My grandmother is 95 years old. While she can pass away any day, her health is such that unless something drastic happens (fall, etc.) she will not be going anywhere for a while. I want to remain with her until she passes, because that is her wish. She does not want to go to a nursing home, or even a hospital. She wants to remain at home until the end.

I am concerned about some things:
1) Career: I have no job skills that can help me re-enter the job force when my responsibilities change. I studied viola performance in college, and am a good violin teacher. But there is no demand for this skill, so I have to get reeducated. I am already 26, and I am concerned about ageism in the work field. I do not want to go into care taking as a career. I regret going into a profession that does not earn money, and I only have a small window of youth left to really pursue "what I want."

2) Exercise: The past 3 weeks, I have been leaving grandma alone for about 3 hours, 6 days a week to exercise at a local gym. I gained 90 lbs in the last 3 years, and I need to get healthy and lose weight. I am able to go and leave her alone at the moment, but I know there will be a time that grandma can't be left alone. Recently her back has been getting weak, so she needs someone to walk behind her and hold her back to ambulate. Lifting her off the toilet, etc.

3) Church: I go to church 4x a week, and I would like to continue doing this because this is the most important part of my life. Again, she is left alone when my mom drives me. There may come a point when she can't be left alone.

I guess a lot of these concerns are "what ifs" but they are bothering me. I have squandered a lot of my youth even before being a caretaker, because I made poor decisions and had psychological problems. I'm on disability (though I don't feel "disabled.") I'm very motivated. I am finally getting my life together, becoming Christian and going to church to be with godly people, and this challenge comes up. I guess it's God's will for me to be a caretaker. But the dreams I had once to be a career woman, an independent person who could support myself with a career I love, I feel like these dreams are gone. I guess reality sets in.


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Dear Neesa

Your whole life is ahead of you, embrace this time with your Grandmother and consider all of the free time it allows for you to develop yourself for new opportunities.

Some things to ponder:

* Your "bookworm" ideas hints at you being an avid reader. Hit the library and get a book on the top future career growth areas. Consider some of these for yourself. Then read about things in that field.
* There are loads of on-line courses to help you develop new skills
* Can you ask your pastor if there is anyone in your church group that might spend a little time with your Grandmother to give you additional free time?
* Can you teach the violin at home or church whether it is volunteer or paid? You must love music and it will give you some pleasure.
* Keep going to the gym and if that takes too much time get out and walk. It helps relieve the stress, gives you time to think and helps keep the pounds off. It's easy to pile them on when you are care giving, I know!!
Good luck
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Geewiz, a couple at my church are bring me a copy of "What Color is Your Parachute?" tomorrow. It is a book that helps you decide what career you want to pursue. I think deciding that is the first step. The online course idea is really good too, because I can start to prepare myself while I am still care taking.

I actually don't read that much except for the Bible, 3 or so chapters a day. I am motivated to read Job these days, because he went through a lot of failures. I have a lot of christian commentary books though, that I amassed over Christmas when I joined (Hence the name "bookwormneesa.") So I have plenty to read.

I teach violin already to 7 kids every week. 2 are at church, the rest are driving distance. I don't drive, my mother drives me. (This is on the weekends when she is not working.) We leave my grandmother alone when I go teach. It brings extra income into the family, which is good. Right now we can leave her alone. I don't know what will happen if we can't leave eventually. But I am not there yet. People can't come to the house because Grandma doesn't want anyone to come over and see her. She is a very private person.

I am going to keep going to the gym as long as I can. In the last 2 weeks since I was working out I lost 8 lbs and about 8 inches. I have also modified my diet to a 1500 calorie diet, so even if I can't go to the gym anymore I will continue to eat better. I was eating garbage before, but now I feel so much better. I don't even miss the garbage anymore. I am treating myself to sashimi tonight because I have had diet food for the past 2 weeks. It's not really diet food, just not junk food. No desserts. Which is fine. There is plenty of healthy food that is fun to eat. :)
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I received "What Color is Your Parachute?" yesterday at church, and read a bit of it. The career assessment section is SO comprehensive, I felt really overwhelmed! Especially because Saturday was a rough day taking care of Grandma.

We think she has symptoms of dementia. She recently had a CT scan (6-8 weeks ago) which came up normal. However, her behavior can be really frustrating. She has this intense fear of water, and so she's always in the bathroom dabbing herself for at least a 1/2 hour, sometimes over an hour. She is incontinent so she is always afraid that she is wet. She also has to know where everything is, so she is constantly asking us, "What's in that bag? What's next to me?" She cannot see very well because of macular degeneration, and she has very poor hearing as well, so we are always shouting at her. Saturday was really tough. She went to the bathroom about 8 times, each time was about 45 minutes of assistance and she was completely irrational and obsessive. We were really tired and also concerned that she is degenerating. I didn't get to go to the gym on Saturday, and I really felt the effects of this on Sunday; I felt like I wanted to punch a wall or something. I will go again today (Monday).

Cattails: I think that you are right in terms of trying to get help to have her stay home as long as possible. However, we have already had home health attendants come over from city agencies, and she is always very dissatisfied with their work. The workers are limited in what they can do (they cannot do heavy cleaning of stoves, etc.) and also they unfortunately tend to be lazy. This means that they need to be managed and told what to do. My grandmother cannot do this, so sometimes when I come home I see my grandmother watching Oprah with the attendant. (Grandma doesn't normally watch TV.) It is not useful. We have definitely decided that if we need outside help, we will hire an attendant privately. We are concerned, however, that an attendant will struggle with my grandmother. She is very difficult, and she exhausts us at times. A woman at my church has connections to people that would be willing to be an attendant for her, so when the time comes I can ask her for some names.

My grandma owns the co-op that we live in. However, her social security payments are just above the amount that qualifies for full medicaid. I think she has medicare though. Her income pays the maintenance fee for our co-op. She has some money in the bank (low 6 figure amount), which she has refused to transfer to my mother's name until very recently. Recently however, she went to the bank with my mother, and she made a joint account with my mother. We are concerned that if my grandmother needs care, the government will take her money before providing the services for free. I have religious objections to what my mother is doing with the money right now (withdrawing it), but I know it is her responsibility and her decision. At the same time it was very unwise for my grandmother to hold on to the money as long as she did. It is a difficult situation, but not my responsibility so I am not worrying about it too much.

My mother seems to be slow in thinking of a Plan B. I have ideas for Plan B, but ultimately my mother is the authority on what Plan B is. I guess right now, my mother is going to call grandma's doctor and tell him about what is going on. He will give us advice and tell us what to do. If grandma's behavior gets worse, we will call 911 and have her tested at a hospital. Then we will probably decide to get a home attendant, unless she is really needing a nursing home. But this is very undesirable. I think that plan of action really covers Plan A and B. The first step is talking to her doctor. He is very interested in her because he has been seeing her for 12 years. We see him fairly often (every month) so he cares. I even talked to him about my desire to read the bible with him, and he gave me some good advice in caring for her. (He is orthodox Jewish.)

I got 2 more violin students yesterday at church, with another who is interested. I'm glad that my music teaching is expanding. But I still would like to find another career I'm interested in. I can read the parachute book when I have a little more energy.
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Neesa, you're doing so much good for your family and for yourself! I saw that you were waiting for your Mom to come with a Plan B. I know your mother loves you and her own mother, and wants the best for you. At the same time, sometimes it can be hard for people NOT in the direct caregiving role to delay a "Plan B" simply because Plan A works so well for themselves: "Neesa has it covered. Mom is safe."
Maybe suggest that you want a Plan B for something catastrophic, like a fall, or an illness -- you want a plan in place NOW to deal with that, so it's not having to be researched and implemented on the fly, in the middle of a crisis. That might get Mom thinking about an alternative plan. And through the lens of the next stage of Grandmother's slip into less functionality, she may be able to see more reality now.
Finally, I meet so many caregivers in a support group I am part of, who see their children as an extension of themselves. They send their own children to live with Grandpa because the "kids" -- in their twenties -- don't have a full career to manage at the moment. It feels to them like the family is doing the car taking. But the onus for things is on the third generation -- and the productive loss of time to build a career and new family is in the third generation.
It makes sense why this happens....AND it's woken me up to the need to keep my own daughter out of the fray entirely. The time with your grandmother sounds like its even you a cushion to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and lean into a supportive new community, and you are starting to take on music students. That's all great -- AND you've accomplished that while caregiving! You are taking all the right steps to build your life. As you help your Mom recognize the need for a Plan B, and as you both step closer to the fact that Grandma will HAVE to be disappointed that her living situation is no longer going to be independent of help she doesn't prefer -- you'll be taking huge steps to the next part of your life. You are doing more than you realize!
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Thanks for the encouraging words from everyone. Here's an update:

Right now I am sitting in the hospital with my grandma. She was admitted today for a UTI, and they want to monitor her while the antibiotics kick in. She will be here about 3 days. She is really freaking out, because she hates the hospital. She was yelling in the stretcher as they were wheeling her in the hallway. The hospital is excellent, they are caring for her very well, and are very patient. I am staying with her all night tonight, and will probably leave in the morning to go to the gym. (Maybe I will go home to sleep before if I am tired.) I thought her going to the hospital would be less stressful, but it is just a new type of stress. I shouldn't say stressful because it is not like I am tearing my hair out, but the responsibility is not entirely off my shoulders. For example I am still accompanying her to the bathroom sometimes, with the nurse. Also I need to help her eat because she really cannot eat without help. Just poking the food with a fork is hard for her, she is weak. She also asks a lot of questions about what she is eating, I guess because she can't see well.

I didn't go to the gym today because of this family emergency, but I will be going tomorrow again.
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Neesa, I want to comment on your career fears. Don't worry about being "too old" to start a new career. I say this not because employers are benevolent and want to give older folks a chance, but because it is in their self-interest and they know it. Assume you'll start at or near the entry level. If you were the employer, would you rather pay that entry level salary to a wet-behind-the-ears graduate or to someone with a little maturity, a little experience with being reliable, conscientous, and serious about achieving a goal? Once you are hired, your advancement depends on your contributions, not on your age.

It is amazing how often people in our culture change not just jobs but careers. The dentist who becomes an art dealer, and the biochemist who becomes a park ranger are alive and well. People start new careers at any age. You'll fit right in.

When I started my third career, I discovered it through a course designed for women entering or re-entering the workforce after an absence. I highly recommend seeking such an experience, when the time comes. For now I'm just trying to reassure you that your age will not be an obstacle to leading a fulfilling and productive work life. There are plenty of other things to worry about. You can cross that one off your list.
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Nessa: I so agree with Jeanne. Be open and engaged and the world will find you. As for your GM, I so understand what you mean about a different kind of stress. I went through it with my mom on many occasions during hospitalizations, cancer diagnosis, surgeries, etc. and I've been through it with my dad too.

I'm going to advise you to get some rest and go to the gym. Keep something of your routine in your life. It's very difficult when you feel that the person in the hospital can't eat on their own. Your GM probably doesn't eat a lot to begin with so make it a point to help her with at least one meal and ask the hospital to provide a supplemental shake (calories and vitamins) to go with that meal. That will help her and help you too. You hang in there sweetheart. Cattails.
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Neesa, thanks for bringing us up to date. Sorry about the UTI but it may be responsible for MANY issues. After the admission, etc your GM will likely settle in and you can get away during her naps or tests, etc. Presumably, she will be offered the opportunity to go to rehab (standard after a 3 day hospitalization). Consider this too as it may help strengthen your GM. (Also, it gives you a break). You can start to look into rehab centers now as it is the family's decision not the hospital's as to which rehab she goes to. Last summer, the hospital wanted to send my Mom to the rehab in her continuing care community. Its reputation wasn't all that great. So we chose another one geographically closer to my brother and myself. This made for easier visits and their reputation was better.

How is your new eating plan working out? Don't let the hospital stay get you off of your objective. We're all pulling for you.
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It seems like the hospital should at least give GM the chance to go to rehab and see if she can improve strength wise. I'd push for that. When my dad was in rehab, they did much more for him when they knew I would be bringing him home. He improved quite a bit. His swallowing improved quite a bit too. They would not have done the extra if he was going to be a resident. If they understand that you want to continue to care for her at home, they bust their butt to make headway, and Medicare approves that because it's a cost savings to them to have an elderly person return home.

Jeanne has a point too. Your GM might enjoy 24/7 care. It's hard for you and your mom. Try the rehab and make it clear you are bringing her home, but need her to be as strong as possible. If she can't do it, then that's another story.

You need to get to the gym and carry on with your life. Your idea of teaching English is fantastic. Wow and you speak German too. Girl you rock!!!!

Yes, the need for escape and a little rage can be a motivator for exercise, but it's good for your brain, mental health, etc. regardless. Love Ya, Cattails.
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How did the visit with the lawyer go?
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