Going Full Circle - Caregiving For My Elderly Mom

by gottaloveit

I was my darling mother's caregiver for the last 5 years of her life. It was both the most challenging and rewarding thing I've ever done in my life.

The most important period in my life started April 4, 2007 and ended February 15, 2012 - the first date is my Father's death, the last date is my Mom's death date. During those 5 years in between there, I went full circle - from being my Mother's child to being my Mother's caregiver.

Taking on a caregiving role later in life has benefits for both the caregiver and the patient. After all, how many children ever get to relate to their parents on an adult level? What a treasure those years were for me, and for my Mom, the easiest, most loving person to whom ever to tend.

The Beginning Of My Education In Caregiving For A Senior Citizen

This article will hopefully give you a small, quick insight into what caregiving for the elderly truly means. If you have your own children, you're ahead of where I was as I started in on my caregiving career - I chose early in life not to have children.

Instead, anything I knew prior to April 4, 2007 about caregiving, I learned from my dogs. Everything from that day on that I learned about being a caregiver for an elderly loved one, I learned from my Mom. I was so thankful that she was not only patient with my ineptness early on but incredibly forgiving also.

To those of you who are caregivers for senior citizens currently, my hat is off to you. Unless you've walked a mile in those shoes, you might have no idea how much a family caregiver gives up during those years. I'm about to tell you.

As you've gathered, I had no clue when I put on my caregiving shoes of what caregiving really meant. I learned caregiving, literally, on my own. Well, I had my Mom's loving hand to guide me also.

And, since I became so very good at weeding out the good gifts for senior citizens from all we'd received, I started my own website. Come visit GoodGiftsForSeniorCitizen.com. Lots more adorable pictures of my parents there.

Photo credit: All photos, except Amazon images, are my own. 

A Poll About Caregiving

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The Best Mother In The World - She Was Very Cherished

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A Few Good Books On Caregiving For An Elderly Person

Senior citizen caregiving 101: Things I wish I'd known

This is my OWN book that I wrote about the lessons I've learned.

View on Amazon

The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementia...

When someone in your family suffers from Alzheimer disease or other related memory loss diseases, both you and your loved one face immense challenges. For over thirty years, thi...

View on Amazon

Creating Moments of Joy for the Person with Alzheimer's or Dementia: A Journal for Caregivers, Fo...

Jolene Brackey has a vision. A vision that will soon look beyond the challenges of Alzheimer's disease and focus more of our energy on creating moments of joy. When a person has...

View on Amazon

The Benefits Of Becoming A Caregiver To A Loved Senior Citizen

Having a senior citizen loved one move into your house (or you moving into theirs) is a decision that is not to be taken lightly. I was very lucky in that my Mom, Gertie, was very easy to care for, but I'm be more than naive if I believed that she was the typical patient - she was super easy to care for.

Most people don't have it nearly as good as I did. Regardless, the following are a few good reasons to go full circle and take on caring for an elderly parent.

  1. The elderly will probably live longer in your care than if placed in a nursing home or retirement community. Studies support the belief that those who live out their days in a nursing home live out fewer days. This article documents these types of statistics: National Care Planning Council: About nursing homes and show that the average stay in a nursing home environment is just under 2 years. Doctors have told me the actual number is much lower.

    I had more than one doctor during those 5 years of caring for Mom tell me that my Mom was only doing so well because she was in a home environment. I now believe them. I think I did equally well having her with me - I told her repeatedly how happy I was that she was sharing my life with me, and I meant it.

    Here's an article I wrote that might be helpful for caregivers for senior citizens: Accompanying an elderly loved one to a doctor visit - things that will make life easier.

  2. You'll be certain of the care your elderly loved one is getting if you're the one giving that care. Go visit a nursing home at meal time and you might be astonished to see people just sitting at the tables not eating. Nursing home staff are incredibly stressed, especially at meal times. They have to make sure dietary restrictions are respected, pills are given, etc.

    Things slip by, such as not watching every patient eat their meal. I personally saw one woman who was sitting at our table idle with a plateful of food in front of her. I asked her why she wasn't eating. Her reply? I can't hold a fork. I fed her her meal that night, and made sure that the staff in the room and her daughter who checked in a few times a week were aware that her Mom needed special assistance. I always kept my eye on her during mealtimes and was pleased to see a staff member feeding her her meals thereafter.

  3. Depending on your elderly loved one's (or your) finances, it may be much less expensive to have the elderly live in the family home. Nursing homes here in the DC area can be between $5 and $10K/month so that's a fair chunk of change. Generally (I said 'generally'...) the care given our elderly is directly proportional to the cost of the home. Not a lot of people may be able to afford this nut so having the elderly remain in the family home might just be the way to go. Even with hiring periodic caregivers so that the primary caregiver can have some well-deserved time off, having the elderly remain at home may be less expensive.

  4. You'll be more apt to see small changes in personality, appetite, or mobility if your elderly loved one lives in your home. Your elderly loved one might be in perfect health but, trust me, when they go downhill, they slide downhill fast. Being able to assess changes means that you can adjust your home or routine to their growing needs - something that might not happen in a nursing home.

Other Articles You Might Like

A day clock that tells the day of the week, time of day, and the date can make life much easier for a senior citizen friend, especially one with Alzheimer's or dementia.

In Conclusion - On Mourning and Such

Since my Mom lived with me, I had a first row seat to the small signs of her decline. In looking back, I believe I started mourning the loss of Mom when I first saw small personality changes as much as a year prior to her death. Consequently, when Mom died in Feb 2012, I didn’t go into deep mourning as some others might have as I was already well in the mourning process. And, the fact that I knew without a doubt that I did my darndest to keep her healthy and happy meant that I had not even one regret.

If I had had to place Mom in a nursing home, I believe I personally would have regretted it for the rest of my life. I’m not saying that others should – this is just my own personal take on it. In fact, I often told Mom that I’d have her with me as long as I could ensure her safety. Which I did. She died in my living room surrounded by family and loving friends on that morning in February.

And, even today, I have no regrets.

Updated: 08/26/2014, gottaloveit
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terihansen on 08/26/2014

Thank you for this sweet article...I just went through a similar but not as long experience of helping to care for my mother at the very end. She and my sister shared a home so she was able to die at home which was her wish and my blessed sister wouldn't have it any other way. I live 500 miles away so helped when I could and was there that last month when it got to the point she needed 24/7 care. It was a beautiful time and very memorable time with Mom and sharing duty with my siblings. It has certainly brought out some things in me that I didn't know existed. This story has touched me and I am grateful that you have allowed us on the inside. Bless you for your grace you gave your mother.

gottaloveit on 08/26/2014

Thank you, Ruthi. I would have had a harder time during those years if it weren't for the support of my friends - both near and far.

RuthCox on 08/26/2014

I applaud your love for your mother and the courage it took to be her caregiver. You were there for her when she needed you most. No regrets is a wondrous feeling! I never thought about not having children having an effect on caring for an elderly loved one, but you're right, as parenting sure sharpens caregiving skills.

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