My step-grandmother was a fabulous woman. She was fun and sweet and I loved visiting her. She always had an intriguing story to tell about her life and that of the grandfather I was born too late to meet. She was quite scandalous in her youth and I love to hear her talk about it. It was during one of our visits that I noticed something was different. Not only did she not recognize me, she repeatedly called me by my mother’s name, even after I reminded her who I was. I left feeling it was more than just old age; something was very wrong.
Shortly after that visit she nearly burned down her house when she forgot to turn the coffee pot off. The liquid evaporated and the empty carafe started smoking. She did thousands of dollars in smoke damage to her home. It was then we knew that she had come to the age where she wasn’t going to be able to live so remotely any more.
Her guardian moved her to an apartment in town where she did well for a number of years with someone checking in on her daily. The state took away her driver’s license with the exception that she was still allowed to drive to the store a mile away (against my wishes!).
Grandma settled in and was feeling more comfortable when she started having accidents with the stove again. She switched to a hot plate and toaster, but it wasn’t long before her guardian move her to an assisted living facility for people with Alzheimer’s. It was the beginning of the end for her and she eventually succumb to the disease. I wish that while all of this was happening I would have had access to these Tips for Long Distance Caregiving written by Florence Matthews, Care Advocate. It would have made this very difficult time easier for all of us.
While we were fortunate that she was just an hour away, many families have to deal with much larger distances. I think anyone in this position first panics, then feels helpless, and then feels overwhelmed. Matthews has put together a great checklist of information on how to handle the situation so that you can feel in control.
The piece of her advice that I find resonated with me is to gather information before a crisis happens. Be prepared with the loved one’s doctor’s information, what medications she’s taking, the local pharmacy number, and other avenues for care. Places like Meals on Wheel and Senior Services. All of this can be kept up-to-date in a care notebook – either manually or electronically. An electronic record can be shared with the care facility and other family members so that’d be my first choice.
Long-term care takes a village and there’s so much to keep track including legal obligations. But the most important part of being a caregiver is taking care of yourself. It’s like on airplanes when they do their emergency landing instructions. You put on your air mask first and then help others. Do it the other way around and no one survives.
If you’re caring for someone now, thank you. I know how tough it is and even if they can’t tell you, your loved one appreciates it. Check out the Tips for Long Distance Caregiving, there may be some help there you haven’t taken advantage of yet.
This post was inspired by Genworth Financial. All opinions are 100% my own. For more information about caregiving, visit the Genworth Financial website.