Friday, November 27, 2020
Thursday, September 24, 2020
Friday, September 18, 2020
I need to close the loop on a post I left hanging a while back on caregiving. I vowed to keep my parents in their own home until they drew their last breath. This is not a decision that many can or will make and I fully understand the issues: money, time, emotional and physical tolls. There are many cases where it’s just not even possible, especially if the person needing care is a danger to him/herself or others. My parents were married 70 years and they were each other’s “community.” They were responsible stewards of their money and could afford to stay at home and were good candidates for in-home care, so that’s what we did.
Our experience with a large, national agency was obscenely costly and a couple of the people sent to care for my parents and possibly more had criminal tendencies: I discovered after my parents died that most of my mother’s good jewelry, including her wedding ring, walked out the door. The benefit to having an agency provide round-the-clock care in the home is not always the people they send, but their commitment to send somebody when your regular caregiver is unavailable. Staffing is on them, not you. But inasmuch as they’re sending a stranger and there’s a possibility that stranger might be a bad person, it’s not really much of a benefit.
If I had a do over, this is what I’d do assuming the goal is to keep one’s elderly relatives in their own home as long as possible.
I would begin my search for a qualified caregiver at care.com which connects clients with private caregivers. You can view their resumes and get a sense of whether or not they might be a good fit with your family, then begin the process of interviewing caregivers until you find the right fit. There’s no agency collecting huge middleman fees so you’ll save a lot of money. The big agencies will brag about their background checks and scare you into thinking everyone you find on your own is going to be a felon. Just because someone passes a background check and never spent time locked up in San Quentin doesn’t make them a nice, honest person who loves old people. They'll also hype their "training" which in our experience was miserably lacking.
If my caregiving search involved more than one caregiver (we had five part-time employees working in shifts for round-the-clock care), I would get help with payroll and taxes, etc., at ADP which has amazing customer support and made payroll incredibly easy. I felt it was important to do everything regarding the exchange of money properly and legally which, of course, involved paying taxes. When COVID hit, our employees could file for unemployment, so this actually worked out very well for them!
Lights, Cameras, Action!
We were late to the game on this but installed cameras in my father’s bedroom the last year of his life. We learned some things that were concerning and had to make a difficult personnel decision. If I had do-over, I’d have cameras in most of the rooms (and still probably have my mom’s wedding ring…).
Confronting the challenges of helping aging relatives is not for the faint of heart and there are absolutely situations that cannot be managed in the home. But, if you choose to go that route, there are alternatives to places like, um, Home Instead…
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
My friend, Kathy, is a grief counselor. I remember many years ago she told me a story about the importance of dealing with loss head on. She used an analogy of losing a loved one and avoiding the restaurant you went to for chicken every Wednesday. “Go there and order the chicken,” she said. Avoiding things that hurt just messes with the healing process and prolongs pain which is inevitable, anyway. Not dealing with it doesn’t make it go away. It just stretches it out. I’ve embraced this as theory ever since she said it, but had a practical encounter with it this week.
I’ve spent the past 6 months slowing going through my parents’ things, a task that’s been hard on the heart. I started with non-sentimental stuff in the garage and I’m slowing working my way into the house where most of the memories reside. But, the hardest thing I've dealt with, ironically, is sitting in the back of my car.
My dad had a big personality packed into a small frame that got smaller with age, though getting a hat that fit his head was always a challenge. He wore pajamas with skates and snowflakes on them. They were well worn and looked like something a little boy would wear. Dad with his big head and his little body in those pajamas was just really cute. On the night we rushed him to the hospital, I grabbed a bag and threw a clean t shirt and those ski pajamas in it. I always took clean clothes to the hospital for my parents so they would have something other than the hospital gown to wear home. Sadly, this time, he wouldn't be coming home.
That bag with those pajamas has been sitting in the back of my car since March 15. It was covered under some shopping bags I use at ALDI and I had forgotten about it, but was cleaning out my car yesterday, picked it up and took a look inside, and it felt like my dad had just died… again. Memories flooded my brain of my dad in those little kid pajamas. So what did I do? I zipped up the bag, put it right back where it was, shut the car door, and have thought about Kathy’s advice ever since.
What should I do? I should take that bag and do something with it. It’s been six months. I could throw it out. I could set it aside and have someone make a little quilt. I don’t know what to do, but I do know the bag is begging for action. Because leaving it where it is and making a mental note to deal with it another day is not ultimately good for the heart. I’m going to find it again in a month or three and get another stab in the chest.
So, I just kick the proverbial can down the road for now. Maybe someone has some advice? What would you do with that bag?