Some of what we have learned has been in reaction to our deepening understanding of our mother’s physical health and state of mind. However, we are also trying to be proactive; we are increasingly aware that it must be a team effort. Communicating effectively and often is key. We share our evolving understanding of our mother’s health, how each of us, given our circumstances, can contribute, and how we are feeling and coping with our role in her care. I am a firm believer in complaining, venting, as long as it leads to some form of helpful change.

By focusing on the positive aspects of our caregiving journey, I can see that compromises and consistent communication, often in small steps, have been key to avoiding complete exhaustion for my sister and me.


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