I was a caregiver for 10 years. Now I am 77 myself and see it from the patient's eyes.

Started by

Glad to offer any wisdom I gained. My late husband had heart and lung disease. My elderly mother had Alzheimer's Disease. Because of frequent trips to the hospital at all hours for my husband, I could not keep Mom in our home. But I was there with her in the A.L.F.3-4 times weekly at least. Within 15 months of my husband's passing (Mom had already died), I had very serious cancer. I'm now seeing the elderly parents' problems more from their viewpoint. I'm glad to share insights I continue to learn with you caregivers of elderly parents and grandparents.


we used to give little girls dolls ( caregiver ) and boys received toy guns / trucks / trains ( soldier / construction / engineer ) . one has to wonder how the present gender mix up is going to affect the family structure up to and including old age . the most important thing ill ever do was raising kids to have integrity and compassion for others . how can i form the adult theyll turn out to be if i let them be raised by the establishment or the crack hor babysitter down the street ? i see it now . the boys are 25 and 32 and either could be mistaken for myself ( for better or worse ) if they were behind smoked glass . women may be flying high with careers but i wonder if theyll have family carers around them when they age ?
from cradle to grave it appears to me that government / commerce is taking over what used to be the role of immediate or extended family . i built a small two story house with the notion of having family around me when i become helpless . if either of my sons want this home theyll have to provide for me in it or watch it be devoured by the establishment . that might be some old school thinking but its as close to an old age plan as i can muster considering the frugal economy and the meager living that has always been construction . i think there are economic benefits to multigenerational households . it seems like a traditional and common sense - ical concept to me .
my aunt could be in her own shack with family carers right now instead of nh but her family dont value the shack in the hills and have no incentive to work for it . that shows mixed up values on the part of the family imo . the paid for shack on its piece of dirt is paradise it just dont gleam in the sunlight . i think ednas kid and grandkids are passing up the opportunity of a lifetime .
3931 helpful answers
Welcome, oneofthem! Everyone needs to hear from someone on the "other side." It helps balance our perceptions. I've always tried my best to put myself in my elders' shoes, but I know that I've often failed. That's because I haven't (yet) lived it. You have. We'll welcome your wisdom. Please comment often.
The love we give to our parents in the old age best comes from a heart of gratitude and an appreciation of what life is all about. Your elderly parents are in the last, long mile of life. It is a time of looking back over one's life, the good and the tough of it. It is the ultimate and last leg of life's journey. Frankly, I couldn't handle it without my faith in God, because it is the steepest part of the mountain trail, and cliffs and high places scare me. Cancer scares me, pain scares me, losing one's abilities scares me. What is most helpful from my children is a hug, a stop-over in the midst of their busy lives, a loving phone call, a listening ear, and when necessary, an honest and timely response to my voiced questions and concerns. My daughter has come from halfway across the country to be with me and support me post surgeries, God bless her. My son helps with practical issues and questions regarding tires, etc., appliances that don't work anymore, etc. I try to be as independent as possible and have a few precious friends who come alongside in a crisis of various kinds. So, you see, I am so blessed.

Yes, our culture is anti-family in a very deep sense of the word, demanding insane allegiance to its demands. But as our adult children continue to mature, we can hope a heart of compassion will develop and burn within them, not only for us elders, but also for the needs of their neighbors. Distance can be measured in miles, or in issues of the soul. 'nuf said for now. Blessings on you struggling, heartbroken, overwhelmed, loving caregivers.
oneofthem, welcome to the forum, it will be interesting to see your point of view now from the other side of the desk.

I try to step into my parents shoes to see how would I do if faced with the same situation.... but I would do things so differently from my parents.

Example, my parents decided to stay in their 3 story single family home instead of moving into a wonderful retirement community which has safe user-friendly homes.... therefore, my parents need to take ownership for their choice. I didn't decide for them to stay in that house. While they are peacefully asleep, I am in my own home wide awake wondering if they had tumbled down those stairs, or if Dad hit his head again and Mom didn't call 911. I plan to move to that wonderful retirement community within the next few years, if not sooner.

My parents stopped driving 6 years ago, and I can see it from Dad's point of view feeling like he is trapped at home. Again, their choice. The retirement village has free transportation, thus MORE freedom as they wouldn't have to wait on me to schedule time off from work [that in itself is stressful] to take them to the doctor or shopping [I hate shopping, more stress]. Recently I had to cut the driving time by 75% because of serious panic attacks while behind the wheel. Now Dad [93] said he plans to drive again. Just what I need, guilt piled upon my illness... thanks. I shop on-line and let the stores come to me. My Dad knows how to use a computer, he use to write code. He doesn't want to pay delivery charges.... [sigh]

Ok, enough venting by me :P
oneofthem, today I was thinking that each of us begin life like a toy with a set of fully charged batteries. Over time the batteries lose power and we go slower and slower. There soon is not enough energy to ward off infection and do the necessary body repairs. I'm 62 now and I can already feel the changes in me. What you said about your children and others being there is so important. Our physical batteries may run down, but our spiritual ones still need recharging. You are indeed blessed to have a spiritual recharging pit crew.
fregflyer, I do understand well your frustration and fears over your elderly parents' welfare (and their stubbornness.) Thank you for sharing those feelings. It is so hard and there is no simple solution. You are quite correct that your parents are responsible for their decisions. With my mom, I finally had to take the bull by the horns, so to speak. I disabled her car and lied to her that there was a serious problem with her car that would be very expensive to repair Then I assured her that I would be happy to take her anywhere she needed to go, which I did, because I was able to do that. Eventually, I "tricked" her into moving back to where I was and thus could better watch out for her and provide for her. She had A.D. and was living alone at the time 1,000 miles away from me and my ill husband.

The last thing we older folks want to do is leave our homes We have been through so many losses in life (that's the nature of life) that we want to stay home. But many of us know that we can't stay home any longer. Some of us can't afford to move into a retirement complex. There is one near where I am. It is so huge, it is overwhelming to me to just go there. Many huge brick buildings full of various sized apartments from teeny tiny to one-third the size of a normal house/apartment. The costs are very high.

Please forgive us if we are being selfish here. I have a dear friend who has been facing a very similar situation with her parents. Fortunately, she has siblings who have been helpful in all of this. Eventually, they had to place their parents in an A.L.F. (assisted living facility) where they seem to be getting fairly decent care. I had to do the same with my mother, but the care was below what she needed. I was there almost daily.

One thing I want to say to you dear caregivers: Watch closely what is going on, even in a hospital. Question everything. Nursing homes are the worst, but some hospitals are bad news, too. You have to be on top of everything concerning them, from their food to their meds to how their doctors are treating them (or not). It is the most difficult task you will probably ever do. The same goes for some hospices and assisted living facilities. I could tell you horror stories you would not believe, things I saw when caring for my mother. Remember this, sadly, that all health facilities are, at their bottom line, a business, trying to make a buck on the backs of very needy people. Nursing homes, in my opinion, are the worst of the bunch generally speaking. I felt like a guard with my sword drawn constantly, watching over my mother and my husband.

Dear caregivers, may God in heaven watch over you and your charges and give you strength and wisdom far above your own.
JessieBelle, you are so right. I am greatly blessed to have a few close and caring friends. The day may come that it is no longer safe for me to live alone in my home. It hasn't come yet for which I am grateful. I don't know what tomorrow will bring, or even today. So I try to be careful in every little thing I do. But accidents happen. Diseases hit us. (I was in the E.R. this week for a problem that blindsided me.) So, life is "one day at a time" now. We're like a windup clock that is running down. A hug, a phone call, a prayer, a short visit, they all mean so much. Blessings for us all, please Lord.
Jessie, how I wish we had rechargeable batteries for ourselves. I am only 68 and am dealing with age related decline. Whoa, when did this happen??? Only a few years ago I was a gym rat, and nothing could stop me. Oops, my parents stopped me. My health is now a mess.

My parents are in denial that I am also a senior citizen with the same aches and pains that they have. Sorry Dad, I can't carry 20 bags of mulch anymore, that ship had sailed. Told him to call the nursery and have them deliver the mulch. Nope, they charge a delivery fee :P

Oneofthem, you are right about older folks not wanting to leave their home. My parents came from a generation where their own parents and siblings clung to their own homes no matter what.

I saw what one cousin went through, he and his wife bought their dream house when in their 60's, great place for the grandchildren to come over and visit, woods to play in, etc.... but eventually that house had to be sold because it become impossible for my cousin to take care of 3 single family homes [theirs, his mother's, and his mother-in-laws]. The 2 Mom's refused to move. So cousin and his wife moved to a retirement village, bought a condo. His Mom lived to be 100 in her single family home. Mother-in-law is over 100 and still in her single family home. Why the double standard?

Shouldn't we want better for our children no matter how old they are? Shouldn't the grown children live to the same older age as their parents? My cousin won't live to see 100 as he now has serious health issues all due to stress, their retirement plans to travel out the window, yet the Moms all had great retirements with trips, sight seeing, clubs, etc. My parents are in their mid-90's, I will never see my 90's or even my 80's. My travel plans squashed, also. My parents had a grand 25 years of retirement. I've had zero. No wonder so many grown children are resentful.
ff, I don't even understand how it came to be the way it is. My mother and father never tended to either of their parents. The same is true for my grandparents. This generation seems to be the first that is caring for their parents en masse. Two of my grandparents lived into their 80s and had reasonably good health. Older people now don't seem to be as robust to me. I don't think it can be explained simply by length of life.

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support