In July 28th’s blog post, Debra Hallisey shared the challenge of self identifying as a caregiver and the immense challenges this can present both within a person and also externally in their work life. Today she continues her story into today’s present care situation and the resulting creation of her new professional life.
Caregiving - unique for each family
Life as I knew it really changed once I became mom’s caregiver. Even with the adjustments made over the years, I was not prepared for what it means emotionally, financially, physically to be responsible for my mother and her finances, home, and dog. Our family care plan is unique to our situation. I know it will change over time. I know that at each phase, I need a Plan B. This requires constant monitoring, research and planning even when we are not in crisis mode. The work and worry don’t go away even when the situation is stable.
It’s interesting that given all this responsibility, I initially hesitated to use the word “caregiver.” After all, I don’t live with mom full time. I am with her every other weekend, holidays, doctor and for vet visits. When I’m not there, she has live-in-care. But I AM her caregiver. I do the grocery shopping, pay the bills, make sure her house is kept up and ensure she is safe in it. I do the follow-up phone calls for insurance, doctors, and bills. I take her phone calls when her remote doesn’t work or the air conditioner is wonky. I work hard to make sure her hands-on caregiver understands some of the things she does or says. I give her a heads up if my parents’ wedding anniversary is coming up because it may throw mom off. And my mom has all her faculties. I can’t imagine what this would be like if she had dementia.
I believe no one can comprehend what being a caregiver will require of them until they are one. It’s far easier to look on and provide uneducated input such as, “Why are you keeping your mother at home?” “Wouldn’t she be better in a facility?” “Wouldn’t that be easier on you?” People mean well. But often it is hurtful to those of us in the storm.
Employers must be careful of the preconceived ideas of caregiving roles. Don’t mistake an employee, who is not living with the loved one they are caring for, as someone who is not a caregiver. Don’t mistake the employee who’s loved one lives in assisted living as someone that is not a caregiver. They are still the first ones to get called for anything that is needed. They are still responsible for getting their loved one to the doctor, paying the bills, straightening out insurance issues and dozens of other day-to-day distractions from work. They are still the ones preparing for the future and worrying about it at 2am.
New doors open
Mom’s care plan came together during the months at home after dad died. I’m the first to admit that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Where did I even start? Her plan came together by asking everyone I knew including strangers in the grocery store, “What are you doing?”, What resources do you use?” “What didn’t work and why?” All this information allowed me to pick and choose what works for our situation. People were incredibly helpful and generous, and I am grateful. And mom said to me, “You’ve learned so much, you should find a way to share it with people.” Prophetic words.
Through a variety of events, I realized that it was time for me to control my own career destiny and build in flexible time to help mom. I was lucky to turn my years of experience training and writing into my work of Advocate for Mom and Dad. It’s scary starting a business in your late 50’s. It’s the happiest and most satisfied I’ve been in my work since I started my career. I’ve been a blogger for almost two years now, writing from personal experience and collaborating with experts like Torchlight on topics like dementia, hospice or Medicare. I consult with families and mentor them as they start the caregivers process.
Joy in Pain
I didn’t expect this new path, and I’d be lying if I said this has been easy. For me, the hardest adjustment is not being able to pick up and go. I turn down invitations because it’s a “mom” weekend. Plans are always subject to change. The first time it happened I was headed away with friends and parked in my driveway, when mom’s caregiver called. She had been to the doctor earlier and was being admitted to the hospital. I hung up, called my friends and cancelled, picked up more clothes and drove back to take care of her.
There is joy to be found in this caregiver role. It has strengthened the relationship with my mother in ways I did not expect. We are a team. We have difficult conversations and are stronger for them. She is my number one supporter in this new venture and dad is cheering me on as well. It’s been a journey.
I am a modern employee caregiver. I am all over your company.
To learn how you can provide your employees expertise and actionable tools to solve their biggest and everyday caregiver challenges, contact us to see how Caring is Good Business.