October 14th, 2011 at 9:37 am
Bookmark and Share

Elder care means going through caregiving phases

by Dorian Martin

Like the moon’s lunar cycle, caregiving for my aging parents has gone in phases. Each period opened my eyes to the unrelenting passage of time and gave me a new understanding of what family means.

My phases of elder care

New Moon. In the mid-1990s, my caregiving role was rarely illuminated. I lived in the same neighborhood and our relationship deepened through weekly happy hours and family dinners. But as time passed, my mother increasingly experienced difficulty breathing due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). As her medications lost their effectiveness and she gasped for air, Mom became a regular visitor to the emergency room. During these times, I found myself trying to be a calming presence in the midst of crisis.

First Quarter Moon. By early 2000, my parents and I were living in different parts of Texas. A visit required a seven-hour drive one way. Therefore, I depended primarily on telephone conversations to learn that Mom was experiencing noticeable memory loss in addition to advancing COPD. Her mental lapses frustrated both of my parents and led to numerous fights and talk of divorce. I found myself in an emotional quagmire while trying to figure out what to do. A few sessions with a psychologist helped me realize that my parents were still able to care for themselves and that I needed to remove myself from the fray until one of my parents asked for help.

Full Moon. That cry for help finally came in August 2005. When my mother called in hysterics, I made the decision to have her move closer to me. She agreed. Within two weeks, I saw firsthand the gaping holes in her memory and uncharacteristic temper tantrums. Doctors soon diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease. Within a month, Mom was placed in a nursing home due to her fragile health. I became Mom’s committed advocate to ensure that she had quality care until her death in 2007.

Blue Moon. Caregiving has come around twice since my father moved into my home in 2010. Although still relatively independent, he has different health issues than my mother (and fortunately, no dementia). I’m hoping to tailor the lessons that I learned in caring for Mom to Dad’s situation in order to provide quality, timely and loving care.

Caregiving is a continually changing proposition with different phases and requirements. Understanding these phases is important so that the caregiver can provide meaningful assistance to their loved one.

Posted in Alzheimer’s, Caregiving | 2 Comments »
Tags: ,

2 Comments to “Elder care means going through caregiving phases”

  1. Dorian Martin

    Hi, Geraldine,

    Thank you so much for sharing such valuable feedback. I hadn’t thought of the caregiving stages as the “new normal.” In fact, at the time when I was thrown into caregiving for my mom, it continually seemed like the “new abnormal” due to the changes that came about due to Alzheimer’s. Yet, in Dad’s case, the “new normal” is much for fitting. I look forward to learning more about your caregiving experience with your dad. Take care!

  2. “Meaningful assistance.” A wonderful term. “Calming presence.” “Loving care.” Not just the pragmatic and obligatory kind. These are centering thoughts as well. I would add other terms that have engaged me through my eight year role as a caregiver such as the “new normal.” and “Watchful waiting.” It’s bad to move too fast and not a good idea to be too slow. Caregiving is an art. The bittersweet aspects inspiring especially when my 94 yr. old Dad says thanks, I know this is a good place, I know I could not take care of myself anymore. I feel a degree of peace even though caregiving hardly ends after placing them in a home, it just changes. I’m grateful his decline has been slow. I’m writing about what I call our “new lease on aging,” in a memoir. “The Good Italian Daughter.”

Leave a Reply