Joining my friend Penny at Penny’s Passion to talk about Caring for Mom as a part of the Thinking Out Loud Thursday series. I like this series because it provides an opportunity for me to talk about something I might not ordinarily blog about. It is a way for those of us participating to share our thoughts on a subject or subjects that we are thinking about or worrying over. And for today, my subject is caring for mom…while preserving her dignity. I think this is going to be a 2-parter so please come back next week for the second installation.
Caring For Mom
As you know, my mom’s health has deteriorated a great deal in the past six months. Thankfully, Mom is financially secure which allows us to make decisions and afford her care that we might not otherwise be able to provide her. She and my dad were savers and planners all their lives. Bless their hearts.
Caring for my mom has encompassed a number of things but my brother, sister and I have no health care training. We just love our mom so much. We’ve had to kind of figure out things as we go. And thank goodness, with the help of the wonderful staff at the Lafayette where mom lives. Here are just a few things we have tried to make life easier for mom.
However, this post is not at all meant to suggest that we are the perfect kids and to say ‘hey, look at what WE’VE done for OUR MOM!’ It is just my hope that if you are facing a similar situation in caring for a beloved elderly parent, that something I am sharing might make things a little easier for you. Or that at least you know you aren’t alone in this chapter of life.
In January, we made the decision with mom to move her from a 2 bedroom, 900 square foot apartment to a studio apartment in the same facility with little over 400 square feet. Here is a photo taken shortly after we got her moved. In the foreground on the left is a small kitchenette area with a little frig, microwave and sink, which you can see better in the second photo.
The money saved on rent allowed for hiring Senior Helpers and Wheelers Pharmacy.
- Senior Helpers: I have written about this service before…heaven sent. In Lexington, there are 3 tiers of help offered by the Senior Helpers of the Bluegrass. In the past few weeks, we have bumped my mom up from tier 2 to tier 3. She has 2 shifts of helpers each day. With tier 3, mom has help bathing, toileting when needed, light housekeeping and 6 visits a day, which might only amount to a few moments checking in to be sure she doesn’t need anything. Haley and Lakeisha will bring mom her meals when she isn’t up to going to the dining room, and will escort her to activities like Bingo or bridge or physical therapy at her apartment complex. Kristen works on the weekends doing the same kinds of things that the other gals do Monday through Friday. Senior Helpers allow my mom to be independent to the degree she is able and with which we are comfortable.
- Wheeler Pharmacy: The wonderful people at Wheeler Pharmacy offer a program called Home Connection where they deliver our mom’s medicine to her once a week or within hours of a new med being prescribed. They deal with the insurance (PTL), keep up with authorizations, refills, medicines that she is no longer required to take, and new medicines prescribed after each hospital stay or doctor appointment. And mom’s meds are kept in a locked safe (because of her past overdose attempts). The Senior Helpers give mom her doses morning and evening.
At the Hospital
- Because one of the 3 of us kids is almost always with mom at the hospital (except at night), we try very hard to stay on top of everything that is going on when she is there. We try to be at the hospital when the doctors round so we can ask questions and help mom understand what they are saying about her health.
- The CNAs pretty well turn over mom’s care to us because we are there with her. Which is and isn’t ok. We are paying – she is paying – for them to care for her. But we are there, love her, and might be more patient than they would be. However, it puts us in a kind of ticklish position, dealing with her toileting especially. And of course, my brother doesn’t try to tackle that at all.
Caring for Mom with Dignity
So, those are ways we have enlisted help for mom or have ourselves become an extension of the help she is already receiving. Here are a few little ways we have tried to make mom’s life easier when we aren’t around.
Because mom has to use a walker to get around, she has to always hold onto it with one hand while trying to do everything else with the other. You don’t realize how difficult life can be until you deal with physical limitations. P.S. These are not affiliate links. 🙂
- Mom loses things much more easily now. Partially because she is losing her vision due to macular degeneration. Read more about that here. She is forever playing hide-n-seek with her TV remote, pens, the dining room menu, her magnifying glass. We purchased this revolving end table that has lots of compartments and drawers and slots for the things she needs to have at her fingertips.
- We also purchased this armrest organizer. Mom keeps her remote and magnifying glass in here, along with pens, little note pads, and a flashlight.
- This grabber helps mom retrieve items that have fallen on the floor.
- A lighted magnifying glass similar to this one allows mom to still read some things like her weekly menu and some of her mail.
- When we moved mom into her smaller efficiency apartment in January, she said goodbye to her large walk-in closets, coat closet, and pantry. Now she has one very narrow but slightly deep closet without a light. This rechargeable motion sensor LED closet light came to the rescue.
- When mom doesn’t feel like going to the dining room for meals, the Senior Helpers bring meals to her. This chairside table takes up almost no room in her apartment. But it can serve as a dining table or desk.
- Lastly, bathing and toileting have become very difficult for mom. This metal bathroom shelf unit slips beside the toilet and holds mom’s toilet paper, wipes, pads, and disposable underwear so she doesn’t have to dig around under the lavatory for them. The Senior Helpers and we ‘kids’ keep the shelf stocked.
- For showering, mom uses a safety shower chair and a handheld shower head.
- An assembly-free (love those words) bed rail keeps mom safely in bed at night.
With Mother’s and Father’s Day approaching, maybe one of your elderly loved ones could benefit from some of these gadgets for uncomplicating their lives.
Because of mom’s small apartment, limited mobility and loss of vision, it is important that everything have a place and get returned to that place.
- Her kitchenette is arranged with everything she uses regularly at eye and waist level.
- She keeps snacks in case she doesn’t like what is on the menu in the dining room.
- Every time I visit, I fill her candy dish with M&Ms in seasonal colors.
- Similar items are corralled into plastic bins or baskets. Her lipsticks, comb and brush in one. Hemorrhoid cream, Desitin, and Vaseline in another.
- My sister put bright tape on her remote so if she drops it on the floor, mom can see it more easily.
- She has one file for copies of all of her hospital reports and test results, and all of that is in a tote that she can grab to take to appointments and follow-ups.
- My brother keeps her vase full of fresh flowers.
- Mom has orchids in her window that she has takes pride in. She has to water and keep an eye on them, which is good for her.
- The clothes in her closet are arranged by color and in the order of the colors in a prism or rainbow…ROY G BIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). She can find the color she wants to wear more easily that way.
- Her costume jewelry and ‘statement’ necklaces are in plastic bins kind of like fishing tackle or pill boxes. All of the warm colors in one bin and the cool colors in another.
- Appropriate clothes for the season are hanging, clothes for the other seasons are in plastic bins under her bed, arranged by color.
- Mom went from a king size bed to a twin – her choice. The headboard we bought has compartments where she can keep Kleenex, a flashlight, Vick’s, books (although she isn’t able to read now). Everything in the apartment now does double duty.
- Mom still sends birthday and Christmas cards to us and our children and her great grands. She has a notebook with monthly pockets for birthday cards, Christmas cards, thank you, sympathy, and congratulation/wedding/new baby cards. Birthday cards for the great grands are in the March for Lucia and July for Cady pockets. Christmas cards in December, etc. Graduation cards in May.
Mind of Its Own
It is funny that this wasn’t the direction I planned for this post at all. Ooops!! Almost as if someone took over and commandeered my fingers to type something other than what I had originally planned. That being said, I hope this information is helpful to someone! Ha! And the post I had planned for today – caring for mom with dignity – will go live next Thinking Out Loud Thursday, 05.16.2019.
If you have elderly parents or relatives for whom you are helping to care, won’t you share some of your tips with me? There are approximately 47 million seniors in the United States, more than 15% of Americans are age 65 and older [source]. And the senior population will double by 2060. So not in my lifetime, but very probably in the lifetime of my daughters and granddaughters for sure. Care for this growing population is something most of us will have to face as our loved ones and we, ourselves, grow older.
I am thankful my parents were so careful with their money and prepared so well for their senior years. Now, I need to begin thinking of how I can do the same for my children.
Hugs and kisses,